Rolex, an undisputed powerhouse in the world of luxury timepieces, has achieved such an iconic status that a unique system of nickname-based categorisation has been devoted to its product lines. In a previous article, we looked at 10 Quirky Rolex Watch Nicknames. Here we present the other monikers.
Introduced briefly in the 1960s (particularly around 1966), the Rolex Submariner 5513 emerged as the final Rolex model to showcase gilt (gold) printing. Recognisable for its distinctive coronet emblem, which bears a resemblance to Bart Simpson's iconic hairstyle (Bart Simpson is a fictional character in the American animated series, The Simpsons), this particular model exhibits tight ‘ROLEX’ letter spacing and the ‘Metres First’ depth notation (200 metres = 660 ft). Its exceptional two-step dial manufacturing process results in impressive ‘crazing’ ageing patterns, ranging from a rich caramel hue to a deep brown one. Furthermore, its luminescent elements acquire a warm tan patina that harmonises beautifully with the gilt text. This particular variant of the 5513 model boasts an exposed chapter ring, setting it apart as a later-generation gilt dial 5513.
In 1956, Rolex unveiled the iconic Day-Date, later known as the Rolex President, setting a new standard in watch craftsmanship. It adorned the wrists of influential figures like LBJ, Warren Buffett, and Jay Z. The watch even found its way into the world of politics. General Dwight D. Eisenhower received a Rolex Datejust in 1951, commemorating a milestone. Marilyn Monroe's gift to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson's presidential preference for the Day-Date added to its legacy. Today, Warren Buffett's reliance on his Rolex President speaks volumes about its timeless appeal. Tony Soprano's affinity for the watch showcased power. Rolex continues to innovate, as seen with the 2016 Day-Date release, honouring its six-decade history.
The Rolex Explorer II 'Polar' is a distinctive timepiece, ideal for those seeking the hallmark quality of Rolex without flaunting extravagance. Originally created for spelunking, it stands out as one of Rolex's few white-dialled tool watches. This professional tool watch has evolved through different generations, each with unique features. The Reference 16550, introduced in the 1980s, marked the shift towards luxury with a refined movement, glossy dials, and white gold indices. The 16570 continued this legacy, introducing variations like 'holey' and 'no-holes' lug designs. The Reference 216570 celebrated the 40th anniversary with a bolder look and more advanced movement. The latest Reference 226570 refined the design further with an enamel dial and improved technology. Despite its understated charm, the Polar Explorer II deserves more recognition in the Rolex lineup, promising a resurgence in the years to come.
The Rolex Daytona, especially the Zenith-powered 165xx series, holds a special significance in the watch world. Often regarded as a brand within a brand, it has captivated collectors worldwide, defying market trends. The 16520, introduced in 1988, marked a significant shift with a new 40 mm case and sapphire crystal, boasting a 100-metre depth rating. Powered by the modified Zenith El Primero movement, this automatic chronograph became iconic, fuelling the Daytona mania. Collectors cherish its dial variations, meticulously chronicled in books like Stefano Mazzariol's Rolex Daytona – A Legend is Born. The MK1 dial, featuring a unique ‘floating Cosmograph’, commands a premium rate. Bezel designs have also evolved, offering distinct visual cues. As the Zenith-powered Daytonas gain vintage status, their value continues to rise, making them a compelling choice for collectors.
The Rolex Daytona, a beloved chronograph in the world of vintage watches, has evolved through three generations, marked by their internal movements. From 1963 to 1988, the initial series utilised Valjoux-based manual movements. In 2000, Rolex introduced the modern models, featuring the in-house Cal. 4130 movement, which continues to date. During an intermediate 12-year period, the Daytona relied on the Zenith El Primero, a third-party automatic chronograph engine, giving birth to the Patrizzi Dial Daytona watches. Named after Osvaldo Patrizzi, who discovered the unique colour-changing phenomenon, these dials have become coveted collector's items. Osvaldo Patrizzi's own Daytona with this distinctive feature fetched double its estimate, solidifying the Patrizzi dials' esteemed status among vintage Rolex enthusiasts.
Vintage Rolex watches, manufactured from 1933 to 1955, include a diverse range of ‘Bubble Back’ (unofficially named) models. This moniker stems from their distinctively curved and protruding casebacks. Originally born of necessity, the Bubble Back design accommodated Rolex's thicker self-winding movements, introduced in the 1930s. While these watches may appear antiquated today because of their smaller case diameters (typically 30-32 mm) and bulbous profiles due to domed acrylic crystals and convex casebacks, they hold historical significance. These early Bubble Back watches mark Rolex's initial foray into self-winding movements, a pivotal step in the brand's evolution towards its iconic ‘Perpetual’ automatic watches.
The Buckley Dial, a coveted find for vintage Rolex enthusiasts, was featured on Datejust models from the 1970s and 80s, primarily the 1601, 1603, 16014, and 16030 references. Unlike the modern Rolex dials with applied Roman numerals, the Buckley Dial stands out with printed Roman numerals, offering a spacious and legible layout. This unique design is celebrated for its elegant simplicity, allowing the numerals to breathe and facilitating time reading. Named after John Buckley, a respected vintage watch dealer, the dial gained prominence courtesy of his passion and expertise. Notable Buckley Dial Rolex models include the 16030 Gray Dial, the 16014 Blue Dial, and the 1601 White Dial, each exuding timeless charm suitable for various occasions.
In a remarkable gesture of gratitude, Paul Newman, the legendary actor and avid race car driver, presented his daughter's boyfriend with a remarkable gift — a 1960s Cosmograph Daytona reference 6239 Rolex, recently sold at a Phillips auction for a staggering $17.8 million. This iconic timepiece, called the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, gained immense value due to its limited production, distinctive dial features, and association with the Hollywood icon. Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward, had engraved a heartfelt message on the watch, making it a cherished possession. The watch witnessed Newman's racing endeavours over a decade, including a notable second-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This remarkable watch, a symbol of Newman's generosity, continues to make history in the world of timepieces.
John Player Special
The Rolex Daytona JPS, short for John Player Special, is a vintage timepiece, crafted in 14 ct gold and produced between 1969 and 1972. Named after the iconic tobacco brand, John Player & Sons, this watch gained fame when the company sponsored the Lotus Formula One team in 1972, lending the race car a striking black-and-gold design. Only 3,000 of these 6241 Daytona models were ever made, most of them made of steel or 18 ct gold. Their rarity is attributed to the limited popularity of gold watches during that era and the transitional period for the Daytona's waterproof features. Today, less than 400 of these references remain, making them highly coveted among collectors. In recent auctions, JPS models fetched prices exceeding half a million Swiss francs. These timepieces are known for their black dials with gold subdials and Art Deco numerals, housed in 14 ct solid gold cases. Although original 14 ct gold bracelets are rare, the allure of the Rolex Daytona JPS remains undeniable, making it a true collector's gem.
Steve McQueen's iconic Rolex Submariner 5513, with a compelling history, is hitting the auction block at Phillips. The timepiece, once owned by the legendary actor of Bullitt and Le Mans fame, was gifted to his favourite stuntman, Loren Janes, bearing a heartfelt engraving. Their partnership, spanning numerous high-octane films, endured until Janes's retirement. Remarkably, the watch survived a devastating wildfire that consumed Janes's home, underwent restoration in Switzerland, and now functions flawlessly. While it remains uncertain if McQueen himself wore the watch, its estimated auction price ranges from US $300,000 to US $600,000.