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Before there was the Rolex Submariner, there was the Submarine.
The Submarine—also known as the Hermetic—was an early attempt by Rolex to create a waterproof wristwatch. Throughout the First World War, Rolex used two-piece cases made by Dennison and Borgel. These watches saw soldiers through the mud and the mire of the battlefield, but there was still room for improvement, particularly when Rolex saw new frontiers: the tropics.
The climates of India and East Asia, where Rolex’s most avid clients lived, necessitated a watch that was both dustproof and waterproof. Cases made by Dennison and Borgel were certainly dustproof, and shielded the sensitive movements from the dusty conditions of the battlefield. However, they proved less than adept at keeping moisture out.
Enter Francis Baumgartner, one of the preeminent case makers of the early 20th century, who provided cases for Patek Philippe (including that used for the original Calatrava) as well as Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Baumgartner’s design consisted of a smaller, three-piece case (bezel, dial, and back) that was then enclosed in a larger case with a lid. The outer case only had two pieces, a back and a bezel that would unscrew, much like a Mason jar. The creation so delighted Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, that he filed for a patent in London on May 10, 1923 and secured three further patents for model names.
The one that stuck was the Submarine, although Hermetic was also used.
By whichever name, the watch proved a hit in the markets for which it was designed, with many surviving examples bearing the names of the retailers that sold it in India or Burma.
This particular hermetic case Rolex possesses a 33mm pink gold case and an enamel dial with blued steel hands and blue Arabic numerals. The dial shows traces of a prior professional refinishing, restoring it to its former glory. The outer bezel, once removed, exposes the crown, by which the movement is wound and the hands are set.
Although Baumgartner’s hermetic case would soon be supplanted by the now-iconic Oyster case, which was patented in 1926, the Rolex Hermetic is an interesting artifact of an era when watchmaking was entering a new frontier. Mankind was just testing the boundaries of the known world, with intrepid explorers just venturing beneath the surface of the ocean; as one of Rolex’s first waterproof wristwatches, the Submarine paved the way for the Submariner. And with Submariners from the 1950s and 1960s becoming so popular, its aquatic ancestor deserves a spot in any Rolex collector’s watch box.
9 karat pink gold outer case is approximately 33mm. Circa 1920s.
Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with some signs of use and wear. Dial is in excellent condition, showing signs of professional refinishing.
Includes one 9mm blue snakeskin strap.
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Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
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