1940s Rolex Precision Chronometers are some of the most sought after Rolex watches ever. They are exceedingly rare and special because they have very high-grade ‘Chronometer’ movements, designed to meet and exceed the highest standards of the accuracy and reliability of their day. A Chronometer is essentially a very precise and accurate timepiece and this was determined by submitting individual watches for independent testing conducted by the Swiss Neuchatel and Geneva Observatories. They were stringently tested for accuracy and reliability over 16 days in six different positions and at differing ambient temperatures. Only individual watches which passed all theses tests, were granted permission by Swiss law to be classified as “Chronometer” watches and to show this on the dial. Annual prizes were awarded to the manufacturer who submitted a production wristwatch which achieved the highest level of accuracy and also to the manufacturer who submitted the largest number of watches to qualify as Chronometers. Manufacturers competed fiercely to win prizes, which were highly coveted and generated a great deal of publicity. The competition winners were known as Grand Prix winners and these were at least as equally well regarded as motor manufacturer Grand Prix winners. Rolex, Omega, Longines and Zenith were the strongest competitors and the most successful in terms of the number watches to qualify as Chronometers and winning prizes as outright winners.
During the 1930s and ’40s, Rolex became masterful at courting great publicity and excitement by being ‘on hand’ during numerous record-breaking events. These were, for example, swimming the English Channel (1927), breaking the world automobile speed record (300mph, 1935), breaking the sound barrier (1947) and climbing Everest for the first time in 1953. No matter how well orchestrated these events came to be, we have to admire Rolex for becoming masters of self-promotion and capitalising on every opportunity with simultaneous worldwide marketing campaigns.
There are some fascinating books which describe these events and the development of the ‘modern’ wristwatch which must have seemed just as amazing during these times, as the advances in mobile technology today. A very brief section summarises these events and some of the history of Rolex in our FAQs section found via the link at the bottom left of this page.
Needless to say, these watches are still as highly prized today, as they were at the time they were first made.
Here we have a circa 1947 Rolex Chronometer in a beautiful 18ct stepped case with tear drop lugs which also helps elevate this watch to being something special. This is known by Rolex as a model reference 4516 case, as shown on the inside of the case-back.
This watch has just completed a full overhaul by ourselves, including movement, watch dial and watch-case. These involve three differing sets of skills and craftsmen so while our Watchmaker has restored and serviced the watch movement, our Dial Restorers have attended the dial and our Watch Case Maker has attended to the watch case.
The Watch Dial
The 3, 6, 9 watch ‘vintage silver’ dial we see here, with applied gold numerals and baton hour indices, is the most popular vintage Rolex Precision dial design. Here, over a silver dial are original ‘Leaf’ style watch hands and a blued steel seconds hand.
Usually, we will restore a dial as part of the overall watch restoration process. Here however, our dial restorer has simply gently cleaned the dial to reveal an almost perfect dial underneath. The many years of grime, mostly from cigarette smoke which has accumulated over 7 decades, seems to have been good for, rather than harmed this watch dial! There is none of the usual pitting or staining, so very fortunately, the dial seems to have been preserved rather than damaged – perhaps as a result of high-tar cigarettes which were probably not so good for the health of the owner, but which has been good for the watch! So we have an almost perfect original dial, the exception being a spot between ‘9’ and ’10’ which can be seen on some of the (blown up) photographs but in normal use at the end of one’s arm, this is hardly, if at all noticeable. This does mean however, that this watch has a dial which looks freshly restored but is in fact, not at all. The best of both worlds perhaps.
The ‘vintage silver’ dial has some slight vertical graining which adds to its interest in the way the light is reflected. We have photographed the watch in slightly varying light to show how the watch dial looks under different lighting conditions. The gold applied numerals and batons collect and contrast the light beautifully and the blued steel centre seconds hand contributes nicely towards a slightly instrumental look, complemented by the outer seconds track subdivided into fifths of a second. Another nice touch is that the number of seconds (or minutes) are also given at 5, 10, 15, 20, continuing around the dial to 60 at the top.
The dial is signed ROLEX, along with the Rolex Crown in black below the ‘12’ and the words CERTIFIED CHRONOMETER above the ‘6′, along with SWISS MADE at the very bottom of the dial which is quite hard to see without a loupe.
All of this elevates watch to something quite special, which of course, it is. Once again, pure simple style, along with classic, timeless elegance is a perfect example of how vintage beats modern, hands down every time!
This is the original dial which has been sympathetically cleaned by our vintage watch dial restorers, which are considered to be the best in the UK.
