“This book is not for collectors of Rolex,” says David Silver, author of the new tome Vintage Rolex: The Largest Collection in the World. “My customers are not the heavy-duty collectors. They are not the million-pound purchaser. They were never my market.”
But if you flip through Silver’s new coffee table tome of over 1,800 images depicting everything from “Paul Newman” Daytonas and “Pepsi” GMT-Masters to platinum Oyster Day-Dates with diamond-encrusted “Octopus” bracelets—all watches which have been sold at The Vintage Watch Company, the London store David runs with his father, John Silver—you could assess that his clientele is, at the very least, quite well-heeled. Located in the city’s beautiful and historic Burlington Arcade in the West End, the boutique has been one of the largest retailers of vintage Rolex for the last 25 years, and has 2,000 pieces available in its current inventory. To celebrate a quarter of a century as a top purveyor of the crown, the younger Silver put together a definitive guide to some of the important pieces that have passed through the shop’s floor.
While Silver claims the book is meant for enthusiasts rather than experts, any fan of watchmaking’s most pervasive luxury brand will take joy in poring over page after page of Rollies. In it, you’ll find everything from photos of early models with square and octagonal-shaped faces to watches with unusual dials, like a 1973 piece emblazoned with the crest of the Sultan of Oman or a 1980 Oyster Day-Date with a blue degredé lacquer dial and diamond string markers. Flip to page 258, and there’s a watch box packed with 15 rare Rolexes—an actual order placed by a single client in one swoop. “We’ve done that several times for clients,” says Silver. “We have created boxes of 10 to 20 pieces with all of the Stella dial colours or all of the stone dial pieces. A few years ago, the Russian market was particularly into that. To present somebody with a whole collection, instantly, in one go, was quite a nice thing to do.”
That would certainly indicate a healthy client-base of collectors, and Silver admits that the store’s top VIP client owns over 100 of its Rolexes. But Silver says he doesn’t cater to those who want to spend $1 million or more on an ultra-rare Rolex only for it to wind up sitting in a vault. “It doesn’t appeal to me,” says Silver. “Those watches never get worn and they are never seen by anybody. We want people to wear our watches.”
There is still an opportunity to purchase and wear a few pieces that are pictured in the book. An 18-karat yellow gold Oyster Day-Date with a diamond bezel and shoulders featuring a black pleiade diamond dial from 1995 (page 267) or a platinum square-faced Prince from 1929 in its original box (page 71) are two rare pieces still up for grabs. And he still has some colourful vintage Stella dials, since getting your hands on one of Rolex’s new iterations might be close to impossible.
In a case of perfect timing, Silver just so happened to choose an Oyster Perpetual Day-Date with a yellow Stella dial for the cover of the book. A new iteration was among the new releases Rolex dropped just last month. But that wasn’t the only strange coincidence in line with the Rolex universe. Silver set the date window of the cover watch to the 25th to celebrate The Vintage Watch Company’s anniversary, arbitrarily setting the day of the week to Tuesday. “I had always planned to do an Instagram post with a photo from the book on the very next day after I received it and I realised later that day was Tuesday, the 25th of August,” says Silver. That day also happened to be the 90th birthday of Sean Connery, who is, of course, the man responsible for making the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 famous, along with the Nato strap after which the tome’s bookmark is fashioned.