1940s steel vintage Rolex ‘Bubbleback’ watch (3898)
A rare steel vintage Rolex Oyster ‘Bubbleback’ Perpetual watch, dated 1945. The case measures 32mm, excluding Rolex Oyster winding crown. The case is signed Brevetee, Rolex SA, Geneve-Suisse, 31 Victoires, Haute Precision, with reference 2940 and numbered between the lugs. The calibre 630 automatic movement is signed Rolex Perpetual Chronometer, Swiss Made, Super Balance with 17 jewels. The rare black dial has white Arabic numerals at the quarters, with luminous blued steel hands and centre sweep seconds hand. The dial is signed Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer above the centre.
The ‘Bubble Back’ was the first completely watertight automatic watch developed by Rolex. It was named the ‘Oyster Perpetual’. The self-winding movement was quite thick and the rounded case back was made to house it rather than the original Oyster case. This gave the name the’Bubble Back’. Rolex only produced this watch from 1933 – 1955.
The Rolex Oyster watch
Following the end of World War I, global trading resumed and Rolex watches were being sent abroad, particularly to the the hot and humid tropical countries of the British Empire. Many of the watches were found to have rusted on arrival following a long damp voyage!
Hans Wilsdorf (co-founder of Rolex) was determined to produce a ‘water-proof’ watch and commented;
“We must succeed in making a watch case so tight that our movements will be permanently guaranteed against damage caused by dust, perspiration, heat and cold. Only then will the perfect accuracy of the Rolex watch be secured.”
The Rolex Oyster watch was produced a few years later in 1926 with a ‘three-piece’ case, (the front and back screwing into the body). An iconic design that has become probably the best selling waterproof wristwatch.