Innovative and exceedingly rare Rolex ‘waterproof’ wrist watch.
A brief history explanation about this Rolex ‘Hermetic/Submarine/Aqua’;
The Submarine, also known as the Hermetic, was an early attempt by Rolex to create a waterproof wristwatch. Throughout the First World War, Rolex used two-piece cases made by Dennison and Borgel. These watches saw soldiers through the mud and the mire of the battlefield, but there was still room for improvement, particularly when Rolex saw new frontiers: the tropics. The beginning of a new Rolex watch case design was born.
The climates of India and East Asia, where Rolex’s most avid clients lived, necessitated a watch that was both dustproof and waterproof. Cases made by Dennison and Borgel were certainly dustproof, and shielded the sensitive movements from the dusty conditions of the battlefield. However, they proved less than adept at keeping moisture out.
In January 1921 Jean Finger, a watch case maker of Longeau, Berne, Switzerland, was granted Swiss patent number CH 89276 for a “ Montre à remontoire avec boitier protecteur” literally “a stem winding watch with a protective box”
This design of waterproof watch had the virtue of simplicity, in fact it was brutally simple; the watch was placed inside a larger case with a screw-down bezel which formed an hermetic seal around the watch within. To wind the watch or set the hands the outer bezel was unscrewed and the movement flipped out on a hinge allowing the hands to be set and the watch mainspring wound by a conventional unsealed crown.
Wilsdorf must have liked the design of Jean Finger’s hermetic case and bought some rights to the patent. He applied for a patent on exactly the same case design in Britain on 26 May 1922, which was granted British patent number GB 197208 “Improvements in and Relating to Watches”.
Although the hermetic case would soon be supplanted by the now-iconic Oyster case, which was patented in 1926, the Rolex Hermetic is an interesting artifact of an era when watchmaking was entering a new frontier. Mankind was just testing the boundaries of the known world, with intrepid explorers just venturing beneath the surface of the ocean; as one of Rolex’s first waterproof wristwatches, the Submarine paved the way for the Submariner. And with Submariners from the 1950s and 1960s becoming so popular, its aquatic ancestor deserves a spot in any serious Rolex watch collection.
More to read online, per example on rolexforums, fratellowatches, Rolexmagazine and many others.
Specifications and information;
The matte creme colored dial has acquainted a lovely subtle and even patina across, all signatures perfectly legible.
The golden lume filled leaf hands show a warm orange patina as well as the circled and pointy hour markers. Rare ‘cathedral’ inspired central sweep seconds hand which can be found on other Rolex models from the same era, and can be seen on a Rolex Oyster in the famous ‘Rolex Wristwatches (2006)’ book from James M. Dowling.
The 9 carat rose gold case shows Rolex signatures on the inside outer case, outside inner lid and inside inner case (triple signed case).
The inner case is made of gilded steel while the outer case is solid gold hallmarked.
After 84 years the screw down case front still shows detailled ribbing. No dents or deep scratches on both the inner and outer casing.
The case back shows a circled discoloration, possibly from a sticker (see pictures).
The hand wound movement is clean and runs with fine accuracy corresponding with age (within 60 seconds every 24 hours and a satisfactory amplitude). Unsigned winding crown, nevertheless believed to be the one original to this watch.
Later brown leather strap and buckle.
Comes with an original green leather Rolex box with outer protective box (from the 40s era so non original to this watch but nevertheless a suitable addition).
Please note we handle an 24 hour purchase/shipment processing policy as all our watches are located in a bank safe.
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