David Silver’s Vintage Rolex Book Review
Between the virus and some naturally occurring phenomena – cold weather, short appearances by the sun and the availability too much daytime television – those of us in the northern hemisphere may need help getting through this winter. David Silver’s Vintage Rolex is a watch book with a difference, in fact several considerable differences.
In 1995 David’s father, John Silver, after a career in luxury retail astutely deciphered the runes of watch buying trends and opened The Vintage Watch Company in London’s uber posh Burlington Arcade. David soon joined the endeavour transforming his father’s brainchild into a family business. And there you have the first difference of Vintage Rolex; this is a book created by a retailer not a collector or a journalist.
Before any conclusions are jumped to about a retailer’s book being an aid to the selling process – fuggedaboutit.
David Silver’s book is an unusual endeavour. It is not a come on aimed to entice people into the shop or flock to a website to buy, although it might do those things. Vintage Rolex is a statement by the author. He is saying; I love vintage Rolex watches and you should too. The book has the feel of a painstakingly compiled family album.
Vintage Rolex functions the way books have for hundreds of years; it provides information about a particular topic. And, this book is chock full of information, much of it visual. If ever a watch book could induce Stendhal Syndrome – a rapidly increasing heartbeat and dizziness occurring when someone is in the presence of objects of great beauty – this is that book.
The introduction covers the origins of Rolex and its association with the usual suspects: English channel swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, Picasso, James Bond, Martin Luther King Jr, Paul Newman, Jacques Cousteau and Marlon Brando.
What happens next is a surprise. Instead of leaping into the Rolex headliners such as the Submariner, The GMT Master or the Daytona, the book’s first chapter is entitled Early Vintage and begins with pocket watches and the officer’s watch from 1910 until the late 1920s. I counted 41 images of watches in this opening section. Most are marching across the pages like soldiers on parade while four, a 1917 silver half hunter, a 1919 rose gold officer’s watch, a pocket watch with a blue enamel case from 1920 and a stunning 1928 travel clock. Each of the four struts its stuff across a full page. Each succeeding section of the book follows the same format. Watches file across some pages like sober suited lawyers on their way to a deposition while others strut with the pizzazz of college marching band majorettes at a big game halftime.
All images are accompanied by a short caption that includes the year of manufacture, the case metal, details of the dial design and the number assigned to the watch by the Vintage Watch Company. There are no reference numbers. While the omission is surprising when I spoke with David Silver he offered the explanation that reference numbers are watch nerd jargon that confuses watch neophytes. Wanting as many people as possible to enjoy the book and vintage watches he dropped the jargon.
After Pocket Watch & Officer’s Watch comes another surprise, in fact two surprises: two sections on women’s watches. The first is The Ladies’ Vintage Watch and the next is The Ladies’ Diamond followed by The Prince and ending with The Men’s Vintage Watch. The last section spans years from the early twenties to the early sixties. For much of that time watch brands work with a limited number of case suppliers. That’s why so many of the Rolex watches shown look like watches from Cartier, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger LeCoultre. Even so the Rolex shown in these sections are unexpected and subdued beauties with the brand’s own takes on numerals, hands and dial decoration.
The next chapter, ninety-five pages long, is dedicated to the Oyster starting in 1926 and ending with watches from 1989. Ladies’ and men’s watches promiscuously mix on these pages. While the ladies’ watches display flashes of colors and a sprinkling of diamonds the men’s watches remain subdued.
With Chapter 3, Stella & Stone everything changes. The images of these watches are not sober and subdued. In a chapter devoted to the Rolex Day-Date from 1956 to 1998. The pages sparkle with dials of lapis lazuli, coral stone tiger-eye stone, malachite, opal, red granite, lots of enamel and many, many precious stones.
The final chapter Sport covers the heavy hitters of Rolex: the Explorer, the Milgauss, the Submariner, the Sea Dweller, the GMT Master, the Chronograph and Dayton and the Paul Newman Daytona.
One more surprise, the book has an excellent glossary something often missing from watch books.
The dust jacket for Vintage Rolex is a striking yellow and black. The book also boasts a bound in ribbon bookmark in black and yellow stripes. The watch on the front cover is a yellow dial Day-Date in with a yellow gold case and President bracelet. The book’s cover is a screaming yellow. And, btw Vintage Rolex will help to cheer you up even if you’re in the sun drenched, warm southern hemisphere.
RRP: UK £50.00, US $75.00, Can $100.00