Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Book Review & Podcast: The Best Of Time-ROLEX WRISTWATCHES with Jeff Hess

The Review is located below the Podcast in this post:

The Podcast

In this podcast, Jeff Hess, co-author of The Best Of Time–ROLEX WRISTWATCHES–An Unauthorized History, talks with Jake Ehrlich about his great book he co-authored with James Dowling. (Running Time 1:35:16)

To listen to the podcast, click on the play button. (If you are using Internet Explorer you may need to click the play button twice):

To listen to this great Podcast interview in another window, click here.

If you want to subscribe or listen to the podcast in iTunes please click the iTunes icon below:

Jake Ehrlich - Jake's Rolex Watch Blog - Jake's Rolex Watch Blog

The Best of Times

In Charles Dickens book, Tale of Two Cities he wrote, in the opening line "It was the best of times, it the worst of times. Tale of Two Cities is considered to be one of the great classics, as is James Dowling and Jeff Hess' The Best of Time, ROLEX WRISTWATCHES–An Unauthorized History.

In my personal opinion, The Best of Time–ROLEX Wristwatches, is the MUST Have book for any person that is interested in learning about and celebrating Rolex and its amazing history. It would not be a stretch for one to argue that this book is the bible of Rolex.

The Bible of Rolex

I typically avoid using religious metaphors, but I think it is on-point for this book. The bible itself is broken up into two parts; the old testament and the new testament. The Best of Time is very similar in the sense it is really made up of two books. 

The first would be vintage Rolex History, and the second is Modern Rolex History. First I will explore the vintage Rolex History, because this is where the book really excels. 

James Dowling and Jeff Hess are considered to be two of the foremost Rolex experts on planet earth and the depth of research, history and photos in this magnificent book are absolutely stunning!!!

If you ask the average person who wears a Rolex, very few will know very much about the early history of Rolex. They know Rolex is one of the top brands on earth, and they understand the timeless design and world-class build quality that go into a Rolex, but very few will know much about how Rolex became Rolex.

Authors James Dowling and Jeff Hess walk you through every little detail of early Rolex History and go into great detail about the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf. I must admit James Dowling's use of metaphor is amazing, deeply engaging, witty and heartfelt.

When you are done reading about young Hans Wilsdorf, you feel like you know him personally and you feel like you have actually walked in his shoes.

One of the most amazing attributes of this book are the photos of early Rolex watches. I was talking with my friend, Leo (The Idle Swede) and he made a very interesting comment about the photos in the book. Leo said, "I love the design of all the old Rolex watches in this awesome book. I would buy and wear these highly interesting watches today." 

I agree with Leo and think there is really something to be said for timeless design. 

I would like to thank Jeff Hess and Schiffer Books for allowing me to share these superb images of Rolex watches with you, as well as Sotheby's.

There are thousands of magnificent photos in the book, but I thought I would share a few with you so you can get a taste for how great the photography and rare Rolex watches are.

We begin with this Sterling silver snap-back Rebberg Rolex watch from 1914. In many ways, in my mind, the early Rolex wristwatches look like a pocket watch on a strap. Notice the lugs are very fine.

The reason this watch is called a snap-back is because, the back of a case has a cover that works like a door, so you can open the back to examine the movement.

This next Rolex below is from 1915 and is also Sterling silver with a black and white porcelain dial and hinged back and bezel. It has a Rebberg movement and was one of the earliest Rolex watches with a sweeping second hand.

Next is this 9kt Gold Rolex from 1919 with a Rebberg movement and white porcelain dial with Roman numerals with a sunken center and red twelve designation. This watch also has hinged back and bezel.

This next watch is Circa 1925 (pictured below) and represented Rolex' last attempt at manufacturing a moisture-proof hermetic watch prior to the introduction of the Rolex Oyster a year later. 

This watch is considered to be semi-hermetic and its bezel was completely removable and if you removed the bezel, the entire movement was attached and would come out just leaving the gold back. This watch case is also 9kt yellow gold and it has a sunken white porcelain dial with Arabic numerals and a fluted yellow gold bezel.

This next semi-square Rolex beauty is from 1926 and has a cushion porcelain dial with a Rebberg movement. Its design is reflective of the end of Art-Nouveau moving into Art Deco.

This next watch from 1927 is quickly moving into Art Deco and has an unusual and inorganic octagon shape. The dial is white porcelain with a subsidiary second hand, and matching skeleton markers and see through skeleton hands. I think the see through skeleton hands are very cool looking.

