Steve: At Westchester Gold and Diamonds, we deal in a little bit of everything; everything from antiques, collectibles, autographs, paintings, gold, silver, diamonds. We also do timepieces as well as vintage timepieces.
As far as timepieces go, Hans Wilsdorf comes into play in a big way. Hans Wilsdorf was a fellow who actually started the Rolex company. He was originally from Germany and later on moved to Great Britain.
Rolex is not really a household word, but it’s a name that’s known throughout the entire world as one of the finest timepieces around. It’s kind of funny: when you look at a Rolex on the crown, which is the piece that winds the watch, it looks like there’s a little crown.
Actually, it is a crown, but there’s a significance to it. This was all in somebody’s mind, and I don’t know what he drank or what he was doing at the time he came up with this idea, but the crown actually has five little fingers on it.
It kind of represents, in Hans’ mind when he came up with this trademark, that everything in the watch was handmade. It’s actually the five fingers on a hand.
This is where the trademark came from. A lot of people think it’s because you should be a king if you’re going to wear a Rolex. That’s a wonderful thing, but the trademark really stood for a hand to show that everything was handmade.
Rolex goes back to 1905, when it was actually established. One of the things about timepieces at that time is wristwatches were first starting to come into favor. They weren’t really in favor at that point in time. People basically carried pocket watches; not only men, but women as well.
Some of the pocket watches were the really large ones, what we call 16 or 20 size. They were very heavy and massive. Lots of times, it was a sign of distinction if you had a gold pocket watch and it was heavily engraved in multiple colors of gold. It was a status symbol.
To put a watch on your wrist was not the really manly thing to do. The other thing was the fact that people didn’t believe you could shrink the movement from a pocket watch size, which was an extremely precise type of mechanism. They had 7 jewel, which was common, all the way up to 21 jewel, or 23 and 25 jewel pocket watches.
The more jewels, the more precise the piece of equipment would become. Anytime there’s a moving part, they would put a jewel, and this would cut down the friction to make it more accurate. They couldn’t visualize that you could actually do this with a wristwatch and shrink the mechanism down that small.
Hans decided, “I’m thinking this is probably something that could be a really big seller for me.”
He opened up this company and he started having different companies make the movements for him. He started putting them in different cases. Lo and behold, the wristwatch movement started to take off.
The one thing that was really a problem that people who wouldn’t wear wristwatches were afraid of was the fact that it wouldn’t be a real great timepiece; it wouldn’t be accurate.
Hans had this movement worked on and worked on and more sophisticated. Work was done on it, and finally in 1910 the first real Rolex movement was sent to the Q Observatory, which is in Britain, and they actually test timepieces.
This is the whole thing that they do here at this observatory. They test it in five different positions. You’re going, “What kind of positions? Are they standing on one foot or something?”
The position is where they take the watch and lay it on its face and make sure it hasn’t gained or lost any time in that position. Then they lay it on its back. Then they lay it on different sides, and the top and the bottom.
What they’ve done is shifted it in five different positions and checked to make sure it hasn’t lost or gained a certain amount of time. I think it’s within seconds that it has to be timed.
They also test it in three different temperatures: heat and cold extreme. Again, this watch has got to be able to keep precise time. Once it’s passed all these tests, it’s given what’s called a chronometer rating. Chronometer means that it’s been stringently rated and has passed all the tests and is able to keep an extremely accurate time.
Now it’s called a chronometer and you’re able to put that with a certificate. That’s why, when you buy Rolex’s, they come with a timing certificate as part of their warranty when you buy them.
This was a big thing, because this received the class A award. The Rolex movement received the class A award. All of the sudden, worldwide, this was one of the best wristwatch timepieces that you could own.
This dispelled the fact that you couldn’t shrink it down and have a timepiece that would really be great.
In Hans’ mind, there were three things that a watch had to do. It had to have precision; it had to have automatic winding; and it had to be waterproof.
You have to understand at this point in time, one of the biggest problems that they had with wristwatches was the fact there was no way to waterproof them. Dampness and dust and things were the main enemies as far as being able to keep a timepiece running and accurate.
He had already accomplished the precision part of the problem. He’s already established that his timepieces are chronometer-worthy. They’ve got a great rating and they’re extremely accurate.
He worked on the big problem of dampness, and the reason this problem of dampness enters into this (we don’t really think about it now), but most of the watches were made in Switzerland or Europe. His company had expanded to various parts of America and Africa.
