Important Watches

Important Watches

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 128.  Reference 3346 Zerograph | An extremely rare and historically important stainless steel single button flyback chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1942.


Reference 3346 Zerograph | An extremely rare and historically important stainless steel single button flyback chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1942

Auction Closed

June 5, 07:33 PM GMT


50,000 - 100,000 USD

Lot Details


Dial: silvered

Caliber: cal. 10 1/2''' mechanical, 17 jewels

Movement number: 0304

Case: stainless steel, screw down case back

Case number: 146’269

Size: 32 mm diameter

Signed: case, dial and movement 

Box: no

Papers: no

In the pantheon of rare vintage Rolex wristwatches, there are few that were made in as few numbers as the Ref 3346 ‘Zerograph’. It is thought that the reference was made as an experiment by the brand, and as such, the model never made its way into regular production, the Rolex catalog or any period advertising. 

It is thought that they were made as prototypes, sent to Rolex distributors for assessment or review but given the miniscule numbers made and the lack of information from Rolex, no one really knows. One of the reasons may be the limitations of the new single button chronograph function. In contrast to conventional chronographs, we're accustomed to today which typically feature two buttons for start, stop, and reset functions, the Zerograph operates differently, more in line with a flyback mechanism. Once wound, its mechanism, including the central sweep chronograph seconds hand runs continuously. Depressing the chronograph button located at 2 o’clock resets the chronograph seconds hand to zero.

However, to maintain the chronograph hand at zero, the button must remain pressed. Releasing the button causes the chronograph hand to resume its journey around the dial, distinguishing the Zerograph with its unique functionality. The timing of a single event with the Zerograph involved rotating the bezel to align with the minute hand and resetting the seconds hand to zero using the pusher. This enabled the measurement of elapsed time directly on the bezel, providing a simple yet accurate method for precise timekeeping.

Why is the reference 3346 so important? In short, the reference was the brands very first Oyster Chronograph, the very first Rolex in-house chronograph movement, as well as the very first Rolex reference to feature a rotating bezel (not found on a Turn-o-Graph or Submariner for another 15 years). The Zerograph really is the foundation for what we now take for granted from the brand, the genesis of the Oyster Chronograph that culminated in the Daytona.

It is impossible to know exactly how many Ref 3346’s were actually made, but a breakdown of the publicly known examples is instructive. It would appear that there were perhaps two production batches, with only 14 digits difference between the first and last known in the second batch. Each one of these have carried different dial configurations and different handsets.

Reference 3346 having appeared at auction –

‘Zerographe’    Serial 142’587 Christies, 14 May 2002, lot 48

‘Centregraph’  Serial 142’589 Monaco Legends, 21 April 2024, Lot 199

‘Zerographe’    Serial 146’262 Antiquorum, 9 May 2021, Lot 292

‘Zerographe’    Serial 146’269 Current Watch

‘Zerographe’    Serial 146’271 Antiquorum, 12 November 2006, Lot 365

‘Zerographe’    Serial 146’275 Antiquorum, 18 January 1992, Lot 41 & Phillips 14 May 2016 Lot 36

‘Zerographe’    Serial 146’276 Christies, 13 May 2013, Lot 179


‘Centregraph’  Serial unrecorded Christies, 13 June 2001, Lot 211

‘Centregraph’  Serial unrecorded Antiquorum, 24 April 2004, Lot 100

‘Centregraph’  Serial unrecorded Serial unrecorded, Sotheby’s, 17 May 2005, Lot 30

The current watch, previously unknown, was recently discovered in the USA, coincidentally in California, which is also the moniker given to this dial configuration. It features luminous Roman numeral hour markers at 1, 2, 10, and 11 o'clock, and Arabic numerals at 4, 5, 7, and 8 o'clock, set against a silvered dial with a red outer track and iconic Rolex ‘Mercedes’ hands. On the dial back, it bears the distinctive Stern Frères stamped numbers of 103 (Stern’s code number for Rolex) and reference 1639 2, alongside the brand's typical embossed star motif. This is a rare opportunity to acquire what truly is a piece of Rolex's history.