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Rolex Cellini Vintage Dress Watches

The following is a short extract from The Vintage Rolex Field Guide, available NOW at your favorite bookstore.


When André Heiniger was appointed the CEO of Rolex in 1963, he made a conscious decision to reinvent Rolex as a luxury brand and move it upmarket. This change of strategy was a marked departure from his predecessor’s focus on high-specification, professional tool watches.

Rolex had launched several dress watches before the arrival of the now-famous Cellini collection. The Rolex Prince Brancard of 1928 is an iconic example. While it came to be known as The Doctor’s Watch, it was not explicitly designed as such, and would not have been considered a dress watch by Heiniger.

The Cellini collection emerged in the late 1960s under Heiniger’s guidance and was named after Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571), an artist and adventurer. Cellini served as a goldsmith and sculptor to popes and royalty during the Italian Renaissance.

The Rolex Cellini collection is thought to be the first luxury watch produced in large quantities to be awarded chronometric certification. The understated dials of vintage pieces display only time, with no second hand. Modern Cellini watches have adopted complications to make them more practical for daily wear. Cellini’s are described as water-resistant but are not waterproof. They can withstand a rainstorm or handwashing but are not suitable for the hot tub or swimming pool.

The Cellini collection falls into the Modern Classic taxonomy, though there is disagreement over how classic any of these designs are. Like ladies’ vintage Rolex references in general, Cellini dress watches have a small but enthusiastic following.

Cellini Prince

The Rolex Cellini Prince is a reinterpretation of the original Rolex Prince of 1928. The modern reinterpretation debuted in 2005 and has a distinct art deco aesthetic reminiscent of the roaring 1920s.

The original Prince had a distinctive avant-garde rectangular case. The modern version has a similar rectangular case and is equally striking. One significant difference is the display case back to show off the highly finished, manual wind caliber 7040.

The Rolex Cellini Prince (refs. 54425, 54419 and 54439) is made only in precious metal cases (18K YG, WG, and Everose gold) and five dial combinations:
  1. Champagne dial decorated with a “clou de Paris” or guilloché motif. This design is a hobnail or checkered pattern.
  2. Silver dial with a “godron circulaire.” This pattern is a radial or circular, striped ring design.
  3. Diamond-paved dial with silver “godron circulaire” motif
  4. Black and silver dial with double “rayon flammé de la gloire.” This pattern is a radiating striped design which appears to originate from the center of the dial.
  5. Black and pink dial with “rayon flammé de la gloire.”
If you like the dressier, art deco aesthetic, these are very attractive, well finished and highly sought after pieces.

More detailed content with supporting datasets can be found in The Vintage Rolex Field Guide.