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ROLEX. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE 18K GOLD OPENFACE KEYLESS LEVER WORLD TIME WATCH
ROLEX. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE 18K GOLD OPENFACE KEYLESS LEVER WORLD TIME WATCH
ROLEX. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE 18K GOLD OPENFACE KEYLESS LEVER WORLD TIME WATCH
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ROLEXPINK GOLD WORLD TIME DOUBLE SIGNED BY PHILIPPE BEGUIN
ROLEX. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE 18K GOLD OPENFACE KEYLESS LEVER WORLD TIME WATCH

SIGNED ROLEX, CHRONOMETRE, RETAILED BY PHILIPPE BEGUIN, GENEVE, REF. 4262, MOVEMENT NO. 1'001'207, CASE NO. 1'010'381, CIRCA 1945

Details
ROLEX. AN EXTREMELY FINE AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE 18K GOLD OPENFACE KEYLESS LEVER WORLD TIME WATCH
SIGNED ROLEX, CHRONOMETRE, RETAILED BY PHILIPPE BEGUIN, GENEVE, REF. 4262, MOVEMENT NO. 1'001'207, CASE NO. 1'010'381, CIRCA 1945
Movement: Cal. 16’’’, manual, Rolex patent escapement protecting cap
Dial: Applied pink gold baton and Roman numerals, revolving silvered and grey 24-hour chapter ring divided into nocturnal and diurnal hours, outer ring with the names of 31 world cities
Case: 44.5 mm. diam.

Brought to you by

Remi Guillemin
Remi Guillemin Head of Department, Geneva

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Lot Essay

Fresh to the market, this 1940s pink gold watch is a superb example of one of the most famous and significant watchmaking inventions of the 20th century, Louis Cottier’s world time system. Yet at the same time it is an immense rarity and one of the least known versions to collectors, that made by Rolex. Its rarity is further enhanced by the presence of the Philippe Béguin signature. A famous Rolex retailer active until the mid-fifties, Béguin had two shops in Geneva. Philippe Béguin’s signature is found on a small number of Rolex watches of various references, to date, the present watch appears to be the only world time Rolex watch known to bear this signature.

Rolex world time watches are almost unheard of and to the best of our knowledge only four including this example have so far appeared at public auction. The appeal of the present watch is further enhanced by the pink gold case and its superbly overall condition.

Furthermore, the dial exhibits a documented classic spelling error on the world city dial, the city of “Istanbul” is misspelled as “IstaMbul”, a hybrid of the English and French spellings. It is thought that Rolex had requested their dial maker to correct this mistake in future batches. The present watch is only the third example known publically with the misspelled dial, the other two, with case numbers 1’010’380 and 1’010’383 – only one and two numbers away from this watch were sold in this saleroom on 12 November 2018, lot 139, and 15 November 2010, lot 112 respectively.

The world time or “Heure Universelle” mechanism was invented in 1931 by the celebrated Geneva watchmaker Louis Cottier (1894-1966). The technology was incorporated into watches by several of Switzerland's leading watch firms, including Patek Philippe (ref. 605, 1415, 2523), Vacheron & Constantin (ref. 3372), Agassiz and Rolex (ref. 4262). Cottier further improved the system in 1953 with the ability to adjust the city disk via a secondary crown, this allowed Patek Philippe to eventually patent a system in 1958 where the hour hand could be moved without affecting the regular progression of the minute hand.

Fascinatingly, apart from a handful of exceptionally rare examples such as the present watch, Rolex did not put a world time watch into regular production. These few existing watches dating from the mid-1940s are fitted with an Aegler S.A. 18 jewel chronometer movement with Rolex patented escapement protecting cap, modified on the dial plate side to accommodate the world time system, such as the present example.

Rolex were certainly experimenting with various world time systems as research into their Swiss patents shows. Between 1948 and 1950 Rolex had patented at least three various world time systems including one (Swiss patent no. 273742) with close visual similarities to Cottier’s. Quite why Rolex never put any other world time watches into full production can only be conjecture. However, looking at the wider picture, this was a period of experimentation and development of new models within the company, with the focus starting to switch to the robust tool and sports watches for which Rolex has since become synonymous. It was perhaps felt that a world time watch was uncommercial and too expensive to produce and by the early 1950s work on the new GMT-Master may have already begun.

The few world time watches made at this pivotal era in the company’s history have now entered the pantheon of Rolex timepieces most desired by collectors.

This model is prominently illustrated (also with the “IstaMbul” misspelling) in the 1946 Jubilee Collection. For a reproduction of the full Jubilee catalogue see: Rolex - Timeless Elegance, George Gordon, 1989, pp. 53-105. For an example of the Rolex Chronometer movement with patent cap and the drawing illustrated here see: The Best of Time, Rolex Wristwatches, Dowling and Hess, 1996, p. 148.

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