The Rolex 'Gilt' Dial
There are few things more desirable in the vintage Rolex world than a 'Gilt' dial. To be fully appreciated, one must hold and examine a watch with this phenomenal dial at close range. The Reference 5512 'Submariner' is among the very last references that featured this beautiful and historic dial variation. While the current lot has very obvious gilt finishing on its dial, it is important to note that the dial has been refinished. However, this was not unusual for that time period and the fact that the watch belonged to the Rolex USA Technical Director; who probably wanted a pristine watch! Made famous by actor Steve McQueen, the 5512 remains an intriguing reference featuring a symmetrical, no-date dial.
From Royal Watchmaker to Rolex Technical Director
For twenty years, from 1951 to 1971, Archak Boyadjian served as Rolex USA's Technical Director, where he took passion in his lifelong vocation and repaired the watches of dignitaries including American presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Boyadjian, who took the name Archie Boyer when he arrived to the United States, was born in 1906 in Bulgaria to a family of watchmakers. At the age of 17, his father officially enrolled him as a student of horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Upon graduating, the young watchmaker returned to his home country where he repaired clocks and later launched a watch repair business with his father in the capital city of Sofia. Among their clientele, one particular customer stood out for the sheer quantity of clocks he brought for repair; it eventually was revealed that the clocks belonged to His Majesty Czar Boris III of Bulgaria, who avidly collected timepieces and especially loved cuckoo clocks.
Serving as the unofficial royal horologist from 1932 to 1937, Boyadjian then moved to Paris and later the United States. He joined the Navy in 1939, where he worked on chronometers, clocks, and watches on both the east and west coasts. When World War II ended, Boyadjian joined watch companies Bulova, Omega, and finally, Rolex. Working from the Fifth Avenue and 45th Street location, Boyadjian served the legendary brand as head of repairs and also oversaw the training program for national distributors.
Completely dedicated to his craft, Boyadjian is remembered as a a constant tinkerer with a strong perfectionist streak and, according to his son, he was happiest when attending Rolex's company Christmas parties. His legacy is carried forward in the countless timepieces that he kept alive and well.
In 1905, at age 24, German businessman Hans Wilsdorf founded a company with Alfred Davis called Wilsdorf & Davis in London with the goal of selling high-quality, affordable timepieces. Three years later, he and Davis registered the brand name Rolex in Switzerland with a singular vision: quality, good-looking watches. Wilsdorf created the first watch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision in 1910. In 1914, he changed the name of the company to The Rolex Watch Company and several years later he moved their headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland, where the company remains to this day.
Rolex is likely the most recognizable watch in the world, and for good reason. The “Crown” (as it is affectionately called by collectors) it is in many ways the brand to which all other brands are compared. Rolex’s “firsts” are myriad and include the first waterproof watch in 1926 and the first self-winding mechanism in 1931. They are not the oldest watchmaker, nor are they the most exclusive, and certainly not the most expensive. However, when one thinks watches the first name that often comes to mind is Rolex, in large part due to it having been the timepiece of choice for athletes and adventurers.
In 1927, a Rolex Oyster made it across the English Channel on the wrist of swimmer, and in 1953, a Rolex survived Sir Edmund Hillary’s Mount Everest conquest. The dive into the Mariana Trench and the James Cameron Deepsea Expedition are two more examples of where a Rolex came out unscathed. The company also designed watches specifically for pilots, navigators, and world travelers.
It can be argued that every single model in the Rolex lineup is iconic, from the Submariner to the Daytona. For as long as Rolex has existed, the company has been synonymous with sport, adventure, luxury, and royalty. Some of the most famous names in history have donned a Rolex including Sir Winston Churchill, Paul Newman, and Roger Federer.
Auction Results Rolex
Iconic 'Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman' stainless steel wristwatch, Ref. 6239