One of the more unique Rolex watches is the Rolex Bubbleback, whose name comes from its protruding case back, which bulges in order to accommodate the thick movement and rotor that turns on a pivot, powering the winding of the mainspring. The first Bubbleback made its appearance in 1933, and the watches were produced for only about twenty years. The Bubbleback helped establish Rolex as a brand known for its reliability, and these watches certainly are reliable—as evidenced by the relatively high number still functioning today.
Most of the early Bubblebacks displayed time only. The original model featured subsidiary seconds, which later changed to sweeping seconds. Later models also included the date, becoming the first DateJust models produced by Rolex. In 1935, Rolex developed the “Super Balance,” a streamlined balance wheel that improved