1920s 9ct gold cushion vintage ladies Rolex Oyster watch (3690)
An early 9ct gold ladies vintage Rolex Oyster watch, 1920s. The case measures 28 x 28 mm, with an Oyster Patent winding crown and knurled front bezel. The case is signed Rolex, 7 World’s Records, RWC Ltd (Rolex Watch Company Limited), hallmarked Glasgow 1927 and numbered. The Rolex Prima movement is Timed to 6 Positions, For All Climates, with 15 jewels. The silvered guilloche (engine-turned) dial has black Roman numerals, with a subsidiary seconds dial and blued steel hands. The dial is signed Rolex Oyster above the centre.
A stunning early Rolex Oyster watch, in fabulous condition!
‘The greatest triumph in watch making, the Rolex Oyster. The wonder watch that defies the elements.’
The headline from the front page of the Daily Mail newspaper, November 24th, 1927. Hans Wilsdorf (founder of the Rolex watch company) had succeeded in producing a truly waterproof watch and took the whole front page to advertise his achievement. Following years of striving to improve the ‘wristlet’ or wristwatch, Wilsdorf patented the Oyster case in September 1926. Consisting of three parts, bezel, ring and back that were all threaded to screw together, ensuring the case was water and dust proof. A month later he filed a patent for the screw thread and crown, which would hermetically seal the watch. (This had originally been filed by Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret (their one and only patent) in October 1925. Wilsdorf saw the great potential and bought the patent and subsequently filed for the British patent; 260.554.) Wilsdorf saw a great marketing opportunity when 26-year-old Mercedes Glietze swam the English Channel in October 1927. He presented her with an Oyster watch, which she wore on a chain around her neck. After the swim, lasting 15 hours and 15 minutes, the watch was found to be running and telling the correct time! He followed this triumph with window displays of aquariums with Oyster watches submerged inside, an idea he had registered in November 1922.
‘We must succeed in making a watchcase so tight that our movements will be permanently guaranteed against damage caused by dust, perspiration, water, heat and cold. Only then will the perfect accuracy of the Rolex watch be secured’ HW. Continuing his strive for the best, Wilsdorf patented seven more improvements in the next ten years. The Perpetual movement was patented in 1931. This was seen as the best automatic movement, an area where other companies had tried but not succeeded. Wilsdorf was a marketing genius, he raised the profile of Rolex watches with endorsements from sportsmen to explorers; Malcolm Campbell & Edmund Hillary. He presented the 100 000th Oyster watch to Winston Churchill, a gold Rolex Datejust. He also presented the 150 000th watch to Dwight Eisenhower, who later became president of The United States. The ‘Oyster’ name (derived when Wilsdorf had difficulty opening an oyster at dinner) continues to be on the majority of Rolex watches sold today. ‘We want to be the first in the field and Rolex should be seen as the one and only – the best.’ HW 1914