An extremely rare, attractive and very important stainless steel single-button continuous fly-back chronograph wristwatch with black lacquer “California” dial, rotating bezel and bracelet.

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36

Rolex

Ref. 3346
An extremely rare, attractive and very important stainless steel single-button continuous fly-back chronograph wristwatch with black lacquer “California” dial, rotating bezel and bracelet.

1937
32mm diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

Estimate
CHF250,000 - 500,000 

sold for CHF389,000

Contact Specialist
Livia Russo
+41 22 317 81 86

  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1937
    Reference No: 3346
    Case No: 146’275
    Model Name: Zerographe
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 10 ½’’’, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Rolex stainless steel riveted Oyster, max. length 200mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel folding deployant clasp
    Dimensions: 32mm diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed
    Literature: For a similar example of this reference, see 100 Superlative Rolex Watches, John Goldberger, pages 92-93 or I Cronografi Rolex - La Leggenda, Pucci Papaleo Editore, page 37.

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Zerographe is extraordinarily rare, and equally important, as it is the first Oyster chronograph model made by Rolex. Even until this day, the model has remained mysterious to scholars and collectors, as there is no official information at Rolex nor is there any period advertisement providing any hints as to its origins.

    What is known is that reference 3346 was the first Oyster chronograph to be fitted with an in-house patented caliber, 10 ½‘’’ manually wound movement featuring a fly-back function. The fly-back function is particularly useful for timekeeping in sports, aviation or other tasks that require repeated timing intervals. Only a handful of these watches have surfaced at auction, making it one of the rarest gems in the world. The chronograph hand can be reset to zero and then immediately started again by pressing once on the push piece. This fly-back center seconds watch with the push button at 2 o’clock makes the second hand fly back to zero, start and continuously run.

    The Zerographe incorporates another major turning point for Rolex as it is fitted with a revolving bezel, which formed the foundation for all Rolex sports watches to come. The rotating bezel is calibrated to 60 units with black enameled Arabic five-minute divisions and red baton quarters.

    Only in the 1950s would this rotating bezel make it into series production, most notably with the well-known Turn-O-Graph model. The Zerographe was never commercialized for public sale, making this a piece of Rolex history, as many Rolex innovations derived from this exact model.

    The black lacquered California dial, with upper Roman and lower Arabic hour markers, is extremely attractive and rare. Scholarship tells us that there are only two known examples that bear this type of dial. The watch is fitted on a Rolex riveted Oyster bracelet, elevating the already sporty look of the piece.

    Its desirability is further enhanced by its outstanding condition, with all luminous hour markers intact and each having aged beautifully to varying shades of caramel. The stunning example presented here is, unquestionably, one of the rarest versions of the mythical, and already highly rare Zerographe. Its importance in the field of collectible Rolex timepieces cannot be overstated. It is a trophy to enhance the world’s most important collections of Rolex wristwatches.

  • Maker Bio

    Rolex

    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

    View More Works

36

Rolex

Ref. 3346
An extremely rare, attractive and very important stainless steel single-button continuous fly-back chronograph wristwatch with black lacquer “California” dial, rotating bezel and bracelet.

1937
32mm diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

Estimate
CHF250,000 - 500,000 

sold for CHF389,000

Contact Specialist
Livia Russo
+41 22 317 81 86

START-STOP-RESET: 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronographs

Geneva Auction 14 May 2016 

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