Thursday, July 6, 2017

Originality and Patina of a Rolex

Ref. 8171, Movement No. 56'924, Case No. 686'258, Circa 1951. 38mm diam. Sold for US$161,000 on 7 June 2016

A Rolex reference 8171 in stain steel that we sold at Christie’s New York last June. A pilot purchased the watch in the early 1950s and likely wore it for a few years until it stopped working for certain reason. That is one of the most complicated watches ever made by Rolex and featured a moon phase indicator as well as a complete calendar display. Probably due to the complexity of the movement and the associated cost of servicing it, the gentleman put it away and it passed down within the family unused for decades.

This Rolex stainless steel triple calendar with Moonhase and patina. Signed Rolex, Perpetual, Precision, Ref. 8171, Movement No. 56'924, Case No. 686'258, Circa 1951. 38mm diam. Sold for US$161,000 on 7 June 2016….. Seems you don’t think that watch could hit that final bid amount the Auction!

It is due to its originality and Patina!



I open dictionary to find the meaning of “Patina”… Patina is a green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color, or a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use, contacting the sunlight ultraviolet and or heat.

Eric Wind, Specialist in Watches in New York, reflects on the move towards ‘honest’ vintage watches whose appeal is enhanced by the ‘ravages’ of time:-

“One of the most interesting trend in vintage watch collecting has been the desire to move away from watches that have been restored and polished to look ‘like new’ in favour of watches in original condition with honest patina. Nicks, scratches and fading that may have developed over the course of decades of wear can enhance a watch’s desirability.”

This trend towards seeking honest patina has extended worldwide, particularly over the last fifteen years, and is associated with a massive growth in the number of vintage watch collectors. Many people are drawn to vintage watches for the beauty of having something that looks old.


 The concept that collectors prize originality over restoration is one of the things that many people find most surprising about collecting vintage watches.


Aged to perfection

The concept that collectors prize originality over restoration is one of the things that many people find most surprising.

These are the points we might need to note when you get into a Vintage Rolex.

Dial and hands

Radium and tritium lume on dials and in hands can look, from a warm creamy white, orange to a bright yellow, is so much cooler than the stark and sterile bright white look of LumiNova and Super-LumiNova found on new watches made after 1998.  So watch before 1998 is preferred as they have the chance to get “Vintage Look!”

The original sets of dot on the bezel, and the hands of the watch is usually different colour under the watch over the decades… Unless that the hands are looking so new with WHITE, or the bezel of a Pepsi GMT looks vivid red instead of purple after 30 years, It is time for you to have counter check by expert. As the hands or bezel may have been replaced with newer versions… thence the watch value will drop.

A tropical (dark chocolate) dial is mots preferred and price could be many time higher than the same watch of same age without tropical dial.



Preferred unpolished.

If the cases were polished to remove scratches and make them look like new, making the lugs a bit thinner in the process through the removal of metal. A Fat boy is always preferred instead of a thin guy had been trimmed off his fats.

Of particular interest and desirability is a black dial that has turned brown or ‘tropical’ with fading over the years.


Note before you send your watch to Services at Rolex Service Centre:-

They always ask your permission to change the dial, hands, bezels even bracelet to new one.

They NEVER return your original parts after the service… Whether how would they use the parts is a big questions to me… well, you can guess… will they destroy it?


The dial of a Rolex Submariner can be 80% of the total price of your Rolex given by your grandfather…

Net time think carefully before you send the watch to Rolex for service…

My suggestion is KEEP it as it is as that is the Originality history of the Watch.


Other choice, send it to some of the renowned watch servicing company for a more intimate care to service your family heritage!


If you don’t like that Patina looks of the watch, give it to me I buy you a Char Siu Rice…. And I don’t mind keeping it for you.


HK Snob


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