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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1951
    Reference No: 8651
    Movement No: E90'847
    Case No: 916'420 and 437
    Model Name: “Champs Elysée”
    Material: 18k yellow gold
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 17573, 18 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Gold plated buckle, signed Rolex
    Dimensions: 35mm. Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and buckle signed
    Literature: The present watch is illustrated in John Goldberger's iPhone application 100 Superlative Rolex Watches Under reference 8651

  • Catalogue Essay

    A surprising design, an exquisite cloisonné enamel dial, a historic brand and ultimate rarity make the present lot a trophy watch for the most discerning collectors.

    The spectacular dial of this masterpiece represents a “Chimere”, or Chimera, a winged, dragon-like fire breathing animal from Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a snake's tail.

    The present lot’s dial is a superb example of Marguerite Koch’s artistic talents as an enameller. She worked with dial makers Stern Frères to produce the dials of some of the most sought after Rolex watches to date.

    To create a cloisonné enamel dial, the artist first marks out the outline of the motifs using a fine gold wire to separate the various enamel regions. The artist then applies various enamel layers depending on the desired colors, while maintaining a very strict order in terms of the nature of the enamels according to the rules governing the firing process. This meticulous operation involves numerous successive firing operations in the kiln serving to intensify the color and light effects as well as the gradation of the materials. A dangerous process as at each firing the dial can break or the enamel may react differently to the heat, resulting in a high rejection rate.

    The colors of the dial remain vibrant with hues of blue, green, yellow and red blending into a powerful representation of this mythical creature. It is also interesting to note the black background, a color extremely rare to master and achieve in enamel.

    Such exquisite dials were only fitted on Rolex’s most important watches. Housed inside an oversized reference 8651 “Champs Elysée”, it was produced in very few quantities in the early 1950s, and exclusively in yellow and pink gold. It is an extremely attractive and elegant case design, and the case of this particular example remains in extraordinarily well-preserved condition.

    The present lot’s stunning beauty, extreme rarity, and exceptional craftsmanship clearly demonstrate in every way that this was a true Rolex masterpiece when made in 1952. Over 60 years later, it remains a treasure worthy of crowning the world’s finest collections.

  • Artist Biography

    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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189

Ref. 8651
An extremely rare, important, and highly attractive yellow gold wristwatch with cloisonné enamel dial depicting a dragon

1951
35mm. Diameter
Case, dial, movement and buckle signed

Estimate
CHF150,000 - 300,000 
€138,000-275,000
$155,000-309,000

Sold for CHF569,000

Contact Specialist
Nathalie Monbaron
+41 22 317 81 83

The Geneva Watch Auction: THREE

Geneva Auction 15 May 2016