A side-effect of the boom market for vintage wristwatches has been a corresponding spike in the prices of the products first used to promote them.
As underlined by a surprise auction result last week, original ‘point of sale’ promotional aids given to watch dealerships from the 1950s onwards are now keenly collected.
Some of the most sought-after pieces are the early 1960s green enamel and gilt brass stands used to display the Rolex Submariner range as it morphed from ‘the diver’s friend’, a specialist tool watch launched in 1953, to mainstream James Bond favourite. The stands based on stylised maritime motifs – fish, portholes, tridents, fishbowls, diving helmets etc – include the Rolex logo alongside pithy text slogans in the relevant language such as Exact Time! and Pressure-proof to a depth of 660 feet under water!
Most were simply discarded when window displays were updated so they are surprisingly hard to find. But two of these early models were offered at the Watches of Knightsbridge sale in London on March 16.
Included in a single lot alongside a similar Rolex stand for the 1980s Oyster Quartz range, were both an 11in (27cm) high ‘fish and trident’ stand made for the English-speaking market and a 7in (17cm) high ‘porthole and trident’ stand with text in Italian. The former was marked Fab. Suisse and numbered 361, the latter Fab. Suisse 347.
All showing some signs of age but essentially in good original condition, they were estimated at £1500-2000 but sold to an online bidder at £18,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium). Most interest came from bidders outside Europe via the internet and on commission.
Watches of Knightsbridge specialist Simon Sutton told ATG the commercial fortunes of Rolex accessories have grown massively in recent years. “They appeal to both dealers looking to add something cool to their shop outfit and to seasoned watch collectors who most likely have all the best watch models already and now are looking at the other Rolex items to collect such as the stands, clocks and old tools.”
The sale also included a Sekundengenauf zeit (Time to the Second) desk clock in its original wood and green and gilt silk box.
These watches with electro-mechanical movements and malachite-effect ‘hoof’ shaped cases were given to Rolex dealers in the 1960s and were never intended for sale. A decade ago they could be bought for £3000-5000 each but the example here sold online at £11,000.