Sunday, June 02, 2024

Hans Wilsdorf Rolex Mystery Watch Model Finally ID'd


Hans Wilsdorf Mystery

Watch Model Finally ID'd

I remember when I was a kid, being very curious about everything. Of course, I would try and figure things out, but often times I would have to ask my parents or grandparents, and even family friends questions to try and figure out the most basic things. I specifically remember sometimes I would seek the answer for a question there were times it might take months of exploration before I would reach an adequate answer. 

This was long before there was an internet where you could find out just about anything with a few keystrokes. As Rolex historians we commonly look up things on the internet—like reference numbers, or launch dates of models, but it is rare to came across questions that can't be answered for years. When this happens, it's irritating—like an inch you can't scratch.


One such unscratchable itch came from the photo above. Years ago, Rolex published this photo above, from 1942) of Hans Wilsdorf, who was the founder of Rolex, and I could not help but notice he was holding something very unusual looking in his hands. I studied the photo very carefully—in great detail—but no matter what, I really could not make heads or tails of it!?!!

Also, I could not help but notice the scale seemed way off for a watch in the sense that it looked too large to be a dainty Rolex ladies watch. I also thought that perhaps there was some kind of optical illusion taking place with the photos somehow being skewed. Years went by, and every time I would look at this photo, it would frustrate and stump me as I could not figure out what Hans was showing us!?!!

Recently, Nick Gould shared the Rolex Magazine image below from 1943 that was published in the Revue Internationale de l'horlogerie 8/24 and I immediately recognize the mystery watch located in the middle of the image below which caries a Rolex Reference number of 4257. I immediately sent Nick the image of Hans Wilsdorf holding the same Rolex model in the photo above, and said "I always wondered what the strange looking bracelet like thing was Hans was holding in that photo 😎👀? Nick responded by saying "I didn't realize it's the exact same watch in Hans' hand! That's Kida crazy lol. Ladies watches were way more intricate in their design back in the day. The mystery watch in Hans hand solved 😎"


Even though we now could make a positive ID on the watch, the question was, 'Where's the beef???' In other words, was it just a ladies bracelet, or was it an actual watch, or maybe even a dog collar for Hans' dog? Nick Gould went on a deep dive and discovered the image below that finally solved the mystery. This image was published on page 25 of the Revue Internationale de l'horlogerie from 1943

As we see, this Rolex model features a watch hidden/concealed under the bracelet that flips out of the way to expose the time. One of the coolest details in these two Rolex illustrations is the old fashioned Rolex logos. Notice the Rolex coronet logo in the add above is the fancier version with that feature the dual circles at the edges of the base, and notice that ROLEX is underlined. 

Now notice on the logo below that the coronet crown logo is simpler, but the ROLEX word mark appears stroked, v. the one above which is solid. This just goes to show how quickly Rolex was iterating, modernizing and streamlining back in this era.


Speaking of being able to find any Rolex related reference with a few keystrokes, when I google Rolex Reference 4257, literally noting come up!?!! 

I imagine this watch model came and went father quickly, and probably did not sell well, but that's one of the telltale characteristics regarding Rolex, is throughout their history they have experimented like crazy, by throwing everything at the wall, so see what would stick, and clearly, this ladies Rolex bracelet did not stand the test of time, yet I find it to be a feminine novelty from yesteryear, and I love the vintage Rolex add which also features a Rolex Reference 3869 at the top, and a Rolex Reference 4134 at the bottom. When I google Rolex Reference 4134 a zillion photo come up!!!