Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Complete History Of Rolex Part 2: The André Heiniger Years

...Second Director of Rolex...

The André Heiniger Story

"Second Ghost In The Machine"


Rolex is an amazing company with an incredible history, coupled with an awe-inspiring legacy of success and achievement. In The Complete History Of Rolex Leadership Series on Jake's Rolex World, I have been exploring the history of Rolex's internal leadership, beginning with the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf.

Only six men have officially run Rolex in its illustrious history over the past 106 years. André Heiniger became the second CEO of Rolex in 1962, two years after the founder or Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, passed away at age 78. 

The photo below of André-Jean Heiniger was taken just after he took over as the official Managing Director of Rolex in 1963 when he was 42 years old. André-Jean Heiniger was born in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland in 1921, and he went to work for Rolex in 1948.

André Heiniger 1963

André Heiniger was a lawyer before he joined Rolex and prior to taking over Rolex, André Heiniger had been the head of Rolex South America, and was stationed in Buenos Aires, Argentina in South America. As a matter of fact, his son Patrick Heiniger was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 26, 1950.

The photo below show Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf at what I am going to guess is his 75th Birthday Party in 1956. In this photo we see André-Jean Heiniger on Wilsdorf's left looking down at a Camera in his hand.

1971 Rolex Explorer II
Reference 1655

Rolex introduced the Explorer II in 1971 under André Heiniger's leadership and it had an orange hand to keep track of the time in a second time zone. The current orange hand Rolex Explorer II  is based upon this cool retro-design.

Rolex Day-Date Ad
January 1973

This fascinating Rolex advertisement was published in a magazine in January of 1973, and it says: "There's a private corridor outside the Managing Director's office in our Geneva headquarters which is lined with the signed portraits of most of the world's leading Heads of State." Obviously this is André Heiniger's office.

If Only These Walls Could Talk

Below is a higher-resolution photo of the executive offices at Rolex Headquarters in Geneva in 1973. It is clear, that at least back in 1973, Rolex was very proud and interested in their history. What I want to know, is where are all those photos today? I want to see them and learn more about the amazing history of Rolex. I imagine André Heiniger's office is the one at the end of the corridor?

1976 Rolex Awards For Enterprise Founded

In 1976 André Heiniger founded the Rolex Awards for Enterprise to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the waterproof Rolex Oyster watch. Originally they were named "Spirit of Enterprise Awards", but were changed to "Rolex Awards for Enterprise."

In the photo below we see André Heiniger in 1976 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster where Rolex announced the Spirit of Enterprise Awards. In this photo we see (from left to right) racing legend, Sir Jackie Stewart, Odette Heiniger, André Heiniger, Her Imperial Highness, Princess Napoléon, and legendary Olympic Skier, Jean-Claud Killy. Photo appears courtesy of S3C Private Collection.

The photo below shows the judges for the original Rolex awards. From left to right we see Luis Marden (whose real name was Annibale Luigi Paragallo). Luis Marden was a famous American photographer for National Geographic, as well as being a diver and filmmaker. Next up we see Professor, Oliver Reverdin who was a scientist, journalist and politician, then Professor Derek Jackson who was a spectroscopist and atomic physicist. Next we see André Heiniger with Professor Jacques Piccard on the end. Photo appears courtesy of S3C Private Collection.

Luis Marden who is pictured above on the far left is featured below in the 1976 Rolex Submariner ad.

Below is a photo from the 1978 Rolex Awards for Enterprise and we see Andre Heiniger (second from left) standing next to legendary Swiss explorer, Jacques Piccard.  On the far left we see Kenneth Marten, who was a 1978 Rolex Laureate along with Bill Lasley who has a mustache along with Francine Patterson who has long blond hair.

1978 Rolex Awards Ad

The next two images below were published in 1978 by Rolex in magazines. The first image is fascinating because it appears to be a wrist shot of sorts, but if you examine it closer, you might notice the remarkable similarity to the Rolex crown logo.

In the photo below from 1980 we see André Heiniger with legendary tennis star, Bjorn Borg on June 11 0n the evening of Men's singles finals at Wimbledon. The 1980 Wimbledon Men's final match was between Björn Borg and John McEnroe was a dramatic struggle which went on for a long time with Borg prevailing. This amazing photo appears courtesy of S3C.

In the photo below taken back in the early 1980s, we see Björn Borg and John McEnroe and they are both wearing Rolex Datejust watches.

There is a famous story where a friend of André Heiniger asked him "How's the watch business doing?" to which André Heiniger responded "I have no idea." His friend laughed, not realizing that André was being serious. André continued "Rolex is not in the watch business. We are a luxury business."

This next photo is of somewhat profound significance as it was taken at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia and shows André Heiniger and his wife Odette in 1995 with then President of Rolex Italy, Gian Riccardo Marini who went on to become the CEO of Rolex in May of 2011

André and Odette Heiniger are pictured below with His Highness, The Aga Khan at the same event.

André Heiniger's son Patrick Heiniger became the Managing Director of Rolex in 1992 when the Rolex Board of Directors appointed him to replace his father. Patrick Heiniger stepped down as CEO of Rolex on December 17, 2008.

André Heiniger is pictured below with his son Patrick Heiniger who became the CEO of Rolex after him. Golf legend, Arnold Palmer is pictured on the left wearing a tuxedo jacket.

Arnold Palmer, André Heiniger and Patrick Heiniger pictured above

André Heiniger stayed on as the Chairman of Rolex until he retired from that role in 1997, and then became Chairman emeritus until he passed away three years later On January 3, 2000 at the age of 79. Over the 34 years André Heiniger ran Rolex he assisted in turning it into the ultra-succesful company it is today. I am looking forward to shedding much more light on this illustrious Rolex historical figure.

The reason the sub-title of this part of this story is "The Second Ghost In The Machine" is because so little has ever been published about André Heiniger. André Heiniger was a very private man who maintained a very low-key public presence.

To date, André Heiniger has remained an enigmatic figure, and one could argue that history–like with Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex before I wrote Part 1 of this Rolex Leadership Series–almost seems to have forgotten him. I intend to change that in 2012 by walking you through his amazing career achievements and exploring what made him tick.

André Heiniger is pictured below with his wife, Odette Heiniger, Colonel Gerard Leigh and Price Charles of Wales at the Guards Polo Club in Windsor, U.K.

In this next photo, we see Gérard Souham, André Heiniger, Jan Nelson and Prince Charles.

In the next image we see André Heiniger with HIH The Princess Napoleon at a Polo match.