An extremely rare and historically important stainless steel prototype wristwatch with “Single Red” dial, no helium valve case, formerly property of Robert Palmer Bradley

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1967
    Reference No: 1665
    Movement No: D73'158
    Case No: 1'602'913 inside caseback stamped II.67
    Model Name: Sea-Dweller "Single Red"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, Cal. 1570, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Oyster Rolex bracelet reference 9315, endlinks stamped 380 measuring 220mm max
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex flip lock with extendable deployant clasp, stamped 9315
    Dimensions: 40mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed
    Provenance: Robert Bradly
    Literature: This exact timepiece is featured in A Journey Into the Deep by John Goldberger and Daniel Bourn pp. 24-27.

  • Provenance

    Robert Bradly

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Rolex Sea-Dweller is one of the world’s most eminent dive watches. Launched in 1967, it was originally conceived for dive expeditions. The Sea-Dweller's biggest technical innovation was the helium escape valve. During the 1960s, most watches did not have the capacity to submerge into great depths without breaking. The Helium Escape Valve allowed helium gas, which builds up underwater, to be released during decompression.

    As with all innovations, Rolex created a certain number of prototypes to trial test the watches in “the field” or rather underwater by delivering these to the world’s leading dive companies and US Military. These prototypes were housed in Submariner style cases with and without a Helium Escape Valve and with a new reference number engraved between the lugs and inside the case back: 1665.

    Furthermore, the dials bore the new model name Sea-Dweller printed in red on one line and followed by the depth rating. It is interesting to note that on the dial of these “Single Red” prototypes the depth rating is indicated in meters first whereas later production models would have the rating indicated first in feet. Furthermore the depth rating was 500m/1650ft whereas subsequent models would have a depth rating of 600m/2000ft.

    The present model without Helium Escape Valve features a case slightly thinner than the later production models.

    This watch was tested by American diver Robert Palmer Bradley, a naval pilot and marine biologist. He was a pilot of the Deepstar-4000, a deep sea submersible designed by the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. The US Naval Oceanographic Office used the Deepstar-4000 for numerous dives along the East Coast of the United States and in the Caribbean to study marine geology, biology and the physical properties of the water column.

    It is believed that Rolex offered this watch to Robert Palmer Bradley in November 1968 to commemorate the 500th dive of the Deepstar-4000. In fact the caseback shows traces of an engraving that has mostly rubbed off but where the name Bob and a date 11.08 can be distinguished.

    As these watches were prototypes and used for intense testing, few have actually survived. Scholarship has found twelve existing “Single Red” Sea-Dwellers, seven of which do not have a Helium Escape Valve.

    The known "Single Red" Sea-Dwellers have the following serial numbers (in increasing order):

    - 1'602'913: the present watch
    - 1'602'91x (without helium escape valve) having belonged to Ian Koblick
    - 1'602'920 (with helium escape valve) having belonged to Philippe Cousteau
    - 1'602'922 (with helium escape valve)
    - 1'602'928 (without helium escape valve)
    - 1'602'931 (with helium escape valve)
    - 1'603'xxx (without helium escape vale) having belonged to Richard A. Waller
    - 1'759'659 (without helium escape valve)
    - 1'820'177 (with helium escape valve) having belonged to Dr. Ralph W. Brauer

    Three other "Single Red" Sea-Dwellers are known but we do not have the serial numbers.

    Taking in account these serial numbers it is therefore quite possible that the present “Single Red” is the earliest made example.

    It is interesting to note that for the 50th anniversary of the Sea-Dweller in 2017, Rolex introduced a model with a “Single Red” signature.

    Fresh to the auction market, the present timepiece is not only of the utmost historical importance as its demonstrates the evolution and achievements of Rolex in terms of professional dive watches, but is a tribute to the men who were willing to always push the boundaries and their own limits for the benefits of underwater research and exploration.

    Please note the winning bidder of the present watch will receive a copy of A Journey Into the Deep by John Goldberger and Daniel Bourn.

    We would like to thank Jose Perez and his website Perezcope for the information on the serial numbers of the known"Single Red" Sea-Dwellers.

  • 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.

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174

Rolex

Ref. 1665
An extremely rare and historically important stainless steel prototype wristwatch with “Single Red” dial, no helium valve case, formerly property of Robert Palmer Bradley

1967
40mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

Estimate
CHF500,000 - 1,000,000 
€440,000-880,000
$512,000-1,020,000

sold for CHF708,500

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Sale
+41 22 317 81 89
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction: EIGHT

Geneva Auction 10-11 November 2018