We believe collecting vintage Rolex is exciting. But are puzzle pieces, red bezel details and Submariners with more rocks than Alcatraz the new generation of Rolex collectibles? Who knows. The good thing is we don't have to follow these trends and can stay true to our favorite era of watchmaking - vintage watches between 1940 and 1980. So to give you a break from seeking the "new thing" in the 2023 catalogue I want to show you why vintage Rolex is cool, special and still extremely exciting!
September 27, 2023
More than just an Oyster - 5 Unusual Rolex References
Marcus Siems @siemswatches
Collector, Author, Data Analyst
Rolex is at the peak of the pack in terms of selling watches in 2023 - has been for quite some years and probably will be for the foreseeable future. But despite it's irrefutable success there are also the voices getting louder that the Rolex catalogue has been quite ... one-dimensional to say the least. Thus, leaving us with the question: Are puzzle pieces, red bezel details and Submariners with more rocks than Alcatraz the new generation of Rolex collectibles?
The good thing is we at Goldammer don't have to follow these trends and can stay true to our favorite era of watchmaking - vintage watches from 1940 to 1980. So to give you a break from seeking the "new thing" in the 2023 catalogue I want to show you why vintage Rolex is cool, special and still extremely exciting!
Welcome to "Unusual Rolex Watches 2023 Edition"... not my cup of tea but let's talk again in 40 years... Photo Courtesy of Hodinkee.
I gathered five - in their very own ways - odd Rolex references. Well, odd is hereby only a modern interpretation as they all represent the experimental flavor design displayed in the middle of the last Century. This is far from an exhaustive list as there are multitudes of these gems out there if you keep an open mind and look outside the IG bubble. However, I feel five might already be enough examples to put a smile on the watch lovers face - and leaves room for an eventual Part II...?
1) Rolex 6582 - The Zephyr
I promised non-Oyster Rolex pieces but we'll gradually get there. The so-called "Zephyr" was officially an Oyster Perpetual introduced in 1956* as the ref. 6582 (1956-60) in two-tone and 14k gold. Thus, the outside was very Rolex but the face made these pieces stick out so much from the rest. They came with a crosshair dial, minimalistic dot hour markers and an outstanding bezel design.
The classic Zephyr-look: minimalistic watch face with cross-hair dial, small dot hour markers & the unique bezel-style. Photo Goldammer archives.
Yes, I agree - if you're into vintage you will have seen these before. But this style existed in the Rolex catalogue until 1987 (1996 for women's watches) - so for over 30 years - and was a fascinating option to the other sports models of its time. It's not been rare but definitely quirky and deserves to be called a special Rolex.
An American Rolex Ad from the late 1950s - Even nicknaming the watch. Source Gray&Sons.
2) Tudor 7960 - The Oysterthin
The next piece you might easily mistake for a very basic (Tudor) Oyster case. But this one is about as special of an Oyster as it might get - It is the thinnest of them all[4-5] - it's Oysterthin!
From up front you can easily think of these as a classic Tudor Prince but it's far from the truth... The specialty is only visible from the side. Photo Courtesy of Longitudi.
Produced for only a short time (1957-1963) and very limited quantities this is a perfect example of why not only Rolex but mid-Century Tudor is so much fun as well. Tudor took the manually wound ETA 2402 movement (3.6mm thick) and built an "extra-thin" case (6mm thick - without crystal) around it. For the record that about 4mm (or 1/3) thinner than compatible Tudor Oyster Prince variants (for example ref. 7934) from the same era!
Just look at the thickness of this Tudor 7960. When you know where to look you can easily perceive the major difference in thickness - 4mm more never looked so bulky. You can also see how both the bezel and case-back composition perfectly integrate the slim profile. Photo Courtesy of Longitudi.
3) Rolex 9083 "UFO" - The 1st Integrated Bracelet
Now we're finally getting into the realm of things you might not have seen before... as in ever. If you think about Rolex integrated bracelet watches probably the Oysterquartz (1977) comes to mind, maybe also the King Midas (1962). But Rolex did actually introduce the concept of the integrated bracelet already before the Midas somewhere in the mid 1950s the reference 9083 was launched (produced ca. 1955-59).
A super rare sight - a Rolex 9083 with honeycomb dial. Rolex's 1950s approach to integrated bracelet watches, a time when that wasn't even a thing yet. Photo Courtesy of Hondinkee.
The ref. 9083 - further nicknamed the "UFO" - was a manually wound watch (cal. 1210) in a stainless steel case. But that's about where the similarities to other pieces from the same era end. The case (36mm x 9mm thin) and the rivet bracelet were manufactured solely for this reference. In other words, these were always rare and are very hard to come by.
