Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Complete History of The Rolex Prince & Princess

The Complete History of 

Rolex King, Queen, Prince & Princess 

The original Art-Deco Rolex Prince models are always interesting and elegant as we see with this first photo from Julian. Rolex was obviously fascinated with Royalty, by offering Queen, Princess and Prince models, but ironically they never offered a Rolex King per se, although they did make a Speed King, Air King and King Midas Watch. That being said, the Rolex crown logo was a King's Crown.

The Rolex Prince

When people think about iconic Rolex models, they typically think about enduring models like the Rolex Submariner and Rolex Daytona. When they think about vintage models, they think about Rolex Bubbleback and Prince Models. Special thanks to Alan for discovering the vintage Rolex Prince ad seen below. Notice the ad below says "Only wrist watch in the world known to horological science as "Observatory Grade'", as well as 'Manufacture of the "Prince" wrist watch is limited to a comparatively small number'.

The two images below as well as the image at the top of this story show the Rolex Prince "Zebra" which features diagonal stripes. These photos appear courtesy of Bulang & Sons.

The Rolex Prince "Zebra" is the epitome of late 1920s Art-Deco design and the back of the watch is curved to fit the wrist, and as result are typically referred to as "Curvex" watches. One strange detail on the watch below is the winding crown appears to NOT be period correct, as that is a modern Rolex which debuted around 1965.

The Rolex Prince Marconi ad below is from Japan and the top line of characters in the upper left hand corner is Japanese for Rolex. The characters below read "The King of Timepieces."

Many vintage Rolex collectors are familiar with the Rolex Prince, but not that many are familiar with the Rolex Princess models, as seen in the 1930 Rolex add below. In the future, I plan to do a detailed history of the Rolex Prince & Princess models. Exploring the evolution of Rolex watches is fascinating, especially The Evolution Of The Female Rolex Archetype. Studying this history inevitably leads to How Women Began Wearing Men's Rolex Watches.

The Rolex Princess

The Rolex Queen

Rolex also offered Rolex Queen models as seen in the 1932 Rolex magazine advertisement below.

1930 Rolex Prince 'Jump Hour'
The First Digital Watch

The Rolex Prince line of watches was not only very precise but also offered some unusually innovative features. In particular, Rolex offered a 'Jump Hour' Rolex Prince Model as seen below.

The Rolex Prince 'Jump Hour' was the worlds first true 'Digital' watch, in the sense, it featured an aperture window at the top of the dial, that had an hour indicator wheel. In other words, if you look at the Rolex Prince Jump Hour pictured above, you will notice the red "7". So the time on this watch was 7:53 and zero seconds.

It is a fact that in 1945 Rolex introduced the Rolex Datejust, which is pictured below. Just to be crystal-clear, the yellow gold Rolex Datejust pictured below was made in 1945, and I point this out despite the fact it almost looks like it was made recently. The 1945 Rolex Datejust was the very first watch to feature a Digital Date Wheel Complication, which was considered to be revolutionary in 1945. I think it is very likely the Rolex 'Date Window' complication evolved from the Rolex Prince 'Jump Hour', which makes much sense if you think about it. 

It is amazing how timeless the original Rolex Date from 1945 is!!! Notice it lacks the Datejust designation on the dial and has no cyclops-lens on the crystal. This model was an absolute game-changer in every way, and I believe this watch represents the absolute design ethos of every modern Rolex. This includes the modern Datejust, Day-Date, Submariner, GMT-Master, Daytona, Explorer, Air-King–you name it, it all began with this model.

This was the first watch in the world to ad a date-window complication and Rolex introduced the Jubilee Bracelet in 1945 on this model. The reason it is named the Jubilee Bracelet is that the 40th anniversary (in marriage parlance) is typically referred to as The Ruby Jubilee, just as the 25th is referred to as The Silver Anniversary and the 50 Anniversary is referred to as The Golden Anniversary. I also believe it was the first Rolex watch to to have solid end links.

1932 French Rolex Prince Ad

Even though Rolex is best known for their timeless Oyster waterproof cases, and Perpetual automatic movements, the Rolex Prince was the model that really first put Rolex on the map. The original Rolex Prince watches were renowned for their precision timekeeping, and since most of the Prince models featured a rectangular dial with the hours on top and seconds below, they became popular with doctors, who would time pulses with the easy to read seconds hand located on the bottom of the dial.

The Rolex Prince models were the first watches Rolex made in large quantities that were certified with Chronometer Certification. The French Advertisement below is also from 1932 and it says the Rolex Prince possesses the perfect balance of Precision, Elegance, and Utility.

1935 Rolex Jubilee Prince 
The First Limited Edition Rolex

In 1935 Rolex offered a special limited edition Rolex Jubilee Prince model as seen in the Rolex ad below. This British Rolex ad offers an amazing piece of the Rolex history puzzle, as it is the earliest known 'Limited Edition' Rolex model I am aware of. Also, when I think about it, I am not aware of any other watch brand that offered a specially limited edition watch this early in history. This is supremely ironic, in the sense that Rolex had not offered 'Limited Edition" models since the original King Midas Rolex model from the 1960s. 

This ad is also really, really profound in the sense it says: 

"In five hundred fortunate families, and five hundred only, this watch will become an heirloom in years to come—valued ten times beyond the price that will make you its owner today. 

The science of watch-making has reached its utmost height in each of these watches: they are, in simple words, the best watches that have yet been made-at any price—in any country—at any time.

To your great-great-grand-children, one of these watches will be more than a link with history—almost the hero of the family legend, "the famous Jubilee watch" —the watch of perfect precision."

