Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XI Geneva Sunday, June 28, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1958
    Reference No: 6609
    Movement No: N'754'222
    Case No: 382'912
    Model Name: Datejust Turn-O-Graph "Thunderbird"
    Material: 18K yellow gold
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1065, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Gold plated Rolex buckle
    Dimensions: 36mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and buckle signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Established in 1953 at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, the Thunderbirds are one of the oldest air demonstration teams in the world and part of the U.S. Airforce. During the 1950s and 1960s, Rolex delivered a number of special order Datejusts to the Thunderbids. These timepieces were equipped with a rotating bezel and a dial that displayed the team's emblem at 6 o'clock. In fact, Rolex had produced advertisements during this period with the "Thunderbird" Datejust proudly emblazoned across.

    Made for the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the present watch is spectacular in a number of ways. It most notably displays a black lacquer dial with the Thunderbird emblem at 6 o'clock. Through time, the black lacquer has aged gracefully and still remains glossy today. The luminous dots remain round, intact and have aged consistently with the hands.

    The case is furthermore a sight to behold. In a stunning discovery, the caseback displays "U.S. Airforce Thunderbids" etched on the edge. A tiny bit of polishing would have rubbed this thin engraving and its existence allows collectors and scholars to understand what a "Thunderbird" wristwatch originally looked like when it was delivered. Furthermore, there is a sharp and crisp hallmark on the caseback which probably has never seen any intervention throughout its lifetime.

  • Artist Biography


    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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Ref. 6609
An exceedingly rare and pristine yellow gold wristwatch with black lacquer dial and roulette date wheel, made for the United States Air Force Thunderbirds

Circa 1958
36mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and buckle signed

CHF30,000 - 60,000 

Sold for CHF175,000

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

41 79 637 1724

The Geneva Watch Auction: XI

Geneva Auction 27 - 28 June 2020