First of all, the bad news. Rolex doesn’t make pocket watches anymore. In fact, it hasn’t produced a single one for quite some years now. But that doesn’t mean you’re entirely out of luck. Scour the auction houses, the online market places, and your local antique dealers, and you’ll find a fair few Rolex branded pocket watches out there. As with all vintage Rolex’s, they come at a price. But for serious enthusiasts who’ve always dreamt of adding some classic Rolex elegance to their collection, it’s a price worth paying. If you’re in the market for a Rolex pocket watch of your own, you’re in the right place to find out which pieces represent the best investment. But before we get too bogged down in the watches themselves, let’s take a whistle-stop tour of their history.
The History of the Rolex Pocket Watch
As beckertime.com writes, the first Rolex pocket watches ever produced had far less creative input from their designers than Rolex watches have today. When Rolex first started, its founders (Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis) didn’t get involved in the nitty-gritty of manufacture. Instead, they bought in various components from the finest Swiss watchmakers of the day, assembled them in their workshop, and released the result as a co-branded affair. As the Atlantic notes, wristwatches were almost unheard of at the time, meaning that for the first couple of years of Rolex’s life, all it released were pocket watches. And why wouldn’t it? As artofmanliness.com notes, not only was the idea of wristwatches considered a silly fad, but the pocket watch itself had a lot going for it. With a large face to make for easy legibility, the capacity to hold a bigger caliber (thus improving the watch’s stability, durability, and accuracy), and the ability to stay safe from the elements by being tucked away in a pocket, they did the job they were designed to exceedingly well.
And for a while, that was enough. Until the Great Depression happened. As the 20s moved into the 30s, people’s interest in the cumbersome, often expensive, pocket watches of old began to fade. As did Rolex’s interest in producing them. By the Second World War, pocket watches had become all but obsolete, both in the market in general and in the Rolex catalog. Sure, Rolex kept its hand in the game, releasing the occasional pocket watch all the way up to the 1970s. But by then, they were more interested in revolutionizing the world of wristwatches instead. The last pocket watches the brand ever produced were the 18k gold models released as part of the Cellini line in the 1970s. Story over, let’s move onto the question at hand. Which of all the Rolex pocket watches ever released have best stood the test of time? Prepare to find out as we uncover the five best Rolex pocket watches of all-time.
1. Rolex Admiralty 1a Precision British Navy Chronometer Pocket Watch
If you want to get your hands on one of the rarest and most dazzling pocket watches that Rolex has ever produced, look no further than the Rolex Admiralty 1a Precision British Navy Chronometer Pocket Watch. Only 100 limited edition pieces were ever produced, making their value almost tear-making. Key features include a manual winding caliber 552 movement, 16 exceedingly high-grade jewels, and a unique center sweep seconds hand. The power reserve by today’s standards is a fairly paltry 32 hours, but considering the watch went out of production in 1960, we won’t hold that against it. Like all Chronometers, the watch has been designed to keep the most precise and accurate time – if you happen to find one that’s still ticking over, you can bet it’s still telling the time as well today as it was back in 1960.
2. Rolex Observatory Chronometer Class A -Cal.552 Movement British Royal Air Pocket Watch
Made between 1960 and 1969, the Rolex Observatory Chronometer Class A -Cal.552 Movement British Royal Air represents the pinnacle of Rolex’s pocket watchmaking endeavors. Featuring a heavenly accurate Chronometer, 16 exceptionally high-quality jewels, a 12-hour dial, and a manual winding mechanism, it’s got all the hallmarks of a classic Rolex. Handsome, stylish, and with the kind of functionality that made Rolex such a force to be reckoned with, it’s little wonder its such a coveted item by today’s collectors.
3. 18k White Gold Rolex Cellini Pocket Watch
Cellini has always been one of the dressier lines in the Rolex catalog. Elegant, stylish, and a must-buy for any Rolex collector whose interest in fashion is matched only by their interest in watches, its been an integral part of the Rolex collection for years. A classic example of the line’s love for aesthetical charm and faultless engineering is the 18K White Gold Rolex Cellini pocket watch. Crafted from the purest white gold and featuring a champagne dial stylishly rendered with Roman numerals & an inner minute track, it’s as graceful and stylish today as it was back in its heyday of the 1970s. Featuring a caliber 1601, self-winding movement with 20 jewels, and a slimline diameter of 36mm, it’s a timeless classic that would take pride of place in any Rolex enthusiasts collection.
4. Rolex Prince Imperial Chronometre Open Face / Lépine Pocket Watch
Want to dazzle your neighbors with your faultless sense of style? Then get a load of this little beauty. Crafted in an art deco style, it’s a stunning example of what Rolex can achieve when it puts its thinking cap on. Standout features include a chronometer movement of the highest quality that guarantees precision timekeeping, an elegant silver dial with Roman quarter-hour markers and indicators in rose gold, a sizeable diameter of 44.7mm, and a heritage that dates all the way back to the 1930s.
5. 18k Yellow Gold Half Hunter Vintage Pocket Watch
The 18k Yellow Gold Half Hunter Vintage Pocket Watch was released in the 1920s, just as wristwatches were starting to take off in a big way. Despite the pocket watch industry being in its last gasps, the Half Hunter represented one of Rolex’s best efforts in the genre. Housed in an 18k yellow gold inner cuvette case and featuring a stylish white enamel dial with Roman numerals and a gorgeously intricate exhibition case back, it’s an outstanding little number.