A stunning new Rolex book published by Assouline is a collector’s item in its own right.
Non-watch people are often surprised to learn that horolophiles aggrandise Rolex, too.
How can a brand that’s so commonplace inspire devotion from anyone with a profound
knowledge of a subject as arcane as watchmaking?
But when it comes to Rolex, the wonder spectrum is as wide as it is deep. At the non-watch
end, a Rolex is an internationally recognised status symbol, often purchased to mark a
milestone birthday or anniversary, or simply the arrival of a first significant bonus cheque.
At the more learned end, Rolex is far more nuanced – it’s storied, ground-breaking, the
benchmark, the leader. When Paul Newman’s own Rolex Daytona sold at auction last year
for $17.8m, it proved Rolex’s ever-expanding power to entrap heart, mind and wallet.
This autumn, a new book arrives adding grist to the mill. Rolex: The Impossible Collection
details more than a century of Rolex models, some of them with stories known, others less
so – some in fact, have never been seen in print before.
Among them is that of one of the first known wristwatches made by Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd,
circa 1900, a name and logo-less watch that precedes the Rolex name, which was
registered by Hans Wilsdorf in 1908, three years after he founded the company.
From there, the catalogue covers the company’s myriad achievements, from a series of
industry firsts that includes the first wristwatch ever awarded chronometer status on the
eve of war in 1914, through those pieces that scaled Everest and plumbed the depths of the
Marianna Trench. Many of those firsts will be well known to aficionados – the first Oyster
of 1926 was the world’s first water-proof watch; the Oyster Perpetual of 1931 was the
world’s first automatic winding watch; and the Oyster Perpetual Datejust of 1945 was the
first to show the date through an aperture on the dial.
There are pieces linked to the rich and famous, too. Eric Clapton, who has owned some of
history’s most exceptional timepieces, features alongside his early 1950s Antimagnetic
Chronograph Ref 6034 with a tropical dial. James Bond, prescribed a Rolex by Ian
Fleming, makes an appearance in the form of the Chronograph ‘Pre-Daytona’ Ref 6238
worn by George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That watch, the book records,
is the only Rolex chronograph sported by Bond at any point in the franchise.
This weighty tome, which covers 194 pages and includes 200 images and illustrations, has
been compiled by French journalist and long-time contributor to Le Figaro Fabienne
Reybaud. It’s published by Assouline as part of its Impossible Collection series and is on
sale now, priced $845/€850/£650.
For more information, visit assouline.com