A Walk Down Memory Lane

While a preoccupation with the newest and rarest is very much ingrained in our collective consciousness, there are other equally compelling alternatives available for watch enthusiasts and collectors, providing both historical context and beauty

While a preoccupation with the newest and rarest is very much ingrained in our collective consciousness, there are other equally compelling alternatives available for watch enthusiasts and collectors, providing both historical context and beauty

by Tiffany To

At the time of writing, the releases of Watches & Wonders have just hit the internet. The current grey-market frenzy, compounded with fervent collectors’ appetites has lead the internet to go into complete overdrive. With memes and commentaries abound, collectors are either waxing poetic or showing distain for the latest and greatest, hot off the assembly line. With so much focus on the newest “it-watch”, it is possible that watches from the golden-era of watchmaking such as the 1950s and 1960s, could possibly be overlooked in collectors’ minds.

Not just relics, they are gems that have shaped the codes and design language of models we know - and love – so well today. While already loved and cherished by scholars and intellectually-drive collectors today, below are timepieces from Rolex that I believe deserve recognition from the broader collecting audience.

Lot 151 - Rolex Reference 6238 with black “galvanic” dial

Estimate CHF80,000 - 160,000

The reference 6238 is undoubtedly a milestone in Rolex's chronograph history. Launched in 1960, it is the last model to feature a plain bezel and an inner tachymeter scale. While reference 116500LN is possibly one of the most popular sports watch available on the market today, reference 6238 can be described as Rolex’s first modern chronograph. It is the model that would pave the way to reference 6239, the first Cosmograph Daytona ever released by Rolex. Thus the nickname “Pre-Daytona” given by collectors to reference 6238.

The present timepiece is distinguished by its incredibly rare black "galvanic" dial, where the graphics are gilt in nature. Most intriguingly, there are no luminous dots on the dial - yet, the graphics and “-T SWISS T-” found at 6 o'clock is correct for the serial number, leading us to believe the present watch was born in its present condition. Its case condition is particularly stunning and impressive. It remains very crisp, with the "step" between the case and the bezel extremely profound and sharp. It is our understanding that the timepiece was acquired from the estate of a medical specialist at the UMCG in Groningen, The Netherlands.

Lot 152 - A stainless steel Rolex reference 6036, retailed by Joyeria Riviera

Estimate CHF150,000 - 250,000

Originally consigned by the first owner at auction over a decade ago and reappearing only once more since, this timepiece remains in extremely attractive and original condition and is one among a handful of Killys with this retailer-stamped dial. While today Rolex only has one model with moonphases, the brand was arguably more daring in the 1950s and 1960s, producing models such as the triple calendar with moonphases (reference 6062 and 8171) and triple calendar with chronograph (Killy models).

Few retailers have had the opportunity to stamp their name on Rolex timepieces, and doing so was an honor. Together with storied institutions such as Tiffany & Co., Asprey, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, Joyeria Riviera signed their name on watches, which remain favourites amongst collectors due to their exclusivity and aesthetic flair. The flamboyant loops and curves of the Joyeria Riviera signature are particularly beautiful, conjuring images of the elegance and grandeur of the 1950s and 1960s.

Lot 97 - A pink gold and stainless steel Rolex reference 3525 with pink dial

Estimate CHF60,000 - 120,000

Before the launch of the Cosmograph Daytona, Rolex had already heavily invested their resources into creating some of the most beautiful and well-made chronograph wristwatches. The present reference 3525 is one such timepiece.

Launched in 1939, the ref. 3525 was Rolex’s very first chronograph wristwatch to be housed in an Oyster case defined by water resistant screw down case back as well as screw down winding crown. It was offered in yellow gold, pink gold, stainless steel and steel and gold like the present attractive example which features a steel case and a pink gold bezel and crown. Analysis of publicly known pieces shows that - with the exception of a few outliers - most of the production for the reference is grouped in three "batches", with respectively serial numbers around 40'xxx-50'xxx for the first batch, then in the mid 100'000 for the second, and in the mid-300'000 the last.

The present model from 1939 is part of the early examples with the serial number stamped on the case back, whereas later models had the serial numbers engraved between the lugs.

The case is in overall very appealing condition with the serial and reference numbers perfectly crisp and legible. Note also the presence of the original 'Brevet' Oyster crown. However, the most enticing element is the striking pink champagne dial which is beautifully framed by the pink gold bezel and further enhanced by the blue hands and tachymeter and telemeter scales.

Perhaps I have been overly influenced by the ‘old school’, but these are the very types of timepieces that sparked my own personal love of watches. They are not only a few of my personal favorites, but are also timepieces that offer so much, having heavily contributed to the history of Rolex today. It is my hope that collectors today realize that there are not only brand new Rolexes available on the market, but also watches of the past, that convey history, emotion and so much old world charm.