Six Legends Of The Watch World
The watch industry is a power house of world renowned brands. But over the last century, there have been a number of iconic figures behind-the-scenes who have helped build these brands into what they are today. Without the dedication and passion of these men, some of the most iconic watch manufaturers wouldn’t even exist.
The Watch Gallery’s fine watch expert Christine Borg-Mirza explores six legends of the watch industry…
Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex Founder
In 1905, German Hans Wilsdorf moved to London (with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis) to set-up a watch business. They were looking to sell quality wristwatches at affordable prices and together they founded Wilsdorf & Davis. Wanting a retail name for his watch company, which could easily be pronounced, he called the brand Rolex – later moving the company to Switzerland for tax purposes. At Rolex, he created a watch that was highly water resistant and water tight, which he called the “oyster.” Wilsdorf went on to set-up a sister brand to Rolex, Tudor. He established the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, where he left all his shares in Rolex ensuring the company’s income went to charity. It remains a foundation to this day.
Charles Gérald Genta, Watch Designer
Charles Gérald Genta’s legendary designs have created some of the most iconic watches on the market today, having worked for brands including IWC, Patek Phillippe and Audemars Piguet. He designed the first ever Royal Oak in 1972 and in the early 1980’s created IWC’s first Ingenieur model. His designs have a signature Genta symmetrical look and are still influencing designers in the watch industry today. Burberry’s The Britain collection has the clear influence of Patek Philip’s Nautilus, which was an original Genta design.
Albert Pellaton, Watchmaker
Albert Pellaton was the technical director for IWC during the 1940’s/’50s and created the first automatic winding system with a seven day power reserve. The movement is an exceptional piece of horological engineering, featuring an extra day and a half stored in the movement – effectively making it an 8.5 day power reserve. This iconic signature movement is still used in IWC watches to this day.
Kurt Klaus, Watchmaker
Kurt Klaus was the protégé of IWC genius Albert Pellaton and is credited with creating the legendary Perpetual Calendar movement for IWC. The movement, which has been programmed to work until the year 2500, can be adjusted by using just a single crown. He created it using just paper, pens and a graph – no modern technology in sight. Having started at IWC as a trainee, Klaus worked his way up to becoming an iconic ambassador for the brand.
Peter Roberts, Watchmaker
Peter Roberts is a British watchmaker and was the first student to attend the WOSTEP course (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program). During his time there, he developed and constructed a unique mechanism for the Valjoux 72 chronograph movement. This movement is used in lots of commercial brands today such as Breitling, TAG Heuer and Bremont. During his career, he has spent time working with IWC and Rolex, at Rolex he gained the title ‘Official Rolex Watchmaker.’ He went on to work for Bremont and developed the MB rotor-click bezel, with a floating anti-magnetic cage and also the amazing Marine Clock (which was conceived on his kitchen table).
Dr George Daniels, Watchmaker
Dr George Daniels is the legend behind the co-axial escapement movement, which has been used by Omega in their high end watches for well over a decade. A British watchmaker, he was one of the few watchmakers that could create an entire watch by hand.The co-axial escapement movement Daniels invented created the most accurate automatic watch on the market today. A general automatic watch will be Certified Chronometer rated, to an accuracy of -4 to +6, but the co-axial movement ensured this accuracy remained between -2 and +4.