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Old 15 May 2009, 11:34 AM   #1
Alcan
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a Bob Ridley restoration of a 1908 W&D

A couple of years ago I acquired an old Wilsdorf & Davis pendant watch in sad shape. But, I had a feeling about it and about the history of Rolex S.A.:

1905, Wilsdorf & Davis is established in London
1908, Hans Wilsdorf registers the Tradename Rolex
1915, the Rolex Watch Company Ltd. is established
1920, the company is renamed Montres Rolex S.A
and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had the case hallmarks checked out, and it turned out that it is indeed from 1908, the same year that Wilsdorf trademarked Rolex. Had it been from 1907 or 1909 I probably wouldn't have gone ahead with this project.

I sent the watch to Bob Ridley last Fall for his opinion on the feasibility of restoring it, here's what he had to work with.

The movement didn't run, the hands and bow were missing, the crown was badly worn down, the caseback was sprung and wouldn't stay closed, and there were deep tool marks on the inner dust cover.















Bob and I spent some time discussing the restoration. The case work was substantial but do-able. Here are the results with the case and inner dust cover repaired, hinge repaired, new "onion" crown, and new bow installed.

















On to the movement, it was in rough condition. At one point we discussed locating a similar movement in better shape to work with, but Bob eventually discarded that idea in favour of redoing the original movement and retaining the authenticity of the watch.

He suggested the idea of drilling out a couple of worn bushings and replacing them with jewels to improve the reliability and timekeeping, and that's what we finally settled on.














Next, a correct replacement crystal was fitted.






Finally, a set of period correct hands. I gave him free rein on this and I think he did a wonderful job choosing the blued steel hands. This project has now come to an end, and he'll be shipping it back to me next week. Working with him on this restoration was a pleasure, Bob's a real gentleman as well as being a highly skilled craftsman.

Nancy has already claimed it, so I guess my final expenditure on this one will be a sturdy silver chain so she can wear it as we think it was originally intended, as a Ladies pendant watch.






I've spent the last year or so scouring the internet for other examples of these early works, and I now think that this might be the only surviving, running 1908 Wilsdorf & Davis left.


P.S. Bob's also a heck of a photographer. Most of the images here are his.
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Old 15 May 2009, 11:39 AM   #2
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Oh my goodness! That is absolutely incredible! What amazing work and what a fantastic looking watch. I really like the blue hands. They just look fantastic! Congrats on restoring such a nice piece of history!
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Old 15 May 2009, 11:44 AM   #3
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Fantastic!

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Old 15 May 2009, 11:44 AM   #4
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That is amazing. Congrats on acquiring such a historic piece!
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Old 15 May 2009, 11:47 AM   #5
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Wow that is an awesome job

A really remarkable restoration.

I especially like the 'idea of drilling out a couple of worn bushings and replacing them with jewels to improve the reliability and timekeeping'.

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Old 15 May 2009, 11:51 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lol-x View Post
I especially like the 'idea of drilling out a couple of worn bushings and replacing them with jewels to improve the reliability and timekeeping'.

Steve, we mulled that over for a while. On one hand, it wouldn't be historically correct. On the other, Rolex has been known to make upgrades to watches when in for service. We eventually decided that it wouldn't have a significant negative impact on the authenticity of the watch.
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Old 15 May 2009, 11:53 AM   #7
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wow....speechless...
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Old 15 May 2009, 11:55 AM   #8
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Yes, I agree with your reasoning. It still maintains the integrity of the timepiece, but just gives it a bit of a modern day performance boost. Kind of like changing a the timing system in a motorvehicle from distributor points to electronic ignition timing if you know what I mean.
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Old 15 May 2009, 12:31 PM   #9
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Looks Great,,,,,

A fine addition to any watch box........................
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Old 15 May 2009, 12:37 PM   #10
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Wow, that is truly awesome.

Thank you for the pics and detail of restoration.
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Old 15 May 2009, 12:43 PM   #11
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Breathtaking!
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Old 15 May 2009, 01:23 PM   #12
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Bob is a genius, and I personally believe that his work gives some references just bit more value to the owner, and future owners.
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Old 15 May 2009, 02:49 PM   #13
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Wow
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Old 15 May 2009, 02:58 PM   #14
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Thank you - what a great story and and exceptional restoration. I guess you now have a very valuable asset, although I doubt you will be selling!
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Old 15 May 2009, 03:01 PM   #15
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Beautifully and stunningly restored.
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Old 15 May 2009, 03:55 PM   #16
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Awesome restoration. Very honorable... Enjoy the piece, and may it live another 100 years!
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Old 15 May 2009, 05:15 PM   #17
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Man.... that is awesome, Al..... Very nice indeed! I do like..... Very much! :-)
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Old 15 May 2009, 07:59 PM   #18
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Whoa Al, that has turned out great. BR is an artist and I know Nancy will enjoy wearing it. Well worth the wait.
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Old 15 May 2009, 08:01 PM   #19
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Breathtaking!

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Old 15 May 2009, 08:14 PM   #20
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INCREDIBLE!!!
Great job!!!
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Old 15 May 2009, 08:29 PM   #21
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WOW...that's outstanding
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Old 15 May 2009, 08:44 PM   #22
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It's a work of art! Congrats!
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Old 15 May 2009, 09:04 PM   #23
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Very nice Al. It turned out great
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Old 15 May 2009, 11:01 PM   #24
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Stunning, credit to your find, credit to Bob for remarkable work.
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Old 16 May 2009, 12:10 AM   #25
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Outstanding work. I really love to see how an ugly duckling can be turned into a swan again. Enjoy it.
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Old 16 May 2009, 12:22 AM   #26
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great job love the blue hands
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Old 16 May 2009, 12:22 AM   #27
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Congrats to you and Bob. Very nice results. I agree with your decisions about the amount of upgrading. What a beautiful watch.
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Old 16 May 2009, 12:03 PM   #28
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Thank you everyone for your kind comments, but Bob Ridley really deserves the accolades. This was an interesting project, first researching the watch to verify its authenticity, trying to determine the scope of the restoration, locating someone to take the project on after a couple of false starts, discussing options regarding every facet of the restoration.

I'm very pleased with the results of this job. Untold hours of international phone calls and countless e-mail messages and pix culminated in what should probably be called the W&D Phoenix. This watch almost literally rose from the ashes of what it formerly was.

As I mentioned in the original post, I've not been able to locate another verified 1908 W&D watch, running or not. Mine (Nancy's ) might be the only survivor. If anybody has a lead on one, please PM me.



P.S. I have another serious milestone Rolex restoration project coming up soon. Stay tuned!
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Old 16 May 2009, 12:20 PM   #29
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Looks Great,,,,,

A fine addition to any watch box........................
Heck, it looks almost museum worthy if you ask me -- a beautiful job.
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Old 16 May 2009, 01:00 PM   #30
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Al, mate have you contacted Rolex about this find?

They are always interested in watches that have an attachement to the history of the company.
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