At that point in time there was no other way to get your merchandise, your watches, to other parts of America and the world except by boat. A lot of these trips were 5,000 miles. It took a long time. Some of these would take months at a time to get that product to another country.
The problem we had with a mechanical mechanism that was mainly steel or brass on the inside was the fact that by the time they got there, a large percentage had already rusted. This was a real problem.
You’re talking about a timepiece that even back then was a great timepiece, an expensive, very accurate timepiece. But if you’re sending 10,000 pieces to another country and you lose 2,000 or 3,000 of them because they’re rusted, this is a problem.
Hans sat down and tried to come up with a way to prevent this moisture problem. He finally came up with a patent on what we call a screw-down crown.
I don’t want to get real technical and I’m not going to, but when you look at your watch, the little part that you wind it with, if it’s not a battery-operated watch, is called the crown. Or it could be called the stem. The stem is the part that goes inside the watch.
If you think back to your watches, you had to pull the stem out, that would set the hands, and you could wind the watch.
What Hans did is he came up with a thing that you would actually have to unscrew, and then you could pull the stem out. By having something you can actually screw down, you have now blocked out dampness, you’ve blocked out the dust. You’ve blocked out anything that would bother a watch as far as keeping accurate time.
In 1927, now that he came out with this idea, he came out with a new watch. It was called the Rolex Oyster. This was earthshattering for the simple fact that this watch was impervious to water. No other watch at that particular time had ever come out with this idea.
How do you tell everybody out there in the world that this Rolex Oyster is waterproof? In 1928, Mercedes Glitz swam the English Channel. I believe it took 15 hours.
What do you think she had on her wrist when she swam the entire English Channel? She had a Rolex Oyster on her wrist. When she came out, the watch was completely dry on the inside and keeping complete accurate time.
This was a first. The fact that somebody had swam the English Channel was all over the news. The fact that she swam the English Channel with a Rolex Oyster on her wrist was also in the news.
Now it made the rest of the world aware that there was a waterproof watch. How do you display it? If you’re a watch dealer, how do you tell everyone that this Rolex Oyster is out there?
The simplest way to do it: you turn around and put a fishbowl in there with goldfish and you drop a watch right inside the middle of it while it’s running. People come in your store and look at it and go, “What the heck is that all about?”
“That’s out new Rolex Oyster. This watch is 100 percent waterproof.”
When you say that to someone who is going through a whole bunch of watches, I’m sure people out there just like myself have worn great watches they spent money on, and then got caught in the rain. Not that it rains here in Florida.
Water got inside the watch. You didn’t realize it, you looked and all of the sudden the face was all steamed up and you said, “It’ll dry out. I’ll take the hairdryer to it.” So you used a hairdryer on it and dried it out.
Later on, eventually, you went to wind it and the stem broke off in your hand, the crown broke off in your hand because the stem had rusted inside, or mysteriously, all of a sudden, it stopped running and you started to see rust on the face of it.
This was just a common occurrence in the early 1900s. Well, the fact that we now had a waterproof watch was amazing. Hans didn’t stop at that. He was continuously coming up with new ideas, unusual things, marketing plans.
When the first flight from London to Melbourne took place, it was a 25,000 mile trip. How would you know that your watch is going to run for this period of time? You know what, when they got to Melbourne, the watch was still running.
All of the sudden, here’s another accomplishment for this watch. They finally have come up with a way to have an automatic winding device. The motion of your arm moving would make the watch wind.
We don’t think of that as anything great now because we take it for granted. This was a major accomplishment.
Now, Mr. Wilsdorf had come up with the most accurate timepiece out there, a waterproof timepiece and an automatic timepiece. Now all he had to do was come up with different models, different things that he felt would be great to sell out there to the public.
In 1945, he came up with what we call the Datejust model of Rolex. What this did was it actually had the date on the front of the watch. Again, it seems like such picky little things that we take for granted, but these were major accomplishments.
Now this watch not only told time, but it told you the date. This was a whole different type of mechanism that had to be inserted in the watch that not only told time, but now you had to put what we call a date wheel in there and it had to be calibrated so it would change at 12:00 at night every day.
This was a major type of thing. In 1947, they came out with a watch that would actually give you the phases of the moon. Think about it: not only did it calibrate the time, not only did it calibrate the date, but it would tell you the phases of the moon.
