The present watch is one of the exceedingly rare Rolex wristwatches fitted with an enamel dial. Consigned by a descendant of the original owner, it is preserved in very appealing, original overall condition, the engraved Rolex crown and serial number to the outside of the snap on back still clearly visible.
In the 1950s, the design of Rolex watches reached its peak, notably with the manufacture of cloisonné enamel dial wristwatches in conjunction with the renowned Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Frères of Geneva. Founded in 1868, the firm specialized in the production of highest quality dials including dials decorated with cloisonné enamel scenes which they supplied to the most important watch manufacturers such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, Vacheron Constantin and others.
According to the sales books of Stern Frères, the present "chimère" enamel dial was supplied to Rolex, made by Marguerite Koch, one of Geneva's best enamellers at the time. Interestingly, the dial is described as "sans heures" (without hour markers) and "minuterie perlée" (pearly minute markers).
The production of such dials was extremely costly as they had to be individually made by a skilled craftsman and not on a production line. The artist created the outline of the desired motif by arranging thin gold wires on a dial. These partitions, called "cloisonné" in French, were filled with small quantities of enamel powder in the desired colour. The dial was then fired in an oven at around 1000 degrees Celsius causing the powder to melt. Finally it was hand-polished until obtaining a perfectly flat surface.
Consequently, only important watches were fitted with these dials, such as the present watch. References 8651 and its sister reference 8724, also called "Champs Elysée" because of their elegant design, were produced in a very small series in 1953 and only in yellow or pink gold.
Rolex cloisonné enamel dial watches were and still are considered the most unusual and attractive watches the company ever made and are thus highly sought after by collectors.