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The Vintage Watch Company, owned by father and son duo, John and David Silver, was established in 1995 and is now based in London’s historic Burlington Arcade. It is dedicated to showcasing vintage rolex wristwatches from c1910–c1990. Their unparalleled collection carries over 2000 pieces and is the largest collection of Vintage Rolex watches on display in the world. The shop is now a destination for watch collectors and discerning shoppers from around the world. Published to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary, Vintage Rolex contains a unique pictorial collection of vintage Rolex watches that have passed through the shop during the past 25 years. More than 1800 watches have been photographed and are described in detail in the book. From early Rolex pocket watches to the world’s first wristwatches, elegant in their simplicity yet revolutionary in their impact, to the very first Submariners, iconic Daytonas and jewel-encrusted Crown Collections, the mesmerizing archive of vintage timepieces charts the extraordinary rise of an extraordinary brand. @mrdavidsilver @vintage_watch_company


INTRODUCTION More than a hundred years on from the momentous opening of Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis’s first London store, two enterprising watch-lovers can be found hard at work, carefully curating the same Rolex timepieces that were once touched, perhaps, by the very hands of Rolex’s devoted founders. This time, the setting is not Hatton Garden, but Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade, and the horological custodians are not business-savvy brothers-in-law, but a father-andson duo, John and David Silver – proud owners of The Vintage Watch Company. Like the venerable brand it showcases, the unique locale requires little introduction. The only store of its kind in the world, The Vintage Watch Company has earned a global client base of Rolex aficionados, including royalty, sporting legends and stars of the silver screen. But for those yet to be acquainted, its window display – a painstaking curation of rare Rolexes through the ages – provides the perfect taster for the treasures and their individual tales that tick quietly within. From the world’s first wristwatches, elegant in their simplicity yet revolutionary in their impact, to the very first Submariners, iconic Daytonas and jewel-encrusted Crown Collections, the Silvers’ mesmerizing archive of vintage timepieces charts the extraordinary rise of an extraordinary brand. Such is the draw of Rolex’s captivating collections that when John Silver established The Vintage Watch Company back in 1995, there was simply no question about the direction he would take. With a fifty-year career in the world of luxury retail, he recognized a growing trend towards vintage. Moreover, with unparalleled breadth, depth and appeal, he saw early Rolex as a brand in itself – a brand with the power to compete, not just with other marques, but with the might of modern Rolex. At The Vintage Watch Company, the result of John Silver’s foresight is plain to see. Combining the best of two generations – a father’s retail mastery and a son and daughter’s dynamic approach – the guardians of Rolex’s rarest and most precious pieces have created something truly special. Twenty-five years on from the opening of their West London store, just like the brand’s visionary

founder, John, Sara and David Silver are, in their own way, redefining time. Over the course of a quarter century, not only has The Vintage Watch Company been sourcing and selling some of the most prized Rolexes on Earth, they have been photographing, archiving and cataloguing every single watch to pass through their hands, in the quiet seclusion of the loft rooms at Burlington Arcade. In doing so, they have amassed one of the world’s largest pictorial records of the history of vintage Rolex. To document the impressive collection, David Silver enlisted the services of Bruce Mackie, a professional photographer who once shot images of the iconic Rolexes for the pages of Vogue magazine. Each watch was professionally lit and photographed for The Vintage Watch Company website. As time went by, however, it became evident to David that what he was building went far beyond a sales catalogue; it was rapidly becoming a truly unique archive, the likes of which had never been seen before, and which would be near-impossible to replicate. Such was the archive’s scale and significance that David Silver changed tack. Rather than simply upload this treasure trove of images to a section of the company website, he decided to create a book for the world to enjoy – a book dedicated to all those who have bought into the vision of The Vintage Watch Company and who share the passion of its founders. Rolex aficionados thumbing the pages of this book may find examples similar to the treasured vintage timepieces they carry proudly on their wrists. They may even set eyes upon their very own watches, sealed in time for evermore. In fact, a number of readers will own many of the Rolexes featured in this book, and it is with immense gratitude that John and David Silver showcase those individual pieces for all to see. For others, they hope that this book inspires, seduces and lights a fire in all who choose to read on, so that they will one day purchase their very own piece of Rolex history. With that, it is time to sit back and enjoy the ride as David Silver takes you on a journey through the many decades of Rolex history and the exemplary timepieces born out of them.


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VINTAGE ROLEX: THE COLLECTION

‘He could not just wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex.’ IAN FLEMING

was worn by some of the world’s most influential individuals. 1956 also saw the introduction of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, a watch for the scientific elite that could resist magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss, earning it a reputation as the perfect magnetic shield. The Lady-Datejust, launched in 1957, rounded off this pioneering decade. The new model fit all the ingenuity and design of the original Datejust into a smaller case, resulting in an elegant watch designed for a discerning female clientele. Rolex appeal was growing.

