Rolex ref 5029/5028 Cloisonné 1949
Vintage & Auctions

Rolex Cloisonné from 1949 - An Important Watch at Christie's

This spring at Christie’s you will find affordable examples of the best quality watches across a large selection of high-end brands and some very rare examples, the Rolex cloisonné being the paramount of Rolex enamel watches known to date.

By Audrey Humbert

The catalogue for the expected 12 May Important Watches sale was released. This spring again Christie’s managed to gather some of the finest watches coming from some of the best curated collections of the world. And once again, the selection is breathtaking with timepieces that are virtually unknown to the market. To no surprise it encompasses a large predominance of Rolex watches as a reflection of the interest for the brand that is ever growing and their most exclusive vintage examples that are hunted by hords of avid collectors from all nations.

Rolex Cloisonné ref 5029/5028 1949

The selection of Patek Philippe watches will also catch the attention of the brand aficionados but also from the watchmaking world with an example of the highly complicated Sky Moon Tourbillon (lot 48) in yellow gold, only the third example ever to appear at public auction in this material colour.

Traditional watchmaking lovers shall increase their heart beat while looking at the image of the extremely fine Abraham-Louis Breguet timepiece (lot 293) including a minute repeater, Robin escapement, 48 hours power reserve indication and thermometer.

Rolex Cloisonné ref 5029/5028 1949

The Rolex Cloisonné from 1949 (lot 207)

For its uniqueness and the work-of-art that is embodied through the cloisonné enamel technique, I have selected the Rolex cloisonné enamel. From the first eye sight, the dial reveals all of its beauty. One does realize immediately that it is not just another enamel watch but it really is one of the most refined examples of cloisonné enamel. It’s only after a closer examination and while it also requires an in depth knowledge of Rolex production that the connection to the watch will be build and it will then become the most desirable item.

Rolex Cloisonné ref 5029/5028 1949

Let’s start with the less obvious to the young collector. The case itself is a work of art with what is referred to as a rainbow case. Since its last appearance at auction in 2005, the natural oxidation which translates into a darker coloration of the gold body, that is visible especially on the middle part of the case and that comes from storage, has continued to develop over the same part of the case as a proof of it being stored carefully since it was last acquired.
Early signs of oxidation can be seen from the milling of the caseback so one can assume that the rainbow will carry on its expansion all over.

Rolex Cloisonné ref 5029/5028 1949

Also the size of the case is quite remarkable with an impressive 36 mm diameter which makes it one of the largest enamel Rolex wristwatches known to exist. The large case allowed fitting an unusual dial as it does not have the gold chapter ring that one would expect but instead the entire surface is decorated with enamel. The best techniques were used to produce this stunning beauty where the exceptional skills of the enameller in applying these vivid colours can be felt through every detail. Obtained from the best pigments, the colours were laid with an extreme precision for an overall striking result where every detail plays a role.

Surprisingly attributed to Poluzzi for many years, a quick look at his book will show that his enameling work was focusing on miniature painting. Instead, comparison with archive images reveals a number of details that drives towards Marguerite Koch. She was a talented enameller of Geneva and also supplied decorated dials for Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.

Rolex Cloisonné ref 5029/5028 1949

The quality of the present dial is further enhanced through the use of the hand-cut numerals supplied by Stern. While examples bearing these star numerals are quite rare, no other example is known to date combining an enamel dial applied with star numerals.

While some people may doubt the authenticity of the watch particularly when considering the small Rolex crown mounted at 6’clock (how unusual for a Rolex!), archival pictures confirm that the design was officially produced by Rolex. A very small production of these was made when the crown logo from Rolex was introduced on all dials and it is extremely rare to find examples adorned with this early crown. The sunken enamel around the crown further attests that it was positioned as is at the time of making. Regarding it being positioned at 6… one could attribute it to the enameller trained eye who wanted to prevent from any visual disturbance to the scenery.

Rolex Cloisonné ref 5029/5028 1949

This lot is closing the morning session and will most probably occupy most conversations during the break. The afternoon session promises to be just as intense as the morning session with some candidates for record breaking prices…

It will be very interesting to see the results of the auction where the level of quality was set very high once again by Christie’s even after the departure of Mr Aurel Bacs who had achieved incredible results so far. You may go through the entire catalogue online at the following link.

Christie's Geneva Sale 1401 - 12 May 2014

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