Rolex’s POW pledge – How Hans Wisldorf aided the morale of the British POWs.

Posted on February 20, 2010


Who wouldn’t like a free Rolex? Well, in 1943 you could get one, sent direct from Switzerland with a letter from the founder of Rolex himself, Hans Wilsdorf. The catch? You had to be a British POW. Not exactly where you’d most like to be at that time.

Okay, so they weren’t exactly free. The personal letter from Wilsdorf stated that the recipient “must not even consider settlement during the war.”

Wilsdorf’s letter – Note the address is Stalag Luft III, the camp that was made famous by “The Great Escape”

However, if you were interned in a German Stalag in WWII, this was far more than a buy now, pay later arrangement: It was a statement of hope. What it meant was that Wilsdorf, himself a German, was betting on an Allied victory. This then was a gesture of faith, of trust and of hope. It said that the rest of the World fully expected the Allies to win, and that they would soon be liberated.  It also allowed the British to keep their composure. They might be prisoners of war, but the idea of the British gentleman being honourable remained true, in spite of their conditions. During the War, literally thousands of Rolex watches were delivered to British officers and NCOs. As a morale booster it proved to be extremely effective.

Yours truly sporting my Rolex Submariner.

These days, many consider a Rolex as a symbol of conspicuous wealth and ostentation, rather than the choice of a discerning gentleman. However it is worth remembering that the reason Rolex achieved this elite status was because they were a precision instrument, and simply the best, most reliable watches of the time. Worth remembering too is their pledge to those captive POWs and the contribution they made to the Allied war effort.