Saturday, March 25, 2023

Rolex Perpetual 1908

 ...ROLEX 1908...




By Danny Crivello

On March 7, when Philipp Stahl, a Rolex vintage lover with more than 120,000 Instagram followers, reposted what seemed to be a couple of Rolex leaked photos, he didn't know they were fake. The creator of these leaks, it would turn out, had photoshopped the grainy catalog pictures of true leaks from years' past and modified them to create a 2023 Rolex collection. 

The "leaks" should have never gotten the boost they did. After all, the culprit had a small presence online with barely more than a 1,000 followers on Instagram. Fake Rolex design renderings circulate the web every year before the biggest watch show in the world when anticipation runs high. Almost all of them are ignored.

But then something unexpected happened: Mr. Stahl, a collector trusted in the community for having shared true Rolex exclusives in the past, unwittingly gave the offender a seal of approval by reposting the pictures under his Instagram handle, @rolexpassionreport. 

To make matters worse, the grainy pictures were intriguing enough for watch experts: The design updates were restrained, almost timid, something Rolex has been accused of in the past.

(Mr. Stahl didn't reply to a request for comment, but he has since removed the post showing the fake leaks.)

When Mr. Stahl posted the leaks without giving credit, he added the caption "What you think so far?" and "#rolex2023leak." 

The original designer, alerted by Mr. Stahl's "copy and paste" work, immediately asked credit for his chef d'oeuvre. But it was too late: the photos were already making the WhatsApp rounds, generating countless hours of content from the biggest watch channels, semi-endorsing the pictures themselves.

And as the world argued for the next two weeks over the firestorm first ignited by Mr. Stahl, Rolex quietly filed on March 14, a trademark, which would go undetected by all: Perpetual 1908

1908 is an important date in Rolex history. It is the year the trademark "Rolex" was registered. 

Decades later, in 1946, Hans Wilsdorf added the following remarks regarding the registration of today's most prestigious brand in the world.

"I, H. Wilsdorf, hereby declare and certify that I have personally coined the word ROLEX in London, in the year 1908, as a trademark for our watches. Its first registration appeared on July 2nd, 1908, in the Official Swiss Register of Trade, as reproduced below."

Trademarks are not like patents. To be sure, a company like Rolex can file trademarks it has no plan to use. But it won't help the watchmaker much in a way of defending them. Some jurisdictions in Switzerland even require the filer to provide proof of use upon registration. So what to make of "Perpetual 1908"?

We expect a collection that taps into the roots of Rolex. When Jean-Frederic Dufour took the reins of LVMH-owned brand Zenith, in 2011, he helped move the company away from the flamboyant, modernist designs for which Zenith had become known prior to Mr. Dufour's arrival and returned the brand to its historic roots with the rerelease of its highly complicated flagship collection based on the El Primero chronograph and the Montre d'Aéronef Type 20. 

"He was able to reconnect the brand to its roots," said Jean-Claude Biver when summarizing Mr. Dufour's tenure as a CEO of Zenith.

The recent trademark filing of "1908" is telling us something historic, classic is coming. Something Mr. Dufour is really good at: celebrating and honoring the history of a legendary brand like century-old Rolex. And for us, this trademark filing is a lot more exciting than fake photochopped pictures on Instagram!