1930's Rolex Railroad Kew A Chronometer 21J Antique Mens Pocket Watch, 52mm - Snowite Chrome


Item No. 7177SH

Today's offering showcases this very rare and and extremely interesting Rolex "railroad grade" pocket watch. We have been in love with it!

And for several really good reasons. First of all, it is a true Kew A chronometer. Rolex collectors will recognize that as an extremely rare designation - they've been called "The Rarest Production Rolex" and the values of solid gold Kew A wristwatches has approached $50,000.

Secondly, it is also a true "railroad grade" watch, made for the American market to pass the strict requirements Congress placed on watches used by railroad conductors. Rolex even engraved a train on the case to make sure their American market customers knew what it was intended for. And thirdly, in our extensive search we have only found one other example, although we are not suggesting that only two exist.

Being a Kew A Rolex is incredibly special and being a railroad watch is interesting, but being a rare historically significant watch that Rolex made specifically to sell in the American market to try to be a competitor to all of the well-known American watches while also having the rarity of being a Kew A, ticks so many boxes we've been having a hard to even allowing ourselves to sell this. And Rolex even engraved the case with a train for the full marketing effect and owner experience.

To us, it is the most fascinating confluence of so many spheres: completely disparate historical horological worlds - that is, the American railroad watch market and the Swiss made Rolex market, collector rarity, and the tremendous modern desirably of special Rolex items.

For railroad watch collectors or all but the most experienced Rolex collectors who are likely not familiar with Kew A Rolexes, a Rolex watch was first awarded a Class A precision certificate by the Kew Obervatory in 1914. It was an exciting distinction considering that normally the award was given exclusively to marine chronometers. It was the very first time a wristwatch had achieved this honor in England and paved the way for Rolex to become one of the most respected brands in the world for its chronometric performance with only a relatively few of their watches being submitted to the Kew Observatory for certification. The Kew Observatory is different from the Swiss Neuchâtel Observatory that is often associated with COSC chronometers.

A more in-depth blog post on the Kew A's can be found here: The Rolex Kew A: Quite Possibly (And Very Likely) The Most Accurate Rolex Ever Made.

And if you'd like to see an article about a couple of Rolex Kew A wristwatches that went up for offering, click here.

For Rolex and Swiss watch collectors and wristwatch collectors who are likely not familiar with the history of the creation of the American standard for Railroad Chronometers here is my brief recounting: A head-on collision between a mail train and a Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway passenger train in Kipton, Ohio, in 1881, blamed on inaccuracy of one of the engineer's watches, led to a first set of uniform standard for the production of the watches used by railroad employees.

The crash, which killed 11 people, resulted in U.S. railroads adopting a uniform set of requirements for watches used by railroad employees. Called the General Railroad Timepiece Standard, they included rules for the types of components used in the watches' movements as well as for the watches' precision and legibility. They also stipulated that the watches be made in America so that spare parts would be readily available.

For more specific information on the standards for watches used by railroad personnel, you might want to read Wikipedia.

We are reluctant for someone to pry this watch away from us, but very proud of the watch and the owner who will get it.

Its case was made with Rolexes fairly uncommon trademarked material "Snowite," which was registered by Rolex founder Hans Wildorf in 1927. Snowite was chrome plate over a base metal. As David Boettcher writes, "The first commercial process for chromium plating was developed in 1924 in America and the 1927 registration of Snowite means that Rolex were one of the first companies to use it on watch cases. The 1920s economic depression that resulted in the Wall Street crash of 1929 meant that manufacturers were looking for cheaper but still eye catching alternatives to gold and silver. Stainless steel was introduced in the 1930s for the same reason." It is in honest original condition.

Its beautiful enamel dial presents as mint with the bezel on, even under low magnification. It has one small edge chip hidden underneath the bezel. Interestingly, though designed for the U.S. market with upper wording in English, Rolex did the lower dial marking in French.

Two of our Master Watchmakers worked for nearly a year on restoring the original movement which even included custom fabricating a new winding wheel (the original was missing seven teeth!) to the original Rolex factory functional quality and fully factory quality decorated finish (restoration value $1495).

Included with the purchase is a one-year warranty on the movement and its function and a custom printed Connoisseur of Time Certificate of Authenticity.

  • Manufacturer: Rolex
  • Country of origin: Switzerland
  • Year made: c. 1930's
  • Serial number: 663
  • Functions: Hours, Minutes, Subsidiary Seconds
  • Designed for: Men
  • Case material: "Snowite" chrome over base metal
  • Case condition: Very good honest original condition. Never polished. Fairly light wear and fairly light loss fine a few fine detail of the engraving.
  • Dimensions: 52mm diameter
  • Dial: Enamel, double sunk with black painted numerals, outer minute track and 24 hour markings, signed Rolex Chronometer Controle Officiellement. One small edge chip hidden underneath the bezel; presents as mint with the bezel on, even under low magnification.
  • Hands: Blue steel
  • Movement type: Extremely grade keyless pocket watch, Rolex caliber 550, signed Rolex, rhodium plated, "fausses côtes" decoration, 21 jewels, fully capped straight line lever escapement, Breguet coilover balance spring
  • Movement markings: Rolex, Swiss Made, Twenty-One 21 Rubis, Observatory Quality Class A Certificate, 663
  • Jewels: 21 rubies
  • Crystal: Mineral glass, new-old-stock
  • Serviced: Two of our Master Watchmakers worked for nearly a year on restoring the original movement which even included custom fabricating a new winding wheel (the original was missing seven teeth!) to the original Rolex factory functional quality and fully factory quality decorated finish (restoration value $1495).
  • Warranty: 1-year international warranty. Please email concierge@cotwatches.com for details. 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 extremely experienced team of four Master Watchmakers all of whom each have over thirty-five years of experience and a large number of parts. One used to be the watchmaker for an authorized Rolex dealership and was given special training by Rolex at their Beverly Hills Service Center.
  • Box/Papers: BOX - Connoisseur of Time watch presentation box; PAPERS - Custom printed Connoisseur of Time Certificate of Authenticity
  • 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.

To get an idea of how this watch will look on the wrist, please use the Watch Sizing Guide


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