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Old 12 August 2010, 01:16 AM   #1
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Icon20 Bubbleback (or Goldfinger´s Bubbleback)

Rolex Bubbleback

I had always felt that the so called “Bubbleback” are the most beautiful cutest little watches among vintage Rolex models.
As you may already know, the nickname of “bubbleback” popularly given to these nice watches, came from their distinctive case backs, which are of a “bombé” (bubble) shape, in order to accommodate the “auto rotor” which much protruded from the primitive automatic movements developed by Rolex.



Thus, the name “bubbleback” was never officially adopted by Rolex, but coined by users and collectors.
The official name when it was launched in 1933 was: “Rolex Oyster Perpetual”, which meant that the then new watch was waterproof (Oyster) and had a revolutionary mechanism self winding (Perpetual).
(By the way, it’s interesting to tell, that our fellow collectors in Italy, call this model “Ovettone” which means “little egg”, as per its most sympathic shape)

The first model introduced in the market by Rolex, was the reference 1858, which had the ref 520 movement inside. From that point on, the bubbleback line received an incredible amount of case variants and specially fantastic dials of the most incredible array of colors and numeral shapes, including the coveted ones which combine roman numerals with Arabic ones.
Another very popular reference of bubbleback, was the 3131 powered by the ref 620 movement.
During the more or less 30 years of bubbleback making, it received many technical as well as cosmetic changes, together with the above mentioned great array of dial configurations, making a real challenge to collect this little precious jewel of watch making.
Ultimately, the bubbleback evolved in a larger model, which led to the development of one of the most successful Rolex models of all, and a classic itself: the Date Just model.

These most collectible watches kept being produced till the early 1960´s, and are among my favorites, though they are very hard to come by in my Country. As a matter of fact, I own only two, and they are among my favorites.

As said, I had always been fascinated by this beautiful model, and I only was able to buy these two examples:
One is a stainless ref 3372 of c. 1946 vintage. This example got the much sought “California Dial” (may be some fellow TRF member with better knowledge than me can explain why this dial is so called!), which is one of the most beautiful in my point of view, of all bubbleback dials (some early Panerai, got a similar dial!), which combines roman numerals above, and Arabic below.



I feel that the dial of my watch is refinished, as it is in a “too good to be true” state, though, as scarce as these watches are in my Country, and getting a very fair price, made me decide to buy it some years ago.



The second “little egg” by Rolex I own, was purchased a few days ago.
I fell in love immediately when I saw it, and couldn´t believe its state of conservation.
At first sight, I thought that the dial was refinished, but after examining it with a potent loupe, I found some signs of little corrosion on the roman numerals, which showed the originality of this beautiful dial.
This is a model 3131, in 18K rose gold, with its original matching “Oyster” riveted bracelet. I find riveted bracelets very charming, in all vintage Rolex models, and though I know by experience they are much less strong than present made models, I feel them most pleasing to sight and so light, comfortable and nice to wear.



I´m sure this little gold Bubbleback would rather please Bond´s archi enemy, Mr Goldfinger himself!





Of course, the watch looks very little as per today trend to really big watches, but we must consider this was the “en vogue” size at that moment, with its 32 mm dial.
Anyway, ion spite of size, I find it a very charming, elegant watch indeed!
Here in company of my Dad´s c. early 1980´s Datejust, for comparison of sizes.





I hope you like these watches and, as I think that there is no other previous thread posted here at TRF regarding Bubblebacks, I kindly invite other members to show here their own examples, giving its reference number and approximate vintage year if possible.
Thank you for your kind attention, and receive my most cordial regards, Abel.
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Old 12 August 2010, 01:41 AM   #2
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Wow, Abel, those are in beautiful condition!
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Old 12 August 2010, 01:49 AM   #3
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Thank you Romak!! Glad you like them!
Very cordially, Abel
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Old 12 August 2010, 07:05 AM   #4
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Super! I love the rose gold model! Just cant believe how well its maintained!

Excellent!

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Old 12 August 2010, 02:02 PM   #5
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lovely watches and well written review Abel
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Old 12 August 2010, 02:45 PM   #6
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Those watches look awesome
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Old 12 August 2010, 10:16 PM   #7
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Hello Rick, Martin and Jeff!!
Thank you for your kind comments! I´m glad you like it!
It´s a pleasure to share these pieces with TRF friends!
Very cordially, Abel
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Old 12 August 2010, 10:56 PM   #8
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Excellent post and great photos!!

Here's mine, unfortunately my photography skills are nowhere near yours.

1953 model 6298.

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Old 12 August 2010, 11:01 PM   #9
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Absolutely stunning, Abel!
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Old 12 August 2010, 11:04 PM   #10
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Hills!! thank you for your nice contribution. Great watch, and I´m glad to know another bubbleback owner! These surely are lovely little watches!

Dan: thank you for your comment!!

Best cordial regards, Abel
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Old 12 August 2010, 11:07 PM   #11
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Stunning watches Abel, I like the old bubblebacks, they are unique.
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Old 12 August 2010, 11:09 PM   #12
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Wow Abel! What beautiful timepieces.
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Old 12 August 2010, 11:10 PM   #13
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Hello Kyle!! Nice to hear from you my young friend!!
I´m glad to know you like these little bubblebacks!
I wish I had your skills to get those great pictures of yours!!
Thank you again Kyle! Best cordial regards, Abel

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Old 12 August 2010, 11:11 PM   #14
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Thank you Renato!! Nice to hear from you too!
Very cordially, Abel
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Old 12 August 2010, 11:26 PM   #15
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Something tells me you like Bond Rolexes, Abel.

