Rolex Bubbleback

Rolex Bubbleback

The original Rolex Oyster manually winding watch was a technical and commercial success, but the customers proved problematic.

A waterproof watch with a screw down crown was a novelty in the early 20th century, and customers did not understand the importance of keeping the crown secured before getting the watch wet. Since the crown would have to be unscrewed daily to wind the watch, customers had ample chance to forget to screw it back in, and many did, then attempted to return their waterproof watches to jewelers as being “defective”.

Rolex had built a watch with an accurate movement and waterproof case, but they had to come up with a solution to their problem with user error. Enter the automatic winding watch, which only required the crown to be opened for occasional resetting of the time.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Rolex attached an auto-winding mechanism to an existing manual movement, and the thickness that this arrangement added necessitated a bulging case back, the distinct feature that earned the Bubbleback moniker. Many of Rolex's competitors used automatic movements built from the ground up, yet this proved to be a poor approach for two important reasons. Firstly, the Rolex movements could be wound manually from the crown unlike the competing models - a feature that was popular with customers who didn’t yet trust the new invention. Secondly, the manually-wound base was easily recognizable by watchmakers who were often hesitant to work on the new-fangled automatic movements.

This particular Bubbleback is in fantastic shape, even more so considering it dates from the mid-1940s, with a rose gold case, patinated white dial with rose gold Roman numerals, blued seconds hand and decorated rose gold bezel. The Bubbleback case has a pleasing thickness that makes the watch wear extremely well for its size.

Most Bubblebacks on the market have seen better days, and it’s rare to find an example that has aged so gracefully. This example is one of the few good ones, and in today’s most popular color of gold. 

It's not every day that a 70-year-old feels this relevant and looks this good on the wrist.


Rose Gold Rolex Oyster case is approximately 32.5mm (excluding crown). Reference 3372. Circa 1945.

Overall Condition: Case is in excellent condition over all, with only very light marks visible from age and use. Dial is in original condition with gold applied numerals and a very pleasant patina. Original stick hands and signed gold crown.

Includes a 16mm genuine alligator strap.

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