An exceedingly rare and important stainless-steel prototype automatic calendar wristwatch with center seconds and bracelet

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  • Condition Report

  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1975
    Movement No: DD411420
    Model Name: Day-Date
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal.1555 , 27 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Jubilees bracelet stamped "555B" to the endlinks, max length 190mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped "62510H" and "012"
    Dimensions: 36mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Day-Date is a staple of Rolex’s production. Launched in 1956, it was at the time the only wristwatch to show the extended indication of the day of the week, and the date. While the model is known in a plethora of variations, both of case and dial, Rolex has until now been adamant about one detail: the Day-Date is a luxurious timepiece, a dress-watch proposition from the Crown House (at the time unusual, given the professional focus of the company), and it has to be made in precious metal. Variations set with gemstones or featuring exotic hard stone dials are also well know, and never has the model been serially made in fully non-precious material. However, there are exceptions to every rule.

    While it is well known that a few reference 6611 were made in steel and gifted to the best graduates of the École d’Horlogerie de Genève, there exist a few other, even more esoteric Day-date watches in steel: pieces used by Rolex R&D to test new technical upgrades. One of this watches is featured in John Goldberger’s “100 Superlative Rolex Watches” book; another similar watch was sold in this very room in November 2018; this present watch represents a third example.

    Consigned by the family of the original owner - a high ranking watchmaker active at Rolex at the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century - the present timepiece can be described without being hyperbolic as truly momentous in its importance. Not only it is an extremely scarce example of steel Day-Date, but it furthermore offers an incredible and virtually unrepeatable - given the notorious secrecy of the company - window into the inner workings of Rolex research and development department.

    It is powered by caliber 1555. Launched in 1959, this movement represents the first in-house Rolex movement featuring the Day-Date complication. The main characteristics of the design are:
    • Center seconds
    • Day and date indication indication - obviously - with instantaneous change
    • 26 jewels
    • hack feature (beginning from the early 1970s)
    • Nivarox hairspring with Breguet overcoil
    • Balance wheel with microstella regulation
    • KIF flector shock absorbers
    • 26 jewels
    • 18’000 VPH frequency

    The cal. 1555 featured in the present timepiece indeed features all these details but with a fundamental difference: it beats at 19’800 VPH, which happens to be the frequency of its successor, cal. 1556. The present caliber is an experimental variation on which the original owner worked. Once the development finished, the new frequency was implemented in the new caliber. It is important to underline how the only difference between cal. 1555 and cal. 1556 is indeed the frequency, but it was apparently deemed so important by Rolex that new caliber number was issued for the faster beating movement. Indeed, the improved frequency not only ensures increased accuracy and a smoother running centre seconds hand, but it furthermore increases the resistance of the system when solicited by shocks and vibrations. The original owner received the timepiece when he retired (the same as what happened with the other two above-mentioned prototype steel Day-Date watches), and while the caliber maintains the 1555 designation, it already features the new balance wheel with improved frequency - a more than proper farewell gift for the designer of the new, faster-beating movement.
    The stainless steel, simple case is obviously consequence of the present watch being a true laboratory prototype, and thus not needing precious metal or additional decoration. Also as expected from a Rolex prototype, the case does not feature any inscription between the lugs.

    Reuniting the rarity of a steel Day-Date case and the incredibly historical importance of a prototype movement, the present watch can without a doubt be considered one of the pinnacles of Rolex collecting.

  • 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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Rolex

An exceedingly rare and important stainless-steel prototype automatic calendar wristwatch with center seconds and bracelet

Circa 1975
36mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

Estimate
CHF60,000 - 120,000 
€54,900-110,000
$60,100-120,000

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East
+ 41 79 637 1724
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction X

Geneva Auction 9-10 November 2019