This book, written by experts Osvaldo Patrizzi and Mara Cappelletti and introduced by the Chairman of Sotheby’s International Watch Division, Daryn F. Schnipper, is a mine of information and a reference for all Vintage Rolex collectors and enthusiasts. This is more than a guide but also a real pleasure for all lovers of watches. This book, published in November 2021 by ACC Art Books, illustrates over 390 watches with details, pictures, reasons for values and prices realized at auctions.
Rolex is a name that has no need of an introduction as it evokes the idea of luxury and exclusivity. The brand founded by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis in 1905 has become a real status symbol. Recently, it was ranked by Forbes as one of the top 100 most recognized brands in the world. Rolex has a long and successful history.
But why the name Rolex? Maybe because it was easy to pronounce and could be read identically in all European languages and short enough to fit on the face of the watches. Other sources say that maybe because it was an onomatopoeic word which sounded like a watch being wound. Whatever the reasons, it has been very effective for more than a century!
From the very beginning the Maison knew perfectly how to communicate. For instance, to launch their waterproof Oyster timepiece, on 21st October 1927 the British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel wearing an Oyster Precision watch which gave worldwide resonance to the Rolex brand.
On her arrival the watch was examined and declared to work perfectly. This proved to be an excellent marketing operation! This is only one example of the constant presence of Rolex in prestigious sport events such as golf, tennis, motor racing, equitation, sailing, Formula One and many others.
Rolex also had a great impact in the world of Art, Science and Cinema. Sean Connery’s James Bond wore a Submariner, Steve Mc Queen owned a plethora of Rolex watches but it’s the Explorer II that is associated to his name. Paul Newman couldn’t be separated from his Daytona, called by collectors “Newman Daytona”.
The company produces around 800,000 watches per year and aims to improve them continuously. In the Rolex branding policy, every detail is important: Rolex prohibits the online sale of new watches and strictly selects eligible outlets where customers can experience and make their investments in the Maison’s timepieces.
The auctions often obtain record prices for previously owned Rolex watches. What increases their value is not only the perfection of the craftsmanship but the legend behind them and the desire to own something extraordinary and exceptional. Currently, the Rolex Daytona attains the most outstanding results in the auctions. In 2020 during the pandemic Sotheby’s sold two Rolex Daytonas within a two-week period, each one at record prices. The first one was a unique Rolex Daytona in Platinum with a hardstone lapis lazuli dial Ref. 16516 finalizing a record selling price of HK $25.4 million. Two weeks later, a Rolex Ref. 6264 in 18k gold with a JPS Paul Newman dial was sold for £1.2million. It was in post-war London that sales dedicated to specific items started to take place.
The first Sotheby’s catalogue for watches and clocks dates back to 1945. Until the late 1970s and early 1980s watch collecting was focused mainly on pocket watches. In the late Seventies Switzerland faced a big crisis due to the aggressive campaign of commercialization of quartz watches. Yet despite this crisis, Swiss watch industry continued to concentrate on mechanical technology and marketing. This policy gave its fruits also because there were loyal customers who were willing to pay higher prices for mechanical watches.
One of the pioneers of the vintage boom was the Geneva-based auction house Galerie Genevoise d’Horlogerie Ancienne founded by Osvaldo Patrizzi and Gabriele Tortella in 1974 who in 1981 held their first auction entirely dedicated to wristwatches. Another novelty was the introduction of thematic auctions: the first one was the Art of Patek Philippe held in 1989. I hope to have aroused the curiosity of my readers and given food for thought as to acquiring this book which I consider absolutely essential for all the connoisseurs and Rolex lovers.
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