It is signed Rolex Oyster that follows the top curve around the subsidiary dial. Note this is the first example in this article of watch with the Rolex Oyster designation. If you are not familiar with the Oyster designation, Rolex named their waterproof watches with the designation–Oyster. It may not seem like a big deal today for a watch to be waterproof, but in 1927, when Rolex invented and patented the worlds first waterproof watch, it was a HUGE deal!!!

This next Rolex Oyster below is also from 1927 and is signed Ultra Prima. It has a semi-square shape with luminous markers and hands.

This beautiful Rolex came in an Oyster shaped case as pictured below. I think this is such an elegant presentation box and I love it!!!

Next we examine this extremely elegant 18kt gold flared Rolex Prince. The Prince is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1938. The Rolex Prince watch was really popular with doctors because it had a separate sweeping second hand that made it easier to time events like heartbeats an pulse.

Next is this Art-Deco Style Stainless steel tonneau-shaped Rolex watch Circa 1935. It has stepped ends, solid strap bars and a two-tone dial with washed off luminous numerals that leave just the outline of the numbers. It also has skeleton hands.

As we move forward to 1937, we see the Rolex below that is starting to look more like a modern Rolex. This watch is a 9kt gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual with a subsidiary second hand. Rolex revolutionized the watch market when they brought to market the first Autorotor watch. Autorotor meaning automatic, self-winding watch.

Next up we see a Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow looking 1942 Art-Deco Rolex pictured below. This Rolex is steel and pink gold and the watch has an extremely unusual dial because it has Roman numerals on the top with Arabic numerals on the bottom, along with baton indices at 3,6 and 9. It also has inner 13-24 hour markers with a Mercedes hour hand and a red sweep hand.

The Day of the Dauphin

Next we move into the 1950s and see a style sometimes referred to as Populuxe. Populuxe by definition is a modern 1950's to early 1960's Art Deco look and it comes from combining Popular and Luxury. Think, Cadillac Tail-fin or clean, sharp streamlined design language.

In the world of horology in this time frame, Dauphin hands became very popular. Dauphin hands are sometimes referred to as sword hands and they are like elongated pyramids or triangles. Dauphin hands are my absolute favorite hand because they come to an absolute point and just look really cool and timeless to me.

The Rolex watch Below is 14kt gold, reference 4533 and is Circa 1950 and appears courtesy of Sotheby's.

Next we move on to one of the most valuable and rare Rolex watches–The Triple Date Moonphase. Model 6062 from 1954. I think this watch is the most beautiful Rolex ever made. The dial on this watch makes the watch extremely rare because it has applied gold stars as well as triangular baton numerals on its Silvered matte dial. The watch also has an outer ring for telling the day of the month as well as the day and month in small windows. This image appears courtesy of Sotheby's.

Now for a real treat!!! The black dial 6062 moonphase from 1951 is extremely similar to the watch above with the exception of having a black dial and second markers missing from the top of the Moonphase sub-dial. The black dial model, with the star indices makes it Ultra-rare and worth a huge fortune. Ironically, Rolex only made these complicated Moonphase Triple-Dates for less than a decade and according to the author, Rolex discontinued the watches because they did not move off store shelves. Talk about a supreme irony!?!?!

The most beautiful and valuable Rolex ever made and they could not sell then but are worth more than many people's houses today!!!  I would love to see Rolex bring this watch back to the market. I would buy it and wear it all the time. This stunningly beautiful Rolex Moonphase also appears courtesy of Sotheby's.

Last, but not least, we see this rare 18kt square Rolex with a heraldic city crest in polychrome enamel cloisonne. The book points out this dial was probably manufactured by Charles Poluzzi and appears courtesy of Sotheby's.

Modern Rolex

As strong as this book is in vintage Rolex it also goes into detail on Modern Rolex watches. They cover Rolex Chronographs up through the Rolex Daytona, as well as covering the history of the Rolex Submariner, GMT Master, Milgauss, Day-Date and Datejust. You name it–it is in this fantastic book!!! 

This superb book also tells the story of Apollo 13 and how Jack Swigert relied on his Rolex GMT to time the crucial rocket burns that saved the lives on the Moon Mission.

The authors go into great detail on many more Rolex watches including the Military Submariners and much, much, much more.

James Dowling and Jeff Hess' book is 400 pages and is a standard coffee-table size book. It measures 9.25 x 12.25 inches, or 23 x 32 CM. It has thousands of superb color photos and goes into detail on every chapter in Rolex History. There are also many vintage Rolex advertisements and brochures and all kinds of fascinating odds and ends.

If I had to get stuck on a desert island, and I could only have on Rolex book, this would be it!!! If you want to purchase a copy of this book for your collection you can save more than $45 dollars and get 37% off the cover price by clicking the Amazon link below: