When Rolex launched the Bubbleback in 1933, it was one of the first fully functional automatic timepieces. The model’s thick auto-rotor prompted the brand to create a unique, protruding “bubbleback” case, which gives the watch its name. Despite its distinctive design, the Bubbleback is a rather simple and straightforward watch, with most models being time-only. Although it was only in production for about twenty years, it continues to be a favorite among collectors and fans of the brand. Buying a Rolex Bubbleback watch means owning a rare model in the pre-owned market. Browse the exceptional used Rolex Bubbleback watches for sale in our inventory.
The Rolex Bubbleback is one of the more unique and lesser known, or at least lesser appreciated, models produced by the brand. Its name comes from its characteristic round and protruding caseback. This one of a kind bulging design was born out of necessity to accommodate the model’s unusually thick self-winding movement.
There are a number of different references that fall into the Bubbleback collection, making its debut in 1933. In the 1930s, Rolex began making the shift from manual to automatic movements. The additional elements required to make early self-winding movements noticeably enlarged the thickness of the movement. More specifically, they required extra space for the rotor to turn on a pivot to power the winding of the mainspring. Instead of increasing the size of the case, Rolex decided to create a dome-shaped caseback, and the Bubbleback was born.
Most Bubbleback models are simple, straightforward, and time only. Some later variations of the model included a date function. These particular versions ultimately evolved into the brand’s iconic Datejust.
As the automatic movement was developed and became more common and widespread, it was streamlined. In turn, case designs were refined, which eliminated the need for the distinctive curved caseback of the Bubbleback. Thus, the Bubbleback family of watches only remained in production for about twenty years, until 1955. However, the collection represents an important piece of the history of Rolex. These were not just the brand’s first self-winding calibers. These calibers laid the foundation for all of the brand’s automatic movements produced today.
Although its design may seem antiquated now, the Bubbleback is symbolic of the early stages of the self-winding movement. The technology ultimately illustrates Rolex’s place as an innovator in the industry. The model may not garner as much recognition and praise as many of the brand’s other highly coveted vintage models. Still, the Bubbleback is quite possibly one of the most important watches produced by the Rolex brand and remains a popular offering in the pre-owned market.
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