Why This Watch Is Important
Very simply this was Rolex’ first waterproof, or more correctly ‘semi-hermetic’ watch. Towards the end of World-War 1, Hans Wilsdorf (co-founder of Rolex) was determined to produce a ‘waterproof’ watch and commented; “We must succeed in making a watch case so tight that our movements will be permanently guaranteed against damage caused by dust, perspiration, heat and cold. Only then will the perfect accuracy of the Rolex watch be secured.”
The ‘three-piece case’ (the front and back screwing into the body) was produced between 1918 and 1926, so the watch we see here was one of the very last to be produced. It was, in fact, succeeded by the Rolex Oyster watch released in 1926. The Rolex Oyster ‘Cushion’ watch was also a ‘three-piece’ case design and followed the same principles as this watch. The Rolex Oyster ‘Cushion’ later became the Rolex Oyster Perpetual automatic watch we all know and love today. A truly iconic design and the worlds best selling high-end waterproof wristwatch!
Anyone who knows a little of the Rolex company history will generally be aware that it began as a business partnership between Hans Wildorf and Alfred Davis, a German and an Englishman, who set up business in Hatton Garden, London in 1905. Their early business was simply importing pocket watch movements, cases and dials from various Swiss manufacturers, before then testing these for quality, and assembly and calibration. This was carried out by various watchmakers in close by Clerkenwell. In the first few years, these watches were simply signed W&D only, on the movements and cases and the dials were left blank for their customers, the major watch retailers, to sign. Soon after establishing the business, Wilsdorf was reading the newspaper accounts of the British fighting in the Boer War (1898 to 1903) against the Dutch South Africans, and he learned of the advantages of wristwatches in combat. He quickly decided this would be a good niche for his young company to pursue and based on this, decided he would specialise solely in wristwatches, as opposed to pocket watches. This was at a time when no major watch companies took the gents’ wristwatch market seriously, such was the tradition and gentleman’s attachment to the pocket watch, along with, of course, his waistcoat and chain. Business went well and Wilsdorf soon realised the company would need a better name under which to trade, a stronger brand in fact. He wanted something which would be very simple and would work well in any language. In 1908 Wilsdorf and Davis settled on the name Rolex which they registered in Switzerland, as this was where the movements originated. In the next few years business went well, so well in fact that in 1912 Wilsdorf signed a huge £125,000 order with their movement suppliers Aegler of Rebburg, Bienne, Switzerland and they also registered the Rolex name in London. During this period, the majority of their watches were signed with both the W&D and Rolex brands since there remained a great deal of goodwill attached to the W&D brand. However, the onset of WW1 led to the potential difficulties associated with having a German name as part of the trading company name. This prompted a change in name and a new legal entity – ‘Rolex Company Limited’, which was registered in London in 1915. Fortunately, Wilsdorf had previously become a British Citizen a few years earlier when he had married his English wife, Florence. Wilsdorf also became initially concerned that supplies from Switzerland might become more difficult, but in fact, supplies were never interrupted, and of course, WW1 led to huge orders for military specified wristwatches from the new Rolex Watch Company Ltd. Later in 1919, Wilsdorf left England due to post-war taxes levied on luxury imports as well as export duties on silver and gold, driving costs too high. He moved the company to Geneva, Switzerland, where he established the Rolex Watch Company in 1920. This name was later changed to Montres Rolex, SA and finally Rolex, SA.
Which brings us to this watch…. the forerunners of which as you will see, helped the British and Allied Forces to prevail during WW1.
During WW1 (1914–1918), also known as ‘The Great War’, British Officers and those of the Alliance Forces were issued with ‘Officers’ wristwatches for the first time. Rolex was uniquely well placed to supply these and so large orders were placed for its ‘Rebberg’ watches, fitted with Aegler, 13 Ligne movements, specified mostly with silver cases. This watch movement became a military tour de force, storming the watch industry throughout WW1 and continuing in production all the way up until the mid-1920s. Cheaper versions with a 7 Jewel movement were also produced. At the same time, rare examples, such as the watch you see here, were also specified with 15 Jewel Rebberg movements and 9ct cases, some of which were in rose, as opposed to yellow gold, and silver. Unbreakable lenses had also been developed in response to military demands by 1926 so lens protectors were no longer required or fitted at this point.
