Rolex Ultra Prima, 9ct 1929 – Largest Rectangular Case
The late 1920s and early ’30s saw Rolex at its most creative and dynamic. Having launched the world’s first truly waterproof and commercially successful (Oyster) watch in 1926, this relatively young company, est. 1906, went on to launch its first automatic waterproof wristwatch, the Oyster Perpetual Chronometer in 1934. These groundbreaking achievements are the foundations on which the company we know today was built. However, even at this early stage of development, this highly ambitious company offered a wide range of models to the market, many of which we seldom see today, due to relatively low production numbers.
The wristwatch we see here is just such an example, which if we take a moment to consider, bears little relationship with the pocket watch from which it descended only fifteen or twenty years earlier, and continued to remain popular right up and until the Second World War. Prior to this, all watches were round, reflecting the shape of the movement. However, during the 1920s and ’30s, rectangular case design watches became hugely fashionable, which is perhaps, why we now loosely associate these designs with our Grandfather’s watch.
The example here is from the end of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and is notable for its beautifully simple ‘art-deco’ dial, along with its superb oversized yellow gold case which made this the largest wristwatch made by Rolex at the time.
Finding good examples of any pre-WW2 Rolex has become increasingly hard over the past 10 years and finding an example of this design is very difficult. Most are in the hands of collectors and seldom come to the market.
Almost all rectangular watches from the 1920s carried dials with ‘art-deco’ influences and the example here is no exception. Square and rectangular watch dials present certain challenges to dial designers, but here the approach is very simple with black standard Arabic numerals on a slightly off-white dial with a square subsidiary seconds dial at ‘6’. The dial carries the original blued steel hands which are in excellent condition.
The dial features some light relief work to the centre of the dial which adds a little extra interest and style to the otherwise flat dial.
The dial is correctly signed ‘Rolex’ with ‘Swiss’ at the very bottom.
This is the original dial which has been restored to a very high standard by the best dial restorers in the UK.
The Watch Case
The case measures 26mm across, excluding the correct Rolex crown, and 36mm from top to bottom. This may initially seem small until one considers it is 44mm across the diagonal. This easily makes this Rolex’s largest wristwatch of the period.
The case is hinged at the top and swings open from behind and can be opened using the lip at one end, revealing the dial. The movement can then be removed without any tools by gripping the dial and gently easing it and the attached movement away from the case-back. This was the typical design of the period as it allowed easy access to the dial for cleaning.
When acquiring such a watch, especially in gold, it is important to ensure the case shows no wear, no fatigue cracks and no pinholes, particularly around the hinge and corner areas. This type of case is prone to wear and damage in these areas, which is another reason for these watches becoming rare as they can often be beyond repair and restoration. Fortunately, this example has been very well cared for and lightly used, so apart from our usual checks and cleaning, the case has required little work apart from some very light hand-polishing. There are no scratches or dings, and no damage/wear visible to the naked eye.
Inside the case-back is found the early and correct R.W.C Ltd signature for Rolex Watch Co Ltd as well as Glasgow UK 9ct hallmarks which date this watch to 1929. This also coincides with the period when Rolex was exclaiming ’26 World’s Records’ as can be seen on the inside of the case. This celebrates Rolex’s success in winning worldwide competitions which were held for accuracy and reliability during this period.
Externally, the case-back also carries the Rolex model reference number 871 and the case serial number 61099. As can be seen, these numbers are clear and distinct, which is a good indication this watch has been lightly used and not over polished.
As always, our standard advice applies: Vintage watches should be kept clean and dry at all times.
This Rolex watch is powered by the “Ultra Prima” 15 Jewel movement. The Ultra Prima is the rarest and most accurate of the movements used by Rolex at the time. Following manufacture and assembly, these movements were tested for accuracy with those performing in the top 10% being given the “Ultra Prima” designation. These were followed by less accurate examples given the designation of “Extra Prima” and then finally “Prima”.
Ultra Prima movements were sometimes designated Chronometer grade movements, although not in this case. If it were, it would easily double and may even treble the price of this watch.
This movement is in gleaming condition, having recently been serviced and tested, using only original replacement parts where necessary. Following its service, this movement is running beautifully to within +12s per day in fact. This is incredibly good for any vintage watch of this age. We are therefore more than pleased to offer this watch with our 12 months warranty*.
The movement is all correctly signed as expected ‘Rolex Ultra Prima’, ‘Timed 6 Positions For All Climates’, ‘15 Jewels’ and ‘Swiss Made’.
*Please note, our 12 months’ warranty is only applicable if the list price is paid.
The Strap and Buckle
A new, high quality brown alligator strap is fitted along with a Rolex gold-plated buckle. If a different colour or style of strap is preferred, we will do our best to oblige at no extra charge. We carry tan, conker, dark brown burgundy and brown in stock, in plain padded leather, alligator, crocodile skin or lizard skin.
The Box and Papers
Although there are no original papers with this watch, the reference numbers, markings, signatures and hallmarks are all correct, dating the watch to circa 1929.
Detailed particulars will be included with our purchase receipt for your interest and security. A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of this watch will be provided at the time of sale along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If this watch proves to be anything less than 100% genuine, authentic and original, a full refund will be given at any time”.
The watch comes complete with the Rolex presentation box shown in the photographs.
This is a truly rare example of the largest Rolex from circa 1929 which if treated with care, it will make an excellent investment or heirloom piece as well as something to wear, treasure and enjoy. Even though vintage gold Rolex prices have risen markedly over recent years, we rare examples such as this have great potential. As each year goes by and the world market for vintage gold Rolex watches continues to expand, prices will continue to climb ever higher.
To summarise, this is a rare and highly interesting watch from horology’s most famous name, which is ready to wear, use, treasure and enjoy, providing reliability and a sound financial investment, as long-lasting as the watch itself!
A word on our prices – We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before restoring them to the highest possible standards. We then offer these at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post-sales care and service. This approach means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are some well-known stores in West London which are highly successful charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.
We are happy to accept PayPal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you would like to pay by UK cheque or by UK bank transfer we will be pleased to assist you with this and pass on a 3% saving to you. Similarly, if you wish to pay by International SWIFT or Bank Wire Transfer we will provide you with our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.
Please check the import duties and any taxes your government may apply, these are different for each country and unfortunately out of our control.
We understand there may be some ‘loopholes’ that may help you avoid these charges, however attempting to use these could impact our ongoing ability to serve our growing international customer base.
For those that happen to visit the UK on occasion we are of course more than happy to store your watch until we can meet you in our offices in Kensington, London, and your watch directly to you there.
If you have any questions please call on our Landline 0207 727 7095. If calling from overseas, +44 207 727 7095.
Please note, we welcome part exchanges. If you have a watch or small collection for sale, please contact us as we will be happy to discuss.
We will also be happy to Service your watch, Repair your watch or Restore your watch, all at ‘sensible’ prices. Please see here.
Finally, please enjoy some time spent viewing our other fine vintage gold watches.
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- Store Name: Vintage Gold Watches London Ltd
- Vendor: Vintage Gold Watches London Ltd
96 Kensington High Street
United Kingdom (UK)
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