I say this is profound as Rolex is setting an interesting stage when they predict that in the future these special limited edition Rolex Jubilee models will one day be worth ten times their sale price. It is also deeply profound Rolex is presupposing links with history, in an unusually prescient way.

1936 Italian Rolex Prince Ad

1939 Art-Deco Rolex Prince 
French Magazine Ad

Photo Credit: James Dowling

Al Capone Rolex Prince

Even though the Rolex Prince was a very successfully selling model, it is not easy to find photos of famous people wearing these models. One famous man who wore a Rolex Prince is Al Capone who is pictured below.

The photo below is of Al Capone's actual Rolex Prince wristwatch he wore.

The Return of the Rolex Prince

Rolex discontinued the Prince models in the late 1940s, and more than a half-century later brought back them back in 2005. Ironically, Rolex brought back the Prince as part of their Cellini line. Sadly, Rolex recently discontinued the Prince models again, but let's take a look at the return models. The four Rolex Prince models seen below comprised the different models of the Rolex Cellini Prince line. The Rolex Prince was offered in 4 different models, available in white gold, 18ct yellow gold, and Everose Gold. The Rolex Cellini Prince models featured a Rolex caliber 7040 movement, which was COSC Certified. 

Rolex began making the Cellini line in the 1960s, and the Rolex Cellini collection was named after the famous Italian Renaissance artist, Benvenuto Cellini, who was a goldsmith, sculptor, composer and writer. The Rolex Cellini watches, like the originals were modeled in a very stylish, yet timeless Art Deco look. Today these Rolex Cellini Prince models look classic, but when they were introduced in the late 1920s, they were considered to be modern. Today, these models would be considered to be more of a dress watch.

The first Rolex Prince came to market in 1928 and was an instant success, so much so it really established Rolex as a serious force in the watch world. The original Rolex Prince was an extremely elegant, Art-Deco masterpiece and established its unique trademark style with separate hour and minute hands.

Rolex stopped making the Prince in the early 1950s, but collectors have remained very passionate about collecting the Art-Deco Masterpieces. 

In 2006 Rolex surprised the horological world when they brought back the Rolex Prince as part of their Cellini line, as seen above in Pink Gold. 

This model has a stunningly beautiful Sunbeam Rayon Flammé De La Gloire dial with Arabic Numerals on the precisely decorated dial that matches the same design element on the movement.

The new Rolex Prince came standard with the transparent display case-back so you can see its beautiful rectangular movement, which, of course, was a first for Rolex.

The Rolex Prince has a very elegant butterfly invisible folding clasp that is a work of art in and of itself.

The Rolex Prince comes in 4 different models and and is available in 18ct yellow gold, white gold and Everose Gold.

As you can see by looking into the back of the display case back the Rolex Prince is not automatic and requires hand winding. I also think it is not an Oyster and thus it is not water-proof, but I am not certain.

2008 Rolex Prince Ad

Real Life Rolex Princes & Princesses

The term or name "Rolex Prince" is an interesting use of metaphor, and it is also a double entendre if you think about it. Rolex watches are not only the timeless international mark of success but also there is something very regal about Rolex. So let's take a look at some real-life Princes, and Princesses who wear Rolex watches. The vintage Rolex ad below from the 1950s shows how regal Rolex is.

Princess Grace & Princess Caroline

Princess Grace of Monaco is pictured below with her daughter, Princess Caroline in July of 1978.  

In the zoomed-in close-up below, we can barely see Princess Grace's 26MM Yellow Gold Rolex Lady Datejust.

The photo above and below were taken at a swimming competition in Palm Beach, Monte Carlo in 1972. Princess Grace was extremely chic and stylish, as she was wearing a Pucci beach dress. Princess Grace is pictured below while attending a swimming commotion, and she is sitting next to her husband, Prince Rainier, and her their children, Prince Albert, Princess Caroline, and Princess Stéphanie are sitting below them. If you look closely you can see Princess Caroline is also wearing her two-tone Rolex ladies Datejust.

Princess Grace is pictured below with Princess Caroline in 1973, and they are both wearing 26MM Rolex Lady Datejust watches.

Princess Caroline is pictured below on the cover of People Magazine in 1978, and she is wearing her two tone Lady-Date Rolex, and her husband, Philippe Junot is also wearing his two-tone Rolex Datejust.

In the photo below taken in July of 1978 in New Jersey, we see Princess Caroline with her husband, Philippe Junot, and in this photo we get a better shot of his two-tone Rolex Datejust.

In a much more recent photo of Princess Caroline we seen below, we see her earring a 40MM Stainless Steel Rolex.

Prince Bernhard of Netherlands

First, let's start with a real Rolex Prince. Prince Bernhard who was married to Queen Juliana of The Netherlands. Prince Bernhard was a pretty hardcore Rolex fanatic, and in the future, I plan to publish more on his personal Rolex story. In the photo below we see Prince Bernhard wearing a Rolex bracelet, with the Rolex crown logo on the clasp.

Princess Madeline Of Sweden

Princess Madeline of Sweden has also been wearing many different Rolex watches over the years. She is pictured below in a recent photo, wearing a stainless steel Rolex Daytona.

Prince Andrew

When Prince Andrew was younger he wore a Rolex Submariner as seen in the photo below. When he got married, he began wearing a platinum Rolex Day-Date as seen in the photo above.

Prince Harry Of Wales

Prince Harry of Wales is pictured below wearing his stainless steel Rolex Explorer II, with the orange hand.

Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn

Prince Mama was the crown prince of Thailand, up until just recently, when in 2016 he became the King of Thailand.  The photo below showed him wearing a vintage Rolex Daytona when he was still a Prince.

Prince Fredrick of Denmark

Crowned Prince Fredrick of Denmark is pictured below sporting his LV Rolex Submariner.