The Rolex Officer’s wristwatch we see here in Rose Gold from 1926, is, as you will see from the images, in amazingly good condition. It is also, a rarer ‘coin edge’ semi-hermetic model. The movement, case and dial are all original and each has been sympathetically and expertly restored by our team of watch restorers. In particular, the case is in amazingly good condition considering the watch is over 90 years old. The movement is also in wonderful condition and is keeping amazingly excellent time!
By 1926, the year this watch was produced, the Rolex company we know today, incorporated in Geneva as Montres Rolex SA., had become fully established, having been opened seven years earlier.
The investment potential here is excellent. When seeking a solid investment in the vintage watch market, there are golden rules which almost always apply, involving three key factors which are essential and which the wise investor always keeps in mind. These are; Initial quality, rarity, and condition. There is no doubt that this wonderful timepiece qualifies very well on all counts.
The original Rolex (deluxe) 15 Jewel, Calibre 13”’ (Ligne) Rebberg hand-wound watch movement was supplied by the Aegler Watch Company of Rebberg, Bienne Switzerland.
This watch movement is properly signed, with the single word “Rolex” on the bridge. This confirms this is the higher spec Rolex movement since this was reserved for the best movements produced by Aegler for Rolex. Earlier Aegler Rebberg movements were simply engraved (Rolex) on the ratchet wheel. This is an easy component to change, as just a single screw holds it in place and some less than scrupulous watch dealer/repairers in the distant past, have replaced these on an otherwise unsigned Aegler 13”’ movement, to pass them off as higher spec ‘Rolex’ movements.
Technically speaking this is a lever escapement movement with a cut bimetallic temperature compensation balance, with a Breguet, overcoil balance spring and 15 Jewel bearings. This watch movement was tremendously successful for both Rolex and Aegler and it can be fairly said to have trounced the competition, and put Rolex well and truly on the map! Indeed, it is said the Germans were at a significant disadvantage during WW1 because they had to rely on generally poor quality and unreliable pocket watches, and their wristwatches were even worse!
This movement has been fully restored by our Vintage Rolex Specialist / Master Watchmaker. This involves the movement being completely disassembled to its component parts, cleaned, critical parts inspected under high magnification, then rebuilt using only original Rolex replacement parts as required, before final testing and calibration.
Our watchmaker who has restored this movement is a vintage Rolex specialist and his work is truly excellent. Following careful calibration and testing in May ’18, this watch was currently running within +8 seconds per day. This is outstanding and quite amazing for a vintage watch which is nearly 100 years old! These movements are reasonably strong, accurate and reliable, making the watch suitable for occasional use. The movement is in A1 condition and so with care and regular servicing, we would fully expect this watch to run very happily for many more decades to come! We are therefore pleased to offer 12 months’ warranty on this watch movement*.
*Please note – Our 12 months’ warranty is only applicable if the full list price is paid.
The Watch Case
The rare 9ct rose gold watch case measures 33mm in diameter, excluding the period Rolex ‘Onion’ crown. At the time, most Officer’s watches were made of silver as this was an excellent metal due to the ease with which it could be worked, and also with its good resistance to corrosion. This was before chrome-plated and stainless steel cases could be manufactured with sufficient quality, so a gold case for a Rolex Officer’s watch in 1926 with a top of the line Rolex watch movement was quite an extravagance in the years immediately following WW1. One will, therefore, see many more of these watches in silver rather than in gold.
