Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XII Geneva Saturday, November 7, 2020 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1940
    Material: Stainless steel
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle
    Dimensions: 32mm Diameter
    Signed: Case and dial signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    A most unusual proposal, this wrist tool fully epitomizes Rolex's original vocation as a tool watch company. In this instance, the concept is truly brought to the extreme: the movement is practically absent - only a blank movement plate is present in the case. The piece is exclusively a compass: an obvious effort to provide a more resistant and practical version of this tool (hence the waterproof Oyster case and the wrist-version) to be used in the most extreme situations and expedition: the same philosophy behind another - more renowned - Rolex creation: the Explorer. This remarkable wrist-tool exemplifies how Rolex was light-years ahead of any other brand - even already in pre-war times - concerning the development of professional, sturdy and extremely reliable mechanical instruments.

    The lack of reference and serial number on the case is a typical trait of prototype/workstudy Rolex timepieces, which leads us to believe this to be the case ion this occurrence as well. Furthermore, in order to accomodate the raised needle a bezel considerably higher than the norm was developed for this case. Soldering marks around the bezel are testament to the archetypal and artisanal construction methodology employed for this visionary study. Lastly, the unfinished movement plate was obviously never intended to be completed, it simple serves as an anchoring point for the dial.
    The lack of any kind of sign of wear on the case amply confirms the fact that the watch was actually born like this, dispelling even the faintest shade of doubt about this being a modified bubble back.

  • 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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An extremely unusual, rare and interesting stainless steel wrist compass with two-tone dial

Circa 1940
32mm Diameter
Case and dial signed

CHF10,000 - 20,000 

Sold for CHF25,200

Contact Specialist

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

41 79 637 1724

The Geneva Watch Auction: XII

Geneva Auction 6 - 7 November 2020