In the bottom there was a little half-moon cutout and it would actually show you the moon as it went through its phases from just a quarter moon to a half to a full moon and back out again.
We’re talking really precise timepieces. Again, where a lot of less expensive watches were being mass produced, Rolex took it’s time. Every piece was handmade. Even to this day, it takes them close to a year to finish one watch.
Even though the cases are machine made, the mechanism and all the pieces that go inside are all handmade as well. This is why it’s considered one of the finest timepieces out there.
In 1952, they came up with another idea. They came up with what they call a Turnograph. Turnograph was probably one of the precursors to the dive watches. It was made out of stainless steel.
If you’re a diver, you know that the outside of the face of your watch, we call it the bezel, has numbers on it. If you’re not a diver, this doesn’t make any sense to you, but we all know that when you go down you’ll set that minute to a number on your bezel.
You’ll turn the bezel to the minute hand. When you’re underwater, you look and you don’t have to guess how long you’ve been under. You look and read the numbers on your outside bezel.
This was called a Turnograph, and later it was changed to a Submariner 100. This was the first Submariner that Rolex came out with. Why 100? It was good to 100 meters, which is 330 feet.
A lot of times, people would come in and kid around and I’ll say, “At 330 feet deep, I’m not worried about what time it is. I’m worried about how I got there and how I’m getting back up.”
In 1952, that was your firs Submariner. In 1954, besides waterproofing, there was another field to get involved in. This was the field of flight, where they came out with they called their GMT. GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time. These are different time zones that you would cross when you’re in an airplane.
Again, they had a different colored bezel. Rather than a bezel that would move in one color, they came out with one that was red on one side, blue on the other side, and you would adjust these to be for different time zones.
Later on, they came out with one that was gold and more of a tan color. They changed the outside bezels, and lots of times when we look at a watch we can sort of date it by what color that bezel is and what the dial actually looks like.
In 1956, here was another breakthrough. They came out with what they called their Day Date. Not only did this watch have the date on it, but this was the first watch where the day was actually spelled out.
There were watches before that would give you 21 for a date, or a three-letter abbreviation for the days. This was the first watch that actually had the entire day written out on it.
Again, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was quite a big deal. They also changed the band at that point in time. They came out with what they call their Presidential band. The reason it was called the Presidential band was because this watch, this Day Date with this specially made gold band was given to Dwight D. Eisenhower for his inauguration. Hence, the name Presidential. It sort of stuck with that watch.
Nowadays, when we talk about a day and date gold Rolex, sometimes it’s called a Presidential and sometimes it’s called a Day Date. It depends on the type of band that’s attached to that watch. This is something else that comes into play.
In 1978, they came out with a quartz watch, which was very different from anything they had ever had before. When you look at the quartz watch, the whole thing is sort of boxy looking. It’s sort of squared off.
The lugs, which are what we call the pieces of the watch that extend from either side of the watch that your band attaches to, are flat; they’re square-looking. The whole watch is much flatter. It had a quartz movement in it.
What was unusual about the quartz movement Rolex put in it was it had nine jewels in it. Most quartz movements have three to six jewels. This one had nine jewels. Even though it was a quartz watch and took a battery, they went out of the way to improve the movement that was put inside of that watch.
Most Rolexes have 28 jewels in them. Again, we’ve talked about jewels and the more jewels, the more precise the watch becomes, to a certain extent; then it’s just more for bragging rights.
The 28 jewels all have functions in a Rolex watch. We’ve talked about the fact that it takes about a year to produce one of these watches. Quality has always been the top priority when it comes to Rolex watches.
We’ve talked about it before: anytime there’s a way to hordeswaggle somebody out of their money, someone is going to be out there copying it or trying to do it.
We find there are a lot of knockoff watches on the market that look like Rolexes. You go to New York and Chinatown and the guy goes, “Hey, buddy, you wanna buy a watch?” He picks up his sleeve and he’s got eight Rolexes on it.
There are lots of people who believe you can buy a Rolex for $50. You can’t. The dial on a Rolex is going to be worth more than $50. If you’ve got dials laying around that you took off of your watches, bring them in; I’ll be more than happy to buy those from you.
Any kind of parts for Rolexes I’d also buy. We’re constantly working on these things.
People say, “How do you know it’s a Rolex watch?”
The easiest thing that I tell them is I take my loop, which is your magnifier and we’ve talked about how you should have a magnifier if you’re going to play with all this different stuff, and you look at the dial.
The lettering is so precise. There’s no little blemishes, there are no little marks. The lettering is exact. That’s the first thing you should look at.
Down on the bottom it should say “Swiss Made.” That’s another thing you look for.
If you take the band off of the watch, there are two important things that should be on that watch: in between those lugs that we talked about (the lugs are what the band attaches to), at the 12:00 you’re going to find probably a four-digit number. That’s what we refer to as a reference number.
Each model, not each watch, but each model, whether it’s a Datejust or a GMT or a Submariner or any of the other watches they make, will have a reference number on it. This is how we can identify the type of watch that it is.
Let’s say you called me up and said, “Steve, I’ve got a 1655 stainless watch. What can you tell me about it?”
By you telling me that reference number, I’ll either know it or I can look it up for you. I can tell you, “This was a stainless steel Datejust,” or it was a variation of the Submariner. Then we can go from there.
As far as pricing goes, some of these reference numbers were done in very limited amounts. The production was small on some of them.
Again, by looking at the reference number, that will tell you what type of Rolex it is.
If you take the band off at the 6:00, this is important. There’s another serial number on here. This serial number will tell us when that watch was made, within one year.
Lots of times, people will say, “I bought this watch and it was brand new and I bought it in 2000.” It was probably a brand new watch; some jeweler had it and he sold it and he said, “This is a brand new watch,” and he sold it in the year 2000.
Somebody comes to sell it to me five or six years later and I take the band off and I look at the serial number and I say, “This watch was made in 1995.”
They go, “You’re wrong. It was brand new in 2000.”
A lot of times I say, “I believe you. You’ve got the paperwork that says you bought it in 2000. You’ve got the box, the papers, the warranty card, everything else. So I believe that you bought it in 2000. It was brand new to you when you bought it in 2000. It was produced in 1995.”
This is something that when we look at it, you have to figure, “What am I going to pay for this watch?”
If it was bought in 2000 and it was new and it’s now 2013, the watch is now 13 years old, which is not very old for a Rolex. If it’s been serviced and kept up right, they last for generations.
This wasn’t really a 13-year-old watch. It was produced in 1995 and I’ve got to say to somebody that this watch is now 18 years old. It’s not 13 years old. This has some bearing on the value as well.
Again, as we talk about with any kind of collectibles and watches, not only are they timepieces, but they are collectibles. A lot of the Rolexes have become extremely valuable because they were done in limited amounts and they never really survived.
We have to do a lot of documentation and we have to know what we’re looking at when we’re looking at these Rolexes. Condition is very important; whether a band is all stretched out, whether it’s the original dial.
We’ve talked about this before. If it got wet somehow, someone forgot to put the crown down, screw the crown down. What happens a lot of times is you’ll have a gold crown and the part that it screws down into is stainless steel.
People want to make sure that their watch doesn’t leak, so they crank down really hard on that crown, which is made out of gold. After a period of time of cranking down too much and opening it back up, what you’ll do is strip that crown out.
When I say strip it out, what that means if you have lost the threads that are inside of it. It will no longer lock down. Now your watch is no longer waterproof, but it was waterproof all these other years, so you jump in the pool, jump in warm mineral springs, jump in the shower with it.
The next thing you know, everything is all steamed up. The dial starts to get spots all over it. It looks terrible. So you take it to a guy and say, “What can you do for my dial?”
He says, “We can refinish your dial. We take it in, we take your watch apart and we send the dial out. We have companies that redo the dial and it looks beautiful.”
One of the ways we can tell that it’s a redone dial, number one: the painting and the numbering and all that are never as good as when they came from Rolex. They’re just not going to be.
Number two, down at the bottom where it says “Swiss Made”, it will no longer say “Swiss Made,” or “Swiss”. A lot of times the little T on either side of Swiss will be gone. That T stands for tritium, which is what they used to use on the dial to make the numbers glow.
This is one of the things that we look at. There are a lot of other things we look at. Look underneath. Take the band off and look for a reference number.
A lot of fakes won’t have reference numbers. Look for serial numbers. A lot of times they’ll just have a stupid serial number on them. It doesn’t make sense; it’s a 2010 model and it’s got a 1990 serial number so we know that’s not going to jive right.
