Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Bubbleback, Thunderbird, 14ct, 1956 ‘Explorer’


100% Genuine & All Original

Fully Restored, Serviced and Guaranteed

Rolex Model Reference 6085 ‘Big’ Bubbleback

Superbly Restored, Ivory Cream, ‘3 6 9′ Explorer Dial

Original Restored ‘Leaf’ Hands and Blued Steel Seconds

Excellent Condition Thunderbird Bezel With Good Definition

Good Sized 34mm Case, Excluding the Rolex Super-Oyster Crown

High Grade Cal.645 Automatic Movement in Tip-Top Condition

High Quality Alligator Strap and Rolex Gold-Plated Buckle

Rolex Inner and Outer Presentation Boxes Included

VGWL Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee

VGWL 12 Months’ Written Warranty*

Free Worldwide FedEx Delivery

Free UK Special Delivery

Sold 4th Mar '21
VGW Reference: R1089
Price £5,250 Sold


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Founded in 1905 in England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, the partnership became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving to its new Geneva headquarters in 1919. The success of the wristwatch can be largely attributed to many of Rolex’s innovations which made the company one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These have included its famous “Oyster” case — the world’s first water-resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and its “Perpetual” — the world’s first reliable, self-winding movement for the wristwatch, launched in 1933. These would form the foundation for Rolex’s Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956. Also and equally importantly, Rolex is known for its sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

During the 1930s and ’40s, Rolex also became quite masterful at courting tremendous publicity and excitement through literally 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.

Of course, Rolex is now so ubiquitous it is almost its own kind of its currency. A Rolex is the watch you want on your wrist when you’re in a Third World country when revolution breaks out and there’s only one seat on the plane, and there’s a guy standing there with a machine gun! You give him the Rolex, and he’ll give you the seat!


Rolex released its first Explorer model in late 1953 – early 1954 to celebrate the success of the British conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The watch you see here was the forerunner to the Explorer and has the same 3 – 6 – 9 compass dial as the first Explorer model.

This Rolex model reference 6085, has a Chronometer grade (highly accurate) 19 Jewel, Calibre 645 movement, the ‘Big’ Bubbleback case, Thunderbird Bezel and a Super-Oyster crown. The 6085 was one of only a handful of Rolex models to feature the Super-Oyster crown which was produced for only 2-3 years between 1951 and 1953. The Super-Oyster winding crown was developed by Rolex to create a waterproof winding crown which did not need to be screwed down. While the system itself worked well, in time – if not properly serviced, the rubber seals perished, weakening the seal and so this type of crown was phased out. The Rolex Oyster (watertight) cases were the first automatic wristwatch cases to successfully provide total protection against water,  humidity and dust.

This Rolex Oyster Perpetual has the rare Thunderbird bezel which is in exceptionally good condition. This, in addition to the big Bubbleback case accommodating an early chronometer movement, makes this a highly desirable and collectable wristwatch. The (big) 34mm Bubbleback case was introduced in 1949 to supersede the 32mm (small) Bubbleback, which had been in production since 1934.

The Dial

The classic early Rolex Oyster Perpetual script and the ‘3 6 9’ ivory-cream dial looks superb with the original ‘Leaf’ hands and applied ‘Teardrop’ hour indices. This dial design is the same as used for the first Rolex Explorer model released in late 1953 – early 1954.

The early Rolex Oyster Perpetual script and the ‘3 6 9’ ‘Explorer’ design dial, in ivory-cream, makes this one of our very favourite designs and this is a particularly beautiful example. The applied gilt ‘teardrop’ hour indices and numerals, the early Rolex Coronet and the finely graduated outer seconds track, each add to the distinctly early 1950s character of this watch.

The dial is the model of Rolex 1950s elegance and simplicity. The absence of a date function contributes to a perfectly balanced dial, crowned of course with the perennial Rolex ‘Coronet’ at 12 o’clock. In addition to this, the dial is simply signed ‘Rolex’, ‘Oyster Perpetual’ and ‘Officially Certified Chronometer’ with ‘Swiss,’ at the very bottom of the dial.

The original, restored gold ‘Leaf’ style hands and blued steel needle seconds hand are all in excellent condition.

This is the original dial which has been restored to the highest standards by our dial restorers, considered to be the best in the UK.

The Case

The original, Swiss hallmarked 14ct gold case measures 34mm in diameter, excluding the original Rolex Super-Oyster Crown (see ref above). As mentioned, this is a rare watch due to its Bubbleback and Thunderbird bezel, which here is almost like new. The Thunderbird bezel is showing only the very lightest signs of wear, which is highly unusual as these are prone to damage and are often over-polished. The rest of the case, the sides, lugs and case-back are also all in superb condition. The Bubbleback, in particular, is in beautiful condition and is of full thickness and has never been engraved. The Bubbleback is so called due to the bulbous round back needed to accommodate the early automatic movement and rotor which was a little too large for the later standard flatback case when first introduced.

The case has been professionally cleaned and lightly polished and is looking superb. Inside the case-back are two Swiss 14ct hallmarks and 0.585-14K and of course, the beautifully ornate early Rolex emblem and signature, along with ROLEX PATENTED 6085.

The Movement

This is the original high grade “Officially Certified Chronometer” 19 Jewels, 645 calibre movement which is known for being particularly robust, reliable and strong.

The movement is in very clean condition and working perfectly following a thorough overhaul and service by our vintage Rolex specialist watchmaker. This involves dismantling the watch to all its component parts, careful inspection under high magnification, replacement where necessary with only genuine Rolex parts, then careful reassembly and adjustment before testing and calibration in 5 positions. The watch now winds, sets and runs accurately and reliably and after final calibration and testing, the movement is running strongly and accurately to within +10 seconds/day. This is outstanding for a watch movement of this age and we have confirmed this timing on our electronic timegrapher. The power reserve of this watch is 40 hours.

The movement is signed ‘Rolex Perpetual Chronometer’, ‘Swiss Made’, and carries the movement reference number F53546.

This watch movement is now ready for many more years of faithful service and is perfectly suited for everyday use. We are therefore pleased to offer this with 12 months’ warranty on the movement*.

*Please note – our 12 months’ warranty only applies if the list price is paid.

The Strap and Buckle

The watch is fitted with a new, high quality golden-brown Alligator strap and matching aftermarket Rolex gold-plated buckle. However, if a different colour or different style strap is preferred please let us know and we will do our best to provide one free of charge.

The Box and Papers

Although there are no original papers with this watch, the reference numbers, markings, signatures and hallmarks are all correct, dating this watch to c1956.

Detailed particulars will be included with the receipt, along with our 12 months’ warranty*.  A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of this watch 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 vintage Rolex Inner and Outer presentation boxes shown in the photographs are included in the sale.

In Conclusion

This beautiful vintage 14ct gold Rolex is in superb condition and ready for use.  It is completely practical, usable and wearable today and an excellent investment, particularly when found in such great condition.

This is also 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! Even though vintage gold Rolex prices have risen recently, we still feel good examples from this period are undervalued and as each year goes by and the world market for vintage gold Rolex watches continues to expand, this means prices will climb ever higher.

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 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 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 with our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.

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. If you have a watch or small collection for sale, please contact us as we will be happy to discuss.

We will also be happy to Service your watch, Repair your watch or Restore your watch, all at ‘sensible’ prices. Please see here.

Please take a look at our other fine vintage gold watches.