Time Machine: A Dozen Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'Bubblebacks'. It Took 10 Years To Hunt Them Down.

From time to time we receive emails from watchlifestylers that want to share their watch collections with us. While we only feature these collections sporadically as we get dozens of emails every month, we are always very careful on featuring only those collections or timepieces that spark our interest and those which we believe would be appealing to our readers.

Last week, we received an email with an interesting subject line: "Dozen Bubblebacks, All Rare and in Working Condition". As soon as we opened the email and read the kind words from this collector, we knew we had to schedule a private meeting to peruse these timepieces and feature them here. The collector who prefers to remain anonymous, is a fine gentleman that currently lives in Chicago and that spent 10 years hunting down these fascinating 'Bubblebacks'. In his own words: "once I bought my first 'Bubbleback' —pictured below—, I knew I had to get rid of all the other watches that I had been collecting for years and focus my attention on this beautiful Rolex icon".

As you will see on this post, all watches are fitted with the correct crowns, mostly what appears to be untouched dials and original hands and mostly fitted with colorful alligator straps that compliment the dials or the cases in some special way. One thing we can tell you about this collector, is that he's definitely a watchlifestyler with a lot of style and quite a fashionisto as we could see by his strap choices.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'Bubbleback' was in reality the first waterproof self-winding watch ever produced, but not the first self-winding. Harwood produced the first self-winding watch in 1928 and the iconic Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'Bubbleback' was introduced by Rolex in 1931. This interesting timepiece was only produced for a little bit over two decades and then phased out when the first Explorer prototype was launched in 1952. This iconic watch gets its nickname for its domed protruding case back that was designed in such way in order to accommodate the rotor of the rotary winding mechanism inside the watch.

While most 'Bubbleback' movements feature 17 jewels, a small number of them were fitted with 18 jewels. Since one of the 'Bubblebacks' in this gentleman's collection is actually a full set with original box and papers, we can attest that one of the documents accompanying the watch, confirms that the movement is indeed fitted with 18 jewels. This particular 'Bubbleback' circa 1948 is one of the most beautiful 'Bubblebacks' we have seen in a long time. Its red seconds hand along with the brick red alligator strap on it, makes for a very appealing timepiece that unfortunately is too small for our wrist as most 'Bubblebacks' were made with cases measuring 32 mm in diameter in stainless steel, 14K yellow gold, 18K yellow gold or rose gold.

While most 'Bubblebacks' were fitted with center sweep seconds hands, a few featured  subsidiary seconds at 6 o'clock like this ref. 3458 circa 1942 fitted with a glossy enamel black dial and that is also part of this interesting collection. Something else that is important to mention, is that early 'Bubblebacks' were stamped with the serial number and reference numbers on the case back and only later models bear such information between the lugs.

Among the dozen 'Bubblebacks' in this collection, there are other interesting examples such as a so called 'Tropical Bubbleback' fitted with a yellow gold case and a stainless steel case back; a beautiful rose gold example with gold dial circa 1938 on a blue strap; a stainless steel model with engine turned bezel and an off-white dial with gold applied Arabic numerals; a 14K yellow gold with engine turned bezel, white dial with gold applied Arabic numerals and dauphine hands; a couple of two-tone examples circa 1946 and 1947, a gorgeous stainless steel model with white dial and skeleton hands circa 1942 on a green strap, an 18K yellow gold with bulls eye dial in cream and white circa 1947 on a black strap —featured at the beginning of this post— and even a stainless steel model with 'California' dial and Mercedes hour hand circa 1946 fitted with a dark green strap.

But what makes this collection even more special, is the true passion this collector has for 'Bubblebacks'. A passion that is as big as the smile on his face when he started talking about each of his precious timepieces, as he presented each of them with a level of detail and devotion that we have rarely seen in other watch collectors.

One thing we know for sure, is that watch collecting is one of those hobbies that can bring perfect strangers together and have them become close friends in just one hour. This was indeed an hour well spent and one that we'll never forget. Now, enjoy the wristshots with the actual collector wearing our favorite 'Bubblebacks' in his collection.

Sticker Price of this collection just 'priceless'. For more info on Rolex click here.