Do we see a 6542 in your future?
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Old 13 August 2010, 01:03 AM   #16
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Beautiful watches Abel I would be happy owning either one of them
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Old 13 August 2010, 01:08 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darthmouse View Post
Something tells me you like Bond Rolexes, Abel.

Do we see a 6542 in your future?
Hello Ronak!
Yes, I love everything about Bond, films, books, gadgets, cars, and of course watches.

Never seen a 6542 myself, here in Argentina, but I´m sure someone got one here. Great piece!
That´s Pussy Galore watch in Goldfinger, and I surely would love to find one for me. Not bad for a lady´s watch, but a man watch too!
Thank you for your comment,
Cordial regards, Abel
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Old 13 August 2010, 01:09 AM   #18
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Thanks Mailman!! I´m glad you like it!
Kind regards, Abel
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Old 13 August 2010, 08:50 AM   #19
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Very lovely bubbleback, both of them are in excellent shape .....
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Old 13 August 2010, 10:15 AM   #20
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Thanks a lot Bagel!!
Kind regards, Abel
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Old 13 August 2010, 12:48 PM   #21
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Both of your bubblebacks, Abel, are great, but the 3131 (and matching bracelet) is really extraordinary.

I agree that the dial on your steel bb is refinished, but nicely so. An original Roman-Arabic dial should have the numerals stamped into the metal of the dial (you can tell with magnification) so that extra lume could be placed in the spaces. Also, original lume can be recognized with close inspection with a loupe, the fluffy, grainy consistency.

e.g. this close-up of one of mine. You can also tell how the numerals are stamped into the dial on this "Semi-California" dial.




It is a matter of some debate how the popularly-known "California" dial got its name. One somewhat far-fectched explanation I've read is that some vintage dealers (supposedly in California) way back at least 20 years ago brought this distinctive style to the attention of collectors, and made the originals so coveted, that they popularized redials in this style.
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Old 13 August 2010, 02:20 PM   #22
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Beautiful watches! I've had my eye on a bubbleback for a while, too.
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Old 13 August 2010, 07:01 PM   #23
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The pink gold watch is a stunning piece!!.

Superb quality and extremely beautifull.

Are there more superlatives ?

One of the first "presidents" . I know it is not the name for this model but it can certainly compete.

Jack
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Old 13 August 2010, 08:13 PM   #24
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Abel,
Almost all Rolexes have class but your gold Bubbleback is near the top of the tree- really really classy! Philip
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Old 13 August 2010, 10:16 PM   #25
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Hello Adam!! Thank you for your nice comments about my Bubblebacks. I appreciate them coming from a connosieur of these watches like you.
I also thank your explanation about the dials which confirms what I thought.
Your watch (and others you have shown in previous posts) are gorgeous, and I surely prefer a not so perfect dial, but completely original, to one so pristine like mine. It simply can´t be real! Pass of time should definitively had left some traces, at least as little as in the case of my gold one.
I really like better the looks of your dial, which shows an honest "face" of an old friend.

It´s also very interesting to know what you tell about the "California" dial nickname.

Thank you again, and I invite to show any other piece of bubbleback species you may have at hand.
I send you my most cordial regards, Abel.
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Old 13 August 2010, 10:18 PM   #26
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Boopie, Jackxv and Philip! Hello!! Thank you so much for your kind comments!
I´m so glad to know you like it, and it´s really a pleasure to share these pieces here.
Best cordial regards, Abel.
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Old 13 August 2010, 10:55 PM   #27
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California dial refers to a clock face that consists of half Roman (usually 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock) and half Arabic numerals (usually 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock). Sometimes the hours of 3, 6, and 9 are replaced with a dash instead of a numeral and an inverted triangle in place of the 12. The use of this dial style dates back to the 1930s, for example in early Rolexes, Marina Militare and Kampfschwimmer diver's watches. Later a number of Rolexes were refurbished by a company based in California using this style of dial, and resulting in the name "California dial".


Jack
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Old 13 August 2010, 11:00 PM   #28
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Extremely great reading

I've never worn a bubbleback and so I just wonder how they feel in terms of comfort on ones wrist.

I heard or read somewhere that the most comfortable casebacks are those that are flat and wide to evenly distribute the weight of the watch over ones wrist.

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Old 13 August 2010, 11:56 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackxv View Post
California dial refers to a clock face that consists of half Roman (usually 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock) and half Arabic numerals (usually 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock). Sometimes the hours of 3, 6, and 9 are replaced with a dash instead of a numeral and an inverted triangle in place of the 12. The use of this dial style dates back to the 1930s, for example in early Rolexes, Marina Militare and Kampfschwimmer diver's watches. Later a number of Rolexes were refurbished by a company based in California using this style of dial, and resulting in the name "California dial".


Jack
Very interesting wxplanation Jack! Thank you so much!
Kind regards, Abel
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Old 14 August 2010, 12:24 AM   #30
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Stunning bubblebacks.......
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