Tuesday - 23 September 2014

Rolex watch stirs wartime memories and sells at £24,000

07 May 2013Written by Roland Arkell

Fellows’ latest quarterly Vintage & Modern Wristwatch auction included a rare 1940s Rolex Oyster, the so-called ‘monobloc’ chronograph.

With the greater strength and superior water resistance provided by the case construction and the excellence of the movement, the monobloc (reference number 3525) represented a significant step forward for Rolex and it was little surprise that many of these pieces found their way onto the wrists of serving personnel during the Second World War.

While the movement was functioning, the condition of this example (wear to the plating and heavy pressure fracturing to the glass) suggested it might have more than a tale or two to tell. The serial number 185972 may offer some clues to its early life.

Estimated at £8000-12,000 for the sale in Birmingham on April 15, it achieved £24,000.

Vintage Quartz

From a later vintage was an 18k gold Patek Philippe Beta 21. This was the first quartz model ever produced by these masters of all things mechanical (the Beta 21 movement was the fruit of a collaboration among 20 leading Swiss watch brands) and was launched in 1970.

However, because of its high cost, very few watches were produced. Estimated at £6000-8000, this good example fitted to an 18k gold bracelet with clasp and offered in its original box took £10,000.

Also ranking among the highest prices achieved at auction for the model was the £1900 paid for a Heuer calculator watch, an automatic chronograph surrounded by the best portable technology of the 1970s, a slide rule.

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