1931 Rolex Vintage Mens Oyster Perpetual Bubbleback 18K Gold Watch - Exceedingly Rare "P" Marked Protoype


Item No. 8211SH

Today's offering showcases this exceedingly rare original true prototype Bubbleback made circa 1931. It is not only without question the rarest example of a Bubbleback to ever pass through these halls, it is the only one we can ever remember seeing in person.

Because the story of the Rolex Oyster has been so well-documented, we will only briefly summarize it here. In 1926 Rolex created their famous first Oyster waterproof watch with a design that would become legendary and still be used nearly a century later.

Then in 1931, Rolex invented and patented the world's first self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor and placed it inside the one of their Oyster cases, calling it an Oyster Perpetual. In order to accomodate the large rotor these first Oyster Perpetual watches had highly domed case backs, later earning them the name collector name Bubblebacks.

Housed in one of Rolex's first water-tight Oyster cases, this wristwatch originally offered its owner complete protection against water and dust. Inside the ruggedly elegant case Rolex place an early self-winding Perpetual movement, keeping the watch powered by movements of the wrist.

Equipped with a 9 3/4 ''' Bubbleback movement with self-compensating Breguet mainspring, and the company's patented Super-Balance system for greater accuracy, this fine watch is the timekeeping standards of discriminating owners.

What makes this watch incredibly special is that it is one of Rolex's very first prototype Bubblebacks and differs somewhat from the watches that went into regular construction.

Unlike usual automatic watches, one can actually overwind the movement if one's not careful, something that was later rectified in all further automatics by use of a slipping bridle. The watch also has fixed lugs, instead of spring bars, a different style of original hands, and a wonderful bow-tie usually associated with certain other Rolexes from this era, though not Bubbleback.

It does, of course, have the so-called "prototype instruction movement" with watchmaker's servicing instructions stamped throughout the movement. Photos of the inside available upon request.

The term "prototype" for all watch's with this movement is a bit of a misnomer in the sense that it was the first version of the Bubbleback movement but many watches with the rare movement are not technically prototypes although it has become acceptable to call them such. We have one of those watches coming up for sale this fall. The only problem is that then watches like this don't have a differentiating term. This exceedingly rare watch is a true prototype in the strict sense of the word and is remarkably factory stamped with a "P" before its very low serial number 5399. Its fixed lugs are also stamped 399.

This particular watch was sold to the collector we acquired it from by the internationally recognized Rolex expert James Dowling, co-author along with Jeff Hess of the "Bible" for Rolex watches, The Best of Time - Rolex Wristwatches, an Unauthorized History.

It is a watch that could serve as the crown jewel of even the finest Bubbleback collections.

It is in original condition. Our photos couldn't do justice to its two-tone dial.

Its case is in excellent condition with only fairly light signs of previous polishing. Its bow-tie dial is original and untouched.

It winds very well and the crown screws down fully and is keeping generally accurate time within a two to three minutes per day. Our Master Watchmaker has performed a light servicing on it.

For the finishing touch we have equipped it with a new leather strap making it ready for immediate enjoyment.

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

Rolex's own recounting of their early Oyster history can be found here on their website:

  • Manufacturer: Rolex
  • Country of origin: Switzerland
  • Year built: c. 1931
  • Serial no.: P5399
  • Model: None. This watch pre-dates any official Rolex reference numbers used for Bubbleback.
  • Functions: Hours, Minutes, Automatic, Subsidiary Seconds
  • Designed for: Men
  • Case material: 18K gold
  • Case markings (inside): Oyster Watch Co., Geneve Swiss, Great Britain Patents, Swiss Patents, French Patents, USA Patents, German Patents, Rolex Coronet symbol SAR
  • Case condition: Excellent with fairly light signs of previous polishing. The serial number is still well-intact.
  • Dimensions: 31mm wide (excluding crown), 38mm long lug tip-to-tip, 12.5mm thick
  • Dial: Two-tone silver in "bow-tie" configuration, black painted radial Arabic indexes, signed Rolex Oyster Perpetual, original and untouched
  • Hands: Original, blue steel "batons"
  • Movement type: High grade, signed Rolex, 9 3/4''', 18 jewels, self-winding, compensating Breguet hairspring, early "prototype" version stamped with full watchmaker's servicing instructions, unusual original construction without slipping bridle to prevent overwinding
  • Jewels: 18 rubies
  • Band: Leather, designed for fixed lugs use, brand new and unworn with unsigned buckle
  • Width between lugs: 17mm
  • Crystal type: Acrylic, excellent condition
  • Servicing: Our Master Watchmaker has performed a light servicing on it. It winds very well and the crown screws down fully and is keeping generally accurate time within a two to three minutes per day.
  • 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 experienced team of watchmakers both of whom each have over forty years of experience and a large number of parts.
  • 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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