Without question one of the company's greatest contributions to horology is in the area of waterproof cases. The Rolex Oyster case birthed the idea of the modern sport watch as we know it and was a key catalyst for the initial widespread acceptance of the wristwatch.
But before there could be a Rolex Submariner, there had to be a Rolex Submarine.
While many collectors know that Rolex birthed the idea of the Oyster case, far fewer know that Rolex made at least four attempts to create a fully waterproof case before they introduced the Oyster: the Dennison, Semi-Hermetic and "full" Hermetic watches. Very few of these early, pre-Oyster watches designed for water resistance still exist.
Today's offering showcases their successful pre-Oyster waterproof watch, the "Submarine".
During World War I and in the years that followed, the public's idea of wristwatch changed dramatically. Soldiers, who had discovered how convenient it was to time strategic military operations at a simple turn of the wrist, began modifying their pocket watches, adding with soldered wire lugs a leather strap.
Hans Wilsdorf, one of the two founders of Rolex, was a visionary who early on saw the forthcoming demand for wristwatches. He wanted to produce some of the most reliable wristwatches on the market. But he knew that this required more than well-designed and made movements, and even certifying watches as chronometers - they also needed to be in cases fully protected from the elements.
Wilsdorf recalled telling his staff time and time again, “we must succeed in making a watch case 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.”
Rolex had already tried having cases made by Dennison and by Borgel, two pillars of the case making trade at the time. At the time, Rolex was well-represented in East Asia with retailers in India and Burma.
Borgel was a true legend in pioneering waterproof watch cases, and he came up with a new design for a full hermetically sealed case. It utilized a three-piece case - body, bezel, and back - that was then enclosed in a larger case with a threaded lid. The outer case only had two pieces - a full body and the bezel, which screwed down like a jar. Hans Wilsdorf was so pleased with the design that he filed for a patent in London on May 10, 1923 and filed for three additional patents for model names. One was the Submarine - which became the main model name, and the second was the Hermetic.
Borgel's hermetic design proved successful and sold well in the East Asia market, evidenced by the surviving Hermetic's that bear retailer's names from those markets.
Within only a couple of years Borgel’s hermetic case was supplanted by the new Oyster case, which was patented in 1926. So finding a fine surviving Submarine / Hermetic remains a challenge.
The Submarine briefly appeared during an interesting era, when mankind was testing the boundaries of the known world and intrepid explorers were beginning to venture more beneath the surface of the ocean.
As Rolexes continue to appreciate in value, I think these early Oysters remain under appreciated and undervalued for their rarity and historical significance. I think a time will be coming when their value catches up with the importance and scarcity.
We were fortunate to acquire it with all of its original parts. Its 18K gold case of our very fine Submarine is in pleasing condition. The back has light rippling in the soft 18K metal. On the wrist it presents as just short of mint. Its dial has previously been flawlessly refinished.
Its Rolex movement is very high-grade - originally adjusted for a full six positions and for hot and cold. It is rated "Extra Prima." During this period, after assembly and testing, Rolex labeled their best performing movements with some version of the three-tiered "Prima" designation, and the extra prima was the penultimate.
Our Master Watchmaker has fully serviced the watch which consists of fully disassembling the movement, carefully inspecting each part, replacing any overly worn components with genuine Rolex replacements, reassembling and lubricating the movement, and extensive timing testing and regulation (a $745 value).
Don't miss the chance to add this incredibly rare and important Rolex to your distinguished collection.
Country of origin: Switzerland
Year built: c. 1924
Functions: Hours, Minutes, Subsidiary Seconds, Originally Waterproof
Designed for: Men
Case material: Solid 18K gold
Case markings (inside): Swiss, 18K, F.B. (see note in case section above for information regarding Francois Borgel), 311,177
Case condition: Pleasing condition. The back has light rippling in the soft 18K metal. On the wrist it presents as just short of mint.
Dimensions: 32mm wide (excluding crown), 40mm long lug tip-to-tip
Dial: Signed Rolex, white, subtle 'sunburst' guilloche pattern visible at certain angles, black painted Breguet numerals, previously perfectly refinished
Hands: Original, blued steel batons
Movement type: High grade, Rolex Rebberg 9 3/4''', signed Rolex and Swiss made, 15 ruby jewels
Movement markings: Rolex, Swiss Made, 15 Jewels, Timed 6 Positions, For All Climates, Extra Prima
Band: Top grain leather, Hirsch - one of Europe's fine band makers, designed for fixed lug use, like new
Band width: 16mm
Crystals: Outer - acrylic, excellent condition. Inner - mineral glass, excellent condition
Servicing: Our Master Watchmaker has fully serviced the watch which consists of fully disassembling the movement, carefully inspecting each part, replacing any overly worn components with genuine Rolex replacements, reassembling and lubricating the movement, and extensive timing testing and regulation (a $745 value).
Timing: Timed to precision on a state-of-the-art computerized system. Your watch is important to us, and we will take care of it for its lifetime. We provide the best after sale care in the business with an experienced team of four watchmakers all of whom each have over thirty-five years of experience and a large number of parts.
Warranty: 1-year C.O.T. international warranty.
Box/Papers: BOX - Connoisseur of Time watch presentation box; PAPERS - Custom printed Connoisseur of Time Certificate of Authenticity; New timing certificate
Returns: 7 days full refund. 100% satisfaction guarantee
We offer a 100%
satisfaction guarantee for all of our watches. If you are in any way
unsatisfied with the watch we will fully refund the purchase price anytime
within 7 days after the watch has been received. Our goal is to exceed our
client's expectations throughout the buying experience.
All watches are packaged carefully and mailed double boxed in specially
constructed, reinforced shipping boxes designed for high value items. All
watches are sent fully insured with signature required. Most of our domestic
shipping is done through FedEx. At times we will also use USPS Express Mail,
and we can accommodate most requests for your preferred carrier.
International shipments are sent USPS International Express Mail or FedEx.
The purchase price will be the declared value of the merchandise on any
required customs forms. The payment of all customs duties, tariffs, and
taxes are the responsibility of the buyer.
Also note that water resistance of vintage watches can no longer be
guaranteed and is not covered under the watch's warranty. We do not
recommend getting a vintage watch wet, even one that was originally designed
to be waterproof.