1960s The year 1960 marked the end of an era with the passing of Rolex’s devoted creator, Hans Wilsdorf, at the age of 79. But true to his vision, Rolex continued to serve as the perfect companion on some of the world’s most testing voyages. That same year, an experimental submersible, the Trieste, reached the bottom of the deepest known depression on the surface of the planet, the Mariana Trench. This set a new record in ocean exploration when the vessel, and the Rolex Deep Sea Special fixed to its shell, emerged unscathed from a depth of almost 11,000 metres (36,000 feet). Another ocean-faring timepiece, the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, followed in 1967. Waterproof to a depth of 610 metres (2,000 feet) and featuring a case with a helium escape valve, the watch was tailored to the requirements of professional divers. Meanwhile, professional drivers were also

Above and facing page Sean Connery as the secret agent James Bond in the first Bond film, Dr No (1962). The Rolex watch sitting on his wrist was his own, a Rolex Submariner, a diver’s watch first released in 1953 and already a classic.

Below Ian Fleming working at his desk at Goldeneye, his hilltop house in Jamaica, wearing his own Rolex Explorer a few months before his death in 1964. The only watch brand mentioned by Fleming in his novels was Rolex.


THE STORY BEGINS

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VINTAGE ROLEX: THE COLLECTION

on the Rolex agenda. In 1963, the company presented the Cosmograph Daytona to the racing world. Designed to meet the needs of endurance drivers, this timepiece was waterproof and could calculate average speed. Rolex’s affinity with motor racing was deep-rooted. In the first three decades of the twentieth century, Daytona Beach in Florida was the scene of fourteen land speed records, many of them set by Rolex aficionados. By 1960, the sands had gone, but the Daytona International Speedway, constructed in 1959, was gaining legendary status as an endurance car-racing venue. The appeal of this iconic setting endures, along with that of the Rolex 24 event at Daytona, which continues to push time and speed to their limits. The legacy of Hans Wilsdorf, it seems, remains in safe hands.

But the Seventies were not only about the spirit of adventure. Rolex’s new collection of Day-Date and Datejust models were introduced to the luxury market. Originally designed for Middle East clients, the special timepieces featured unique lacquer and stone dials. Today, these exquisite Stella Dial Rolexes enjoy global appeal. It was with its Crown Collection in the late Seventies, however, that Rolex reached the pinnacle of opulence. Every watch in the collection was highly jewelled, with a unique reference number identifying each precious stone used. With many Crown Collection watches made to order, customers could experiment with dials, bezels and bracelets to create their own personal treasure. Alongside new arrivals, the decade also celebrated the 50th anniversary of an old favourite, the Rolex Oyster. Taking the

1970s The early 1970s reinforced Rolex’s status as the world’s watch marque of choice. In 1971, the company introduced the Oyster Perpetual Explorer II. Designed for polar adventurers and cave explorers, the new watch boasted an orange 24-hour hand, indispensable in parts of the world where night and day merged into one. Seven years later came the Rolex SeaDweller 4000. Engineered specifically for diving professionals and enthusiasts, this unique watch was waterproof to a depth of 1,220 metres (4,000 feet).

Above Dr Martin Luther King, clergyman and leader of the US civil rights movement, wearing his Rolex – a yellow gold Datejust with champagne dial and fluted bezel – at a press conference in 1967. Facing page The strongest link between a movie star and Rolex was perhaps that between Paul Newman, photographed here in 1970, and the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. As well as his celebrated film career, Newman was an avid racing driver, and thus favoured the Daytona, a watch designed for the professional driver and named after the Florida speed racecourse. The timepiece was sold at auction in 2017 for a record-breaking $17.8, making it the most expensive watch ever sold. Record-breaking then, and still today.


THE STORY BEGINS

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‘The sale of this unique collection to one buyer was the most memorable event in our 25-year-old history, and would be hard to achieve again.’


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VINTAGE ROLEX: THE COLLECTION

1964 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with black dial, silver subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 3962

1964 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with black dial, silver subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 2859

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with black dial, silver subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 2065

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with black dial, silver subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 1130

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with silver dial, black subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 3774

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with silver dial, black subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 4213

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with black dial, silver subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 1356

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with silver dial, black subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 542

1965 Very rare steel Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with silver dial, black subsidiary dials, steel tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 4997


SPORT

1966 Very rare 14ct yellow gold Oyster Cosmograph Daytona with champagne dial, black subsidiary dials, black tachymeter-engraved bezel and pump pushers. Mechanical movement. VWC no. 3020

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VINTAGE ROLEX: THE COLLECTION

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 4168

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 2110

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 5240

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 4173

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 2892

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 1351


SPORT

1963 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and pointed crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 2884

1964 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master, tropical brown gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-andred rotating 24hr bezel and rounded crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 5446

1964 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and rounded crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 4996

1964 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and rounded crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 4045

1964 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master with black gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-and-red rotating 24hr bezel and rounded crown guards. Automatic movement VWC no. 4857

1964 Very rare steel Oyster GMT-Master, tropical brown gilt dial, Mercedes hands, faded blue-andred rotating 24hr bezel and rounded crown guards. Automatic movement. VWC no. 5446

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‘To have had one of these stunning pieces is a gift – to have had them all at the same time a truly unique experience.’


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