There are different little marks on the inside of the band; there are marks on the outside of the cases. If it ever says Rolex right across the back of the watch, if it’s engraved in there, it’s not real. Rolex never worried about doing that. They were proud of their product and they would never deface even the back side of their watch, even if it was the name of the company.
There are lots of different things that we look for. There’s lots of stuff out there. Back in the 70s they started to do what we call conversions. They would take a stainless steel watch, take the links out of the middle, put gold links on the inside.
They would put a gold bezel on it, gold hands, a gold stem. Now you went from roughly a $1,000 watch to a watch that was a $2,500 or $3,000 watch.
Lots of times people will come in and say, “I went to your store and I went on the internet and I bought myself a Rolex and it was $1,000 cheaper than anything you sold me.”
I go, “That’s great. Let’s see it.”
They’ll show it to me and I’ll go, “This is a nice watch. It’s a genuine Rolex.”
They go, “Yeah. How come they were able to sell it to me a lot cheaper?”
I go, “I’m glad you asked me that. Let me go through and I’ll show you.”
I explain to them what a conversion is. When we look on the inside of the band, there are certain numbers that we look for. What you’ll see on the inside of a conversion is “Steelinox”, which means it was a steel watch. It won’t have any other little numbers.
It will have some serial numbers, but that won’t enter into play. A two-toned watch will usually have a 14 or an 18 on it. What that 14 or 18 stands for is the fact that it was stainless and 14 karat gold, or it was stainless and 18 karat gold.
The fact that it doesn’t have one automatically tells us it is a converted watch. The $1,000 that they saved buying it on the internet really cost them $1,500 more than they should have paid for it, because it wasn’t the right watch in the first place.
If you’re going to deal with somebody and you’re going to buy a watch and you’re going to spend in the thousands of dollars for it, know who you’re dealing with, know someone who has been around for a long time, know someone who is going to stand behind it and is willing to give you a guarantee.
Westchester Gold and Diamonds, all of our watches have been services; parts have been replaced when they need to be replaced. We tell you how old it is, we show you the condition. We teach you a little bit about the watch that you’re buying from us. They come with a one-year warranty, just like a brand new watch.
Some people say, “Do you have the papers that go with it?”
The warranty papers are good for one year. After one year, it shows you that the serial number ties in with the watch. That will prove that it’s a genuine Rolex. But nowadays they are even counterfeiting some of the warranty papers.
Again, deal with somebody who is willing to stand behind their product, who’s willing to refund your money if there’s a problem. They’re going to give you a warranty on it, and they’re going to be there for you to service that watch if there’s a problem.
I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold and Diamonds, teaching a little about Rolexes. We’ve got a sale going on at the shot right now. Saturday will be our last day. These are the biggest discounts we have all year, other than Christmas.
A lot of stuff that we’re dealing right now is discounted even more than they are at Christmastime because it’s the middle of summer. We’re trying to gather nuts like all the smart squirrels so we can make it through the summer.
Stop in. We’ve got financing available, and you can put it on layaway as well. You won’t be disappointed. We’ve even discounted our Rolexes, which we don’t normally do.
If you ever thought about buying one, stop in and see us now please. We’re in the plaza behind ABC Liquors.
We’re just about out of time. I’d like to say thank you to everyone for being there to help us. For 38 years we’ve been your premier jewelry store. We’re not going anywhere.
Thanks again. I hope to talk to you next week.
Have Questions about your antiques, estate jewelry, collectibles or old treasures?
If you have questions for Steve Duke to answer about your jewelry, antiques or collectibles, just send a photo of the item and your question directly to Steve Duke at WGDiamonds@HotMail.com and Steve will research it for you and you may be contacted to participate in an upcoming Tradio episode. Be sure to include your name, email and phone number along with your question and email it to: WGDiamonds@HotMail.com
Listen to Tradio every Friday at 9 a.m. at 1580 WCCF or live stream with IHeartRadio App
Visit our Website: http://www.westchestergold.com
Westchester Gold and Diamonds is one of the largest buyers of gold, silver, diamonds, Rolex watches, antique and estate jewelry in southwest Florida.
As the premier jewelry store in Port Charlotte since 1974. We do custom design and we are able to duplicate many designs that you may have seen in your travels; often at a fraction of the price.
We accept your old diamonds and jewelry in trade, the same as cash.