The present Rolex reference 6100 - “Les Armoiries” [or "The Arms" as in coat of arms] - is an extraordinary and important example of a Rolex with cloisonné enamel dial.
Vintage watches with cloisonné enamel dials, particularly from Patek Philippe and Rolex, are recognized as some of the rarest, most valuable and most desirable watches ever made. Products of laborious artistic endeavor, one collector has noted that on a per millimeter basis, Rolex and Patek Philippe watches with cloisonné enamel dials can be more valuable than the most valuable paintings. Indeed, in May 2014 Christie’s sold a Rolex with cloisonné enamel dial for the equivalent of $1,242,000.
The records of the legendary dial makers Stern Frères show under the record 3769 that this dial, with serial number 103[star]679 on the back of the dial, was made by the equally legendary Marguerite Koch. Mrs. Koch was known for producing some of the most important and valuable enamel dials that exist for Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Rolex, including the aforementioned Rolex sold by Christie’s in 2014 for over the equivalent of $1.2 million as well as another Rolex with an enamel dial that sold at auction this year for over the equivalent of $1.2 million. The star on the back of the dial is the symbol used by Stern Frères, while the 103 was used by Stern Frères to denote dials made by Rolex while the 679 was the record of the specific dial.
Of additional interest to collectors is that we have discovered a record of the original artwork from the records of Stern Frères that was made in advance of the creation of the dial. It is easy to see the intense thought and effort that went into the design of this masterpiece.
The production of such dials was extremely costly as they had to be individually made by Stern Frères. Koch created the outline of the desired motif by arranging thin gold wires (called "cloisons" in French) on a dial. These partitions were filled with small quantities of enamel powder in the desired color and then the dial was fired in an oven at varying temperatures starting around 1000 degrees Celsius causing the powder to melt. This process was repeated for each color. Sometimes individual colors were fired two or three times to create the appropriate color and visual depth.
The other side of the dial has what is called "counter enamel" that was needed to prevent the gold dial plate from losing its shape during this process. The dial can be warped without this "counter enamel" and it is for this reason that the back of the dial has a greenish enamel coating. Finally, once the multiple rounds of enamel firing were complete, the dial was hand-polished as needed.
According to heraldic blazon, the coat of arms on this watch is: Gules (red), a chevron between in chief two mullets [stars] each of five points or [gold] and in base a fleur-de-lis argent [silver]. The shield is surmounted by a helmet, mantled gules [red] and or [gold]. Based on our research, it is likely that the coat of arms is an artistic creation.
In the present watch, the enamel of the helmet is brilliantly deep and rich, in an almost jade-like color. It stands in stark contrast to the rich colors of the enamel as well as the gold stars and fleur-de-lis that is likely made out of platinum, white gold or silver.
The rich and unusual matte black enamel is a slightly imperfect circle, showing that imperfection can be beautiful and visually compelling in its own way. The stunning gold around the outer edge of the dial with gorgeous faceted gold hour and pearl-like minute markers harmonizes with the gold case, offering the watch incredible visual interest and power compared with other many other enamel dials from Stern Frères.
The present watch comes directly from the grandson of the original owner, an astute art and antiques collector from Latin America who purchased it while visiting Geneva in circa 1952. The watch has been a treasure within the family to the present day, passed from father to son to son, and has never been publicly seen or offered for sale since its original purchase. Furthermore, the dial shows no signs of restoration on either side and the faceted markers appear to have never been removed.
“Les Armoiries” is a fresh-to-market watch with a powerful and visually-compelling enamel dial in a traditional Rolex Oyster case. It is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and important discoveries of a Rolex with cloisonné enamel dial in years.
Christie’s Watch Department would like thank Eric Tortella and Jack Carlson for their respective assistance with the research on the dial and coat of arms.