Swellboy on… Rolex

Our man gets to grips with the watchmaker’s crowning glories at Baselworld

Image: Brijesh Patel

In addition to surveying the handsome merchandise that Rolex had on offer at the Basel watch fair, I remembered to cast my eye over the new watches with the crown on the crown. My heraldry is a bit rusty these days, but the Rolex emblem seems to me to be more of an earl’s coronet. Regardless, I like the visual pun of a crown of the type worn on the head being reproduced on the crown that one places between finger and thumb to wind a watch.

Rolex did go through a bit of a wild phase, and it made some watches that I was not entirely wild about. This is not, for instance, the place to air my views on the Sky-Dweller. However, recent collections have had some real highlights. Last year’s Oyster Perpetual with the grape dial was a corker, and this year there was a tasty Yacht-Master and continued work on the Day-Date.

With the multicoloured dials and straps of the 36mm Day–Dates of a couple of years ago, Rolex revived interest in the Stella-dialled Day–Dates, which have become highly collectable over the past couple of years. It is funny because, as youngster flipping through the catalogues of Rolex when I should have been in the Bodleian studying for my finals, pages that depicted any deviation from the classic black, grey or white dials were hurriedly turned in mock horror. I recall at the time that I was none too keen on the brushed-bark finish of some of the bracelets either. Of course, these are now the watches that I would like to own.

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Evidence that I am not alone in my tastes comes from no less a source than Aurel Bacs – the pope and supreme spiritual leader of the cult of Rolex collecting. Aurel is a chum and when at Christie’s his enthusiasm for vintage watches and his ability to whip up quite insane levels of enthusiasm about elderly mechanical timepieces turned him into a market maker. His sale of Rolex Daytonas really got people carried away, and he is now presenting a similar themed sale around Day-Date Rolexes at Phillips on May 9. I like the two Leonids who own Phillips and their lieutenant Alexander Reebok, and in securing the services of Aurel and his wife Livia they have pulled off quite a coup.

The Day-Date was apparently a favourite of LBJ, who wore it on the president bracelet, characterised by a clasp concealed beneath that little crown (or earl’s coronet). I cannot help but be amused that a country that went to such lengths to get rid of a perfectly good king (George III was only a little mad from time to time) should have been led by a man who wore a crown… albeit on his wrist.

For more on Baselworld royalty, read about our man’s encounter with Manhattan king of bling Jacob the Jeweller.

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