PROPERTY OF THE FAMILY OF THE ORIGINAL OWNER
The original owner had a remarkable military career and has even been mentioned in books dedicated to the Luftwaffe Prisoner of War camps in Poland and Germany such as, ‘The Wire and Beyond’ by David W. Fraser and, ‘Stalag Luft III – An official History of the ‘Great Escape’ PoW camp’, by Howard Grehan and Howard Tuck.
The owner originally 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 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.
Perhaps his most impressive and famous undertaking however was his active involvement in the ‘Tally-Ho’ escape committee where he was in charge of tunnelling operations and camp security at 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 internationally famous movie, ‘The Great Escape’.
After the war he returned to Nairobi where he got married in 1946 and acquired the present Rolex 3525. He then moved to Uganda to farm coffee and later became a professional hunter in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Reference 3525 is well-known for having been supplied to British prisoners by Rolex during WWII. This may explain the choice by the owner for this model that he could have seen on the wrist of other RAF prisoners, hence celebrating the end of this dark period and his continued life in Kenya.
The 3525 Monobloco was the first Rolex chronograph fitted in an Oyster case. The watch is divided into two main series. The first one (1939-1942) has the reference and case number engraved on the outside case back. The second series (1942-1946) can be identified with the reference number present on the inside case back and the case number engraved between the lugs.
The present example belongs to the second series. The case number dates the watch to 1946, the very end of the production of the 3525. The dial is also characteristic of the very last pieces produced. The Rolex Oyster chronograph signature is written with a different font and straight with Rolex on its own line above Oyster chronograph, very similar to that of the reference 4500. The vast majority of the production bear a curved Rolex Oyster signature with 'Chronograph' written underneath.
This particular piece is further distinguished by its attractive patinated dial bearing the rare and sought-after, ‘Dobbies Ltd Nairobi’ signature. Due to the humid African climate, the case of the watch was heavily corroded. Restoration work was carried out in 2012 by a specialized watchmaker who carried out work of the finest quality and conserved the watch. In particular, the end of the lugs were rebuilt and the bars between them are now fixed. The edge of the inside of the case still shows some signs of corrosion that testify the previous condition of the piece and its eventful life. The dial has been preserved in original condition and the movement only received a service. The timepiece still has its original Patent Oyster crown and its case back has very few watchmaker marks.
Kept in the family of the original owner until today, this present lot is a rare opportunity to acquire a historically interesting double signed vintage Rolex chronograph.
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