When you hear the name ‘Rolex‘, you immediately think of luxury, prestige, and above all, very nice watches. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London in 1905, the now Geneva-based firm makes some of the most handsome and desirable watches money can buy.
While precision tool watches may be their raison d’être, Rolex has also turned their hands to many other different forms of timekeeping… And we’re not talking about the big fluted bezel wall clocks that hang outside their boutiques or at sporting events.
British watch expert Charles Tearle – a former watch specialist/auctioneer at Sotheby’s, Antiquorum, Bonhams and a resident watch expert for the US version of The Antiques Roadshow – showed off a highly unusual Rolex purse watch that’s caught our eye.
This Rolesium Sporting Princess from the 1930s is contained within a small, reptile-skin clutch, and features a delightful Art Deco design. Even more unusual is the green dial treatment: Rolex tends to save green for special occasions, with modern green Rolexes like the Submariner ‘Hulk’ enjoying incredible popularity among watch fans.
Eagle-eyed observers might notice the Stern’s logo on the dial. Fabrique de Cadrans Sterns Frères was a Swiss firm that supplied dials to many luxury watch brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe. Indeed, the Stern family took ownership of Patek Phillipe during the Great Depression and were responsible for bringing the brand to the United States.
That adds to this Rolex’s novelty – a weird, non-watch timepiece, in an exotic clutch, with a green dial made by their Patek Philippe rivals? No wonder Tearle remembers this piece fondly.
Rolex isn’t the only watch brand that’s ventured out beyond their normal wristwatch repertoire.
Since 2002, Breitling has had a close association with British luxury car marque Bentley, producing the onboard clock for vehicles like the Bentayga and Continental GT. Omega has a long association with the Olympics, having made stopwatches and timing equipment for judges for years. Watch brands like Breguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Panerai have long histories of making nautical instruments, just to name a few.
Newer watch brands have got in on the action too: earlier this year, Bremont teamed up with Rolls-Royce Aviation to manufacture instruments and components for their ‘Spirit of Innovation’ all-electric speed record chasing plane.
Famously avant-garde brand Richard Mille has two of the weirdest non-watch offerings from a watch brand: the RM S05 mechanical fountain pen that features its own skeletonised movement, and the ‘Porte-Bonheur Clock’ which the brand gifted to Quebec City in 2008 that now stands next to its town hall.
The reality is that if you throw enough dosh at a watch brand, they’ll be happy to make you your own ‘piece unique’ that can take the form of whatever you please.
Time waits for no man, we suppose.