The Watch Movement
As discussed above this is a Rolex Precision Chronometer movement, which makes it one of the best movements of its day, i.e. highly accurate and highly reliable. As with all our watches, this is the original movement for this watch which has been completely overhauled and undergone close examination and servicing, along with testing and calibration by our vintage Rolex specialist watchmaker. The movement is in spectacular condition having had the benefit of proper care and maintenance and no neglect or abuse throughout its life. Indeed one is unlikely to see a movement of this age in better condition. It really is a thing of beauty, without the slightest sign of moisture ingress. All correctly signed, Rolex Chronometer, Swiss Made, ‘Timed in 6 Positions’, 18 Rubies (Jewels) and Super Balance Patented, along with the Calibre.710 and the Movement Serial Number E43273.
The technical specifics: This is a Rolex hand-wound Calibre 710, 10 1/2”’, rhodium-plated, 18 jewels, straight-line. lever escapement, Super-balance adjusted to 6 positions, with a self-compensating Breguet balance spring.
This hand-wound movement winds, runs & sets smoothly and is in superb working order and keeping excellent time: This watch has been fully overhauled and serviced by our vintage Rolex specialist watchmaker and has been finely calibrated to run arrow straight within +6 seconds per day! This is no exaggeration. We have seen the test results from an electronic watch test instrument and in its half wound state, this watch is running wonderfully accurately! We are therefore more than happy to offer a 12-month warranty on the movement of this watch*.
The Watch Case
The most elegant 18ct solid yellow gold watch case measures 33mm in diameter, not including the Rolex crown. This is by no means a large watch by modern-day standards, but was in fact a very large watch in its day. This ornate case also has three or four notable features. The first and most obvious is the stepped bezel, rarely seen on a Rolex Precision. Here it not only adds character, but makes the watch seem or ‘wear’ slightly larger than it actually is. The attractive swept back tear drop lugs accentuate this, holding the watch slightly off the wrist and making the top to bottom lug dimension 39mm. At 8.5mm this is also quite a slim watch, particularly for the 1940s. The watch has a rounded case-back which also carries the faintly inscribed, period Rolex crown near to the winding crown, which can just be seen in photograph 11.
The condition of the two-piece case is really excellent and has never been over polished which is very unusual on an 18ct watch of this age. This, along with a nicely polished full thickness case-back, indicates the watch has received great care and very little real use. The case is in amazing condition and carries no scratches, dings or any other damage visible to the naked eye. The case-back and case are very solid and the case-back clicks back with a very solid and satisfying feel.
The tear drop lugs are particularly worthy of note as they are beautiful in design. They are very nicely swept back, raising the watch a little making the watch sit higher on the wrist.
Inside the case-back is found the early Rolex ‘scroll’ signature, indicating this is a Rolex Swiss made case from circa 1947 – 1950. The case-back also carries the Rolex model reference number 4516, and the reference 263, along with Swiss Geneva 18ct hallmarks. The watch takes an 18mm strap.
The Strap and Buckle
The strap fitted is a new high-quality Hirsch camel grain strap in dark blue, with a Rolex gold plated buckle. We feel this nicely matches the blued steel seconds hand, however please note, if a different style or colour or style of strap is preferred, please let us know and we will do our best to oblige, free of charge. We carry tan, conker, dark brown burgundy and black in stock, in plain padded leather, alligator, crocodile skin or lizard skin.
The Box and Paperwork
Although there is no original paperwork with this watch, the reference numbers, markings, signatures, and hallmarks all match and are correct for this watch, dating it to circa 1947 -1950.
Detailed particulars will be included with the purchase receipt, along with our 12 months Warranty*. A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value will be provided at the time of sale along with our ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’. This 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 watch also comes complete with a matching original vintage Rolex clam shell presentation box as shown in the photographs. These alone are worth a considerable amount of money. If not required we can reduce the price of this watch by £250.00.
A highly collectable vintage gold watch from horology’s most famous name which will provide an excellent financial investment as well as something to treasure and enjoy!
This is a truly top class example of a c1947 vintage Rolex Precision, which is ready to wear and is totally practical for everyday use. If treated with care it will make an excellent investment or family heirloom piece.
Even though vintage gold Rolex prices have risen markedly in the past 12 months, we still feel great examples such as this are undervalued, because as each year goes by, the world market for vintage gold Rolex watches is expanding almost exponentially and so we think prices are destined to climb ever higher in the foreseeable future.
A word on our prices… We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before then restoring them 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 well-known stores in West London which are highly 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% saving to you. Similarly, if you wish to pay by International SWIFT or Bank Wire Transfer we will provide you our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.
*Note – 12 Month warranty only included if the list price is paid.
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
Please note we welcome part exchanges.
Please take a look at our other fine vintage gold watches.