This reference is so fresh and unheard of. You may or may not like the design ... but the cherry on top is the historical relevance - it's Rolex's first integrated bracelet watch (afaik) and also one of the very first of them all... Seven years before Genta designed the King Midas and seventeen years before the first Royal Oak came to life. In our modern world of integrated steel sports watches this is a true collectible!
A study of what matters - integrated bracelet design made by Rolex in the 1950s. The almost perfect symmetrical shape reminds me slightly of the Omega Dynamic, but those too came about 13 years later. Photo Courtesy of Hondinkee.
4) Rolex King of Day-Date 1831 - The Royal 9
We switch gears and move a few decades ahead. In 1977 the late Shah of Iran made the impossible possible - getting a special order reference from Rolex. A total of 9 platinum Day-Date references were made, all unique in their own way and all completely different from the rest of the Rolex catalogue!
The No. 002 with dark red burgundy lacquered stella dial. An epiphany of design and one of the most spectacular special orders probably from any major brand. Photo Courtesy of John Goldberger & LeMonde Edmond.
The case is unlike any other. If anything it comes closest to a mixture of the Oysterquartz case with a King Midas style bracelet. If that wasn't already enough these pieces even feature their own movement - caliber 1566. It's peak Rolex, Day-Date, 1970s and overall watch collecting. It's already a grand opportunity to even hold one of these beautiful beasts let alone own one!
From the examples we know none is like the other. No.001 comes with blue dial and diamond markers and bezel (002 red burgundy; 004 white dial; 005 red burgundy; 009 white with Kanjar on strap; another white with Kanjar). But all absolutely remarkable!
5) Rolex 4062 - The Dress Chronograph
Think Rolex chronograph - what comes to mind is probably a Rolex Daytona in one of its many iterations; from Pre-Daytona to early manually wound executions over the Zenith-Daytona era all the way to the modern executions... That's probably The chronograph of our generation.
The fun artsy little brother to the sporty Pre-Daytona models - The Rolex ref. 4062. Photo Courtesy of Phillips Geneva Nov. 2019.
However, there's a very special Rolex chronograph that's not so Rolex at all... The reference 4062. Produced between 1943 and 1962 alongside the Pre-Daytona references it's been the most common dress chronograph alternative from Rolex. It didn't come with an Oyster case, no not even with an Oyster-style... The case was completely different: Made by Gunther & Co in La Chaux-de-Fonds (hammerhead 117 hallmark) it came in 36mm with a coin-edged outer flank and elongated teardrop lugs... which makes it in my view: the Anti-Daytona.
Not only wasn't this an Oyster case, it put some extra quirkiness on top with a coi-edged outer case ring. Photo Courtesy of Phillips Geneva Nov. 2019.
The Conclusion of Part I
So what's this all about in the end? One thing is for sure: Rolex always has been more than just the Oyster. It's one pillar of their success but it's how you play with an established concept that tells you how versatile something really is**... And Rolex, particularly during the 1950s when they were still about to find their identity, was playful and interesting and exciting. The other side of the medal is that we also perceive those vintage gems overly different exactly because we know Rolex for what it is today.
Here it is - one more Rolex 9083 "UFO". Photo Courtesy of Analog:Shift.
But let's all join in on the collective smirking here... who didn't crack a little smile upon seeing that ref. 9083 "UFO"? I mean even for the hardcore vintage watch nerds probably not even one third of you did know about this one before, right? And isn't that rush, that #iykyk factor part of the fun in vintage watches? Rediscovering something new that's been there all along for 50, 60, 70+ years? To me that's the most rewarding side of this hobby. And I honestly hope that someone will feel the same excitement when rediscovering an emoji-date Puzzle Day-Date in 60 years from now.
* Some say it has been introduced for the US-market... but I can neither confirm nor deny.
** Think about Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics... basically every of his stories was about boundary cases where these universal laws would break down. This is where it gets interesting. In analogy to the Oyster - Rolex (or every brand) becomes interesting when they divert from the most successful path.
 Morgan Stanley Report - The Swiss Watch Industry in 2023; Vittorino Loreto, Italian Watch Spotter;
 Rolex Zephyr Models; Rob, Rolex Watch Forum;
 Rolex Oyster Perpetual 6582; Alma Watches;
 Birth of the Tudor Oyster Prince - The Origins: From 1952 to 1957; Tudor Watch;
 Tudor Oysterthin: Not extra, not ultra; Tony Traina, Rescapement;
 Tropical 1958 Rolex Precision (Ref. 9083) "UFO"; Craft+Tailored;
 Rolex 1831: The King of daya-dates; Edmond Saran, Le Monde Edmond;
 A Beginner's Guide to Vintage Rolex Chronographs (1935-52); Marcus Siems, Goldammer Vintage Watches;
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