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Watch Freek
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This is some interesting info on early Rolex history posted on The Rolex Forum by padi56 back in 2013.

"During the RWC early period 1920s-30s many different types of watches were made, and at this time Rolex did not have complete control over their movement factory, they were only a minority shareholder. The full name of the company tells the story "Aegler, Société Anonyme,Horologies D Excellence Fabrique des Montres Rolex & Gruen Guild A.," this means, in translation, Aegler incorporated, manufacturer of Rolex & Gruen Guild A Watches. At this time ownership of the factory was split between three parties, Herman Aegler (movements), (Hans Wilsdorf of Rolex) and the Gruen brothers, Frederick Gruen and George Gruen.Now Aegler manufactured movements for both companies, who then sold the completed watches in their respective territories; Wilsdorf RWC sold only then throughout Europe, Asia, and the British Empire; whilst the Gruen brothers sold in the USA only. This arrangement worked well until Rolex acquired the patent for the the Oyster case; now they had something new and special which they wished to sell all over the world, not just in their limited territory. However the three way partnership prohibited Rolex from selling their products with Aegler movement in the Gruen brothers' territory (and vice-versa). So Hans of the RWC being a very clever and shrewd man, took a sideways move and fitted their new Oyster cases with a movement from FHF (Fontmelon)factory just down the road from Gruen and then tried to find a US distributor. They came across the firm of Abercrombie and Fitch,this was then a store specialising in sportsman's' equipment; whether you wanted to go elephant shooting in Africa, fishing for salmon or trout in Scotland, Abercrombie and Fitch was the place you went for all your equipment. Everything from fishing rods to double barreled shotguns could be found under their roof. As the sportsman's store they seemed the ideal place to sell the first oyster watches, which were already building a reputation as the sportsman's watch in the UK Canada and commonwealth. It may have seemed the ideal place but it did not work out that way, firstly because Rolex sold the cheaper down-market version of their watches in a high end store, and also because Abercrombie & Fitch did not advertise the watches sufficiently. These Abercrombie & Fitch watches are probably the rarest of all the cushion oysters in this world today. In all my life I have only ever seen one; it was signed "Abercrombie and Fitch (Seafarer) on the dial and the case and movement were signed Oyster Watch Company.The case was quite badly pitted because then they were made from a base metal, a chromed zinc material that did not last very long,a bit like the relationship between the RWC and Abercrombie & Fitch.Now later they went on to become the USA distributor for The Swiss Heuer watches, probably more of a sportsman's watch to speak of, being mainly then chronograph type watches.

After a couple of years in the desert the RWC decided to give the USA market another try. This was after they had been approached by Zell Brothers, a jewellery store chain in the Pacific North West of the USA, headquartered in Seattle. Zell had seen the great success of Rolex in Canada, and in Vancouver in particular (Seattle and Vancouver are only about 150km apart). They asked to be made the exclusive importer for the RWC in the Pacific North West, and Rolex eager to get a USA foot hold accepted their proposal. The strange thing is that, despite the Canadian success either Zell or Rolex decided not to use the famed "Oyster" name but substituted the name Turtle Timer, (IMHO undoubtedly Zell) Once again these were non-Aegler (non-Rolex made movements), so as not to disturb the three way relationship with Gruen. Zell were much more successful than Abercrombie/Fitch had been, but can hardly be described as having made a major market breakthrough. I have seen around 5 or 6 pictures of these watches and because they were made when Rolex was using real stainless steel the cases looked to have lasted much better than the A&F ones ever did. But Zells had two major problems as far as Rolex were concerned; firstly they were a regional not national chain and their insistence on using their own Turtle Timer name and not Oyster meant that Rolex would never reap the benefit of any of the new oyster case success.Now in these early days of Rolex only about 1 in 5 had the name Rolex on the Dial,the rest were blank dials when they left the factory.But after the arrival of the oyster case most of the oyster cased ones did have the name Rolex on the dial.

Zell Rolex Turtle Timer.

Now most of these problems were solved when Rolex gained the right to enter the US market themselves when the Gruen brothers left the board of Aegler in mid 1930s selling their shares to the two remaining parties; their place on the board of the company was taken by Emil Borer who really invented the oyster case,and who was Herman Aegler's brother in law, the technical director of the RWC, and much more significantly the man who supposedly invented the Perpetual movement for the company.Now this new movement was the first one from Aegler (Rolex), that was not made available to Gruen, and so gave Rolex a unique advantage when they were able to take advantage of their new found ability to enter the US market; which they did just as the US entered WW11, around 1942."


Super Moderator
12,424 Posts
Unbelievable to here about all of this True, and actually have to
be honest, I didn’t know about basically all of this. 😊 It is crazy
right?! ..Because we have been into watches for a while actually.
But that is just one of THE best things about this hobby I think.
The fact that you have so many incredible companies both past,
and present. Ones that are unfortunately gone, along with others
that are still alive, and ticking. All with history’s that are actually
just incredible, and just plain fascinating ! 😮 (y)(y)

Man, we are fortunate to all be into this hobby. ..Cannot thank
you enough for discovering this for us True, and posting it up !!!

Aspiring Expert
1,882 Posts
I believe I had read something about Rolex acquiring the patent for the "Oyster" case way back and marketing them as the first "waterproof" watches, but I could be off about that? :unsure:
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