With Rolex original fitted red felt presentation box with a red sticker attached to the front bearing the company's name. The box is lined on the inside with the imprint of a Rolex crown and the words "Waterproof Anti-Magnetic Unbreakable Glass" and is adorned with a gilt paper sticker with the red writing "The Highest Honours Ever Awarded By London, Paris and Geneva Observatories".
The Rolex Zerographe is so rare that even the most important key literature about Rolex does not fully explain the watch or provide complete information in regards to its genesis, numbers of watches produced and historical context. This is the regrettable consequence of two important facts: firstly, according to our knowledge and after extensive research, there is no period Rolex advertisement featuring this model. Secondly, there is no official information at Rolex available today in regards to reference 3346 Zerographe, so scholars and collectors find it nearly impossible to draw final conclusions.
The most important source of information however are the watches known to have survived and there are astonishing facts that came to light when speaking to their current owners: in fact, we were able to identify four watches of reference 3346 and their serial numbers are 146'270, 146'271, 146'275 and 146'276, the present watch. Whereas decades ago production numbers in the range of 50 were rumoured, we can nearly scientifically confirm that probably not even a fraction of such quantity was ever produced. In fact, simple probability calculation concludes that if four watches of an undetermined number ever produced have serial numbers falling in a sequence not further apart than 7, then the total produced can statistically be at best 12.
We understand today that the Zerographe reference 3346 was the first Oyster chronograph model produced by Rolex and furthermore the first to be powered by an in-house movement. What made the 10 1/2 lignes sweep seconds movement special was the addition of a return-to-zero or fly-back mechanism. The timing of a single event was possible by rotating the bezel to match the minute hand and returning the seconds hand to zero by means of the pusher. The elapsed time could then be measured on the bezel.
It is characterized by a continuous chronograph seconds hand, which will go around the dial without stopping. This is different from ordinary chronographs, which will have one or two buttons to affect stop, start and return-to-zero and where the chronograph hand will not run unless activated. Once the Zerographe is wound, the mechanism, including the central chronograph seconds hand, will run continuously. A strong push on the chronograph button will return the chronograph seconds hand to zero. However, in order to keep the chronograph seconds hand at zero the chronograph button must be kept pressed down. Once the pressure is released from the chronograph button, the central chronograph hand will continue its travel around the dial.
Considered a crossover between a Rolex bubble back watch and Rolex chronograph, Zerographe reference 3462 marks a turning point in Rolex history. In fact, it was this model which was the first one given a revolving bezel, later found on the "TURN-O-GRAPH" and "SUBMARINER" families (but only some 15 years later!). The company used the name Zerographe and Centregraph interchangeably for this type of single button flyback chronograph mechanism. However, the "crowned" watch manufacturer gave the Zerographe with reference 3346 a calibrated bezel, while the Centregraph with reference 3462 has a milled bezel with dot and baton markers.
The present Zerographe is preserved in award-winning condition and fascinates by virtue of its sharp outlines, the very crisp milling on the bezel rim and back, the perfectly sharp writing on the back and the well-preserved markings on the bezel. The watch furthermore boasts a captivating black lacquer California dial, characterized by the usage of Roman numerals in the upper and Arabic numerals in the lower part.
Historically one of the most important watches ever made by Rolex, probably never beyond a small number of prototypes, this reference is the foundation of Rolex's future developments. Notably, it launched the success story of Oyster chronographs, culminating with the Daytona, but also sports watches with revolving bezels, later to become the world-famous Submariner family.
With only a handful of examples of reference 3346 known to have survived, this is an opportunity for the world's most discerning collectors to consider a historical watch of true museum quality.
For another example of a Rolex Reference 3346, see 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pp. 92-93.