Rolex Pre-Daytona 3525 ‘Prisoner of War’

Model: ,
Year of issue: 1946
Reference number: 3525
Condition: worn
Status: available
Dealer country: United States
Price in US $ 59,000

Description

Rolex Pre-Daytona 3525 ‘Prisoner of War’

This Rolex reference 3525 chronograph is nicknamed the “Prisoner of War” due to the history that many of these watches were purchased by Allied prisoners of war in Nazi German camps, with Rolex allowing for prisoners to pay for the watches after the war was concluded. Hans Wilsdorf led Rolex to be highly supportive of the Allies during World War II, unlike many other Swiss watch companies who remained neutral and supplied watches to both sides. This watch has a rich history having been originally purchased by a British Special Air Service (SAS) soldier Sergeant Anthony O’Brien in 1946 in Nairobi from the retailer Dobbies Limited. O’Brien purchased the watch after the conclusion of the war.

O’Brien enlisted into the Kenyan Army in 1937, and later served in the King’s African Rifles as a commissioned officer in Nyasaland and Abyssinia. He then volunteered as a Sergeant for the newly formed British first SAS Brigade, 8th Army, Middle-Eastern Command, where he saw active duty again in the North Africa Campaign, predominantly in Libya. He was captured behind enemy lines where he narrowly avoided execution for being SAS by convincing the enemy he was in the Royal Air Force (RAF). He was instead transported through Italy to the notorious Prisoner of War (PoW) camps (Stalag Luft III, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft I and Stalag Luft 357) used for predominantly allied air force personnel. O’Brien was actively involved in the ‘Tally-Ho’ escape committee where he was in charge of tunneling operations and camp security at the infamous Stalag Luft III prison before he was eventually liberated in 1945. It was these events in Stalag Luft III that went on to inspire the movie ‘The Great Escape’ starring Steve McQueen.

This watch was, for me, remarkable for its history and the original condition of its dial and hands. The case previously had some corrosion given that the owner wore it for years in Africa and this was remediated in order to preserve the case. The watch was consigned to auction in early 2019 by the original family and I feel honored to have been able to purchase it. I added a period Gay Frères bracelet after purchasing it to complete the look.

This watch is from circa 1946, does not include the original box and papers, has a manual-wind movement (Caliber 13''' 23 VZ made by Valjoux), and is 35mm in diameter. Price: $59,000

Dealer

Eric Wind