Collector’s Guides • 26 Mar 2018

Moonphases of Rolex

by Nick Gould


The moon has always captivated mankind and was used in celestial navigation before the invention of the modern technological aids.  Symbolically, it can be found on the flags of many nations.  On a wristwatch, the moon in the form of a ‘moonphase’ adds a subtle focal point on the dial and the eye is immediately drawn to it.

At Baselworld 2017, Rolex reintroduced the moonphase into their collection of timepieces after a 60 plus year absence.  Before talking about the latest iteration, the Cellini Moonphase, let us take a look back at its older brothers that set the tone for the new model.

In 1949, Rolex released the Reference 8171.  This was a self-winding triple calendar moonphase wristwatch with apertures for the day and month at the 12 o’clock position, the date indicated by a blue tipped arrow pointer that extended to the numerals around the minute track of the dial.   At the 6 o’clock position, visible at the top half of the subsidiary seconds sub dial, was the moonphase.  “Perpetual” is the term coined by Rolex to denote a self-winding timepiece.

On the Reference 8171 the moonphase disc was blue, accentuated with golden stars and a gold moon with a stern looking face on it, which stood out against the dial. The watch was available in rose gold, and yellow gold.  Only a few pieces were produced in stainless steel.

Some of the watches have Officially Certified Chronometer printed on the dial, which meant they were sent to the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) to be certified as a Chronometer.  The watches marked Precision on the dial were not sent to the COSC.

A very rare Reference 8171 in Stainless Steel (Credits: Phillips Watches)

The Reference 8171 earned the nickname “Padellone” which translates to large frying pan in Italian due to its shape and large case size (at the time) of 38mm. It featured a snap back case and was not waterproof.   It ceased production in the mid 1950’s.

At Baselworld 1950, the Reference 6062 was released by Rolex.  It was the first self- winding triple date calendar with moonphase wristwatch to be housed in a waterproof case.

The case size of the Reference 6062 was reduced to 36mm, making it smaller and more wearable.  Just like the Reference 8171, the Reference 6062 was made in yellow gold, rose gold and a small number in stainless steel.  The 6062’s were Officially Certified Chronometers and the majority had this printed below the day and month windows or below the moonphase.  The production of the 6062 was also stopped in the mid 1950’s.

A rare Rolex Reference 6062 Triple Date Moonphase (Credits: Phillips Watches)

Most of the Reference 6062’s were delivered with two tone dials and had different dial marker patterns.  Depending on the dial, the gold models had either pyramid or star shaped markers for the hours and some with Arabic numerals at the 3 & 9 o’clock positions.  In the steel models, the Arabic numerals were the only dial arrangement available.

A Reference 6062 in stainless steel (Credits: Phillips Watches)

 

A very small number of gold 6062’s came with black dials featuring diamond indices.  The Last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai was the owner of a very special Reference 6062.

In 1954, Bao Dai was in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the future of his country after the end of the Indochina war.  During a break in talks, he took a walk from the Hotel des Bergues and wandered over to a noted Rolex watch retailer, Chronometrie Philippe Beguin.  After browsing numerous timepieces, which were not to his satisfaction, he requested the most rare and precious timepiece Rolex made.   A call was made to Rolex and they sent over a Reference 6062 in yellow gold with a black dial with 5 diamond indices for the even hours.

There are three known Reference 6062’s in yellow gold with black dials and diamond indices. Bao Dai’s Reference 6062 is the only one with diamonds on the even hours and the layout of the words Rolex, Oyster Perpetual and Officially Certified Chronometer are unique to his watch. After his passing, the watch was consigned to auction by his family in 2002, where it sold for 370,000 CHF (including buyer’s premium), making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold at the time.  In May 2017, it was put up for auction again and sold for 5,066,000 CHF (including buyer’s premium), making it the most expensive Rolex again at the time (The Rolex Reference 6239 Daytona owned by Paul Newman now holds the record).

The Rolex Reference 6062 Bao Dai (Credits: Phillips Watches)

 

What makes both the Reference 8171 and the Reference 6062 appealing to admirers and collectors is their timeless charm and look.  Both models were manufactured more than 60 years ago but would not be out of place at all on the wrist today.  They have an elegance about them, from the font used for the numerals for the date, to the moon face staring back at the wearer when the full moon is approaching.   They remain evergreen.

This brings us to the new Rolex Cellini Moonphase. The case of the watch is 18ct Everose Gold, is 39mm in diameter and features a stepped knurled bezel. It comes on a brown leather strap with accompanying 18 ct gold buckle.

The first notable difference on the Cellini Moonphase is the inclusion of the date only and no day or month indication, but you can see several elements that are a nod to its much older brothers.  The date numerals are positioned on the outer circumference of the dial, the blued pointer hand with crescent moon shaped tip for the date indication and the deep blue enamelled moonphase disc with sliver stars are tributes to its older brethren.

The Rolex Cellini Moonphase (Credits: Phillips Watches)

 

Instead of showing only a small portion of the moonphase, Rolex opted for a central seconds hand, to give the moonphase more presence on the dial.  The full moon is an applied piece of meteorite and the new moon is indicated by a silver circle.  A gold arrow just below the hands of watch indicates the phase of the moon.  The moonphase only needs to be adjusted once every 122 years.

The Cellini Moonphase is powered by the self winding calibre 3195 with the in-house Paramagnetic Parachrom Bleu hairspring.  It has a power reserve of approx 48 hours.  The movement of Cellini Moonphase is a certified chronometer by the COSC.  After the watch is fully assembled it goes through further testing by Rolex for their Superlative Chronometer certification of a guaranteed rate of  2/+2 sec/day accuracy.  It is highly unlikely someone would swim with it, but it is waterproof to 50 metres.

The new Rolex Cellini Moonphase is a fitting tribute to its predecessors by invoking the nostalgia of the vintage Rolex triple date moonphase in a modern interpretation for a new generation to enjoy and it stands to become a future classic.

Read up more on Rolex Cellini Moonphase here.


Nick Gould

Nick’s passion for timepieces started as a teenager. Interested in both major manufacturers and independent watchmakers, his favourite complications include; the chronographs, the minute repeaters, the moonphase watches and the perpetual calendars. Having written about watches & horological items for the past three years, Nick’s carved out a niche for himself amongst his readers.


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