As can be seen, the bezel and the case-back have a ‘coin edge’ to allow extra grip when these are screwed down. A screw-down bezel and case-back was a huge leap forward on the previous double hinged press fit case watches of WW1, as these were far more resistant to water and dust. It was, therefore, with this watch that Hans Wilsdorf proved that screw-down bezels and case-backs were the future. In 1926, Rolex launched its waterproof ‘Cushion’ case, and then a further five years later, its ‘Oyster’ case, both with the same design of screw-down bezel and case-back.
The case here is in simply beautiful condition with no dings, scratches or other damage visible to the naked eye. The case is as structurally sound as the day it was made, and the case-back is of full thickness and has never been engraved.
The case-back is double signed, RWC Ltd and Rolex. Below these, the case carries Glasgow UK 9ct hallmarks, which are as expected, since a great many gold Rolex watches from this period were hallmarked in Glasgow. The double ‘F” is the Glasgow hallmark and the small ‘d’ denotes the watch case was assayed in 1926. Below these marks, the case reference number 34292 is shown.
As you will see, underneath the Rolex signature, the case-back also carries the legend: “Rolex 7 World’s Records, Gold Medal” This also helps us to date this watch to 1926 as it tells us how many competitions Rolex movements had won for accuracy and reliability when this watch was produced. This also correlates with the date the watch was hallmarked, so everything is all as expected.
Although this watch was sold as waterproof when new, this has not been tested and it is not guaranteed. As ever our standard advice applies: Vintage watches should always be kept clean and dry and at all times – no matter what the original specification.
This is a simply wonderful original White dial, with 1 – 12 Breguet style numerals and the Red 12, along with original blued steel hands. The dial carries the period subsidiary seconds dial at ‘6’ and the beautiful, original restored set of ‘Cathedral’ hands. These are so called because they look similar to old cathedral hands. In our view, this is a beautiful dial/hands combination, all surrounded by antique rose gold – simply wonderful!
The dial has been restored to the highest standards by our dial restorers which are considered to be the best in the UK.
The watch is fitted with a new, high quality Burgundy Lizard strap, which we feel suits the watch perfectly, and the strap is fitted with a gold plated buckle. However, if a different colour or different style of strap is preferred, please let us know and we will do our best to provide your choice, free of charge.
The Box and Papers
Although there are no original papers with the watch, the movement, case numbers and hallmarks all match, dating the watch to 1926. A detailed written receipt with 12 months warranty* and a separate insurance valuation for the replacement value will be provided at the time of sale along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If this watch proves to be anything less than totally authentic, or not as described, Vintage Gold Watches of London will offer you a full refund at any time”.
The Green Suede Rolex purse shown in the photographs is included in the sale.
We have here a very rare and historic Rolex Officer’s wristwatch in 9ct rose gold which is in tip-top condition and running accurately and reliably. This is a highly collectable watch from horology’s most famous name, which will provide an excellent financial investment as well as something to treasure and enjoy! It will also make a wonderful addition to any Rolex collection and an excellent investment and heirloom piece, especially if kept in such good condition.
We think this watch will make a solid investment. Even though vintage gold Rolex watch prices continue to climb, we still feel sure that top class examples are underpriced. This is because as time passes and the world market for vintage gold Rolex watches continues to grow, a finite supply means prices will inevitably climb ever higher.
A word about our prices – We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before restoring these to the highest possible standards. We then offer these at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post sales care and service. This approach means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are some famous stores in West London which are very successful, charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be very fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.
We are happy to accept PayPal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you would like to pay by UK cheque or by UK bank transfer we will be pleased to assist you with this and pass on a 3% transaction saving to you. Similarly, if you wish to pay by International SWIFT or Bank Wire Transfer, we will provide you with our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.
Please note we welcome part exchanges, along with outright purchases of similar watches for us to restore, service and list. We can also offer Watch Service, Watch Repair & Watch Restoration, please see here.
If you have any questions please call on Landline 0207 727 7095 or Mobile 07515 949250 or if calling from overseas on Landline +44 207 727 7095 or Mobile +44 7515 949250.
We are here, ready, available and awaiting your call!
Finally, please enjoy some time spent viewing our other fine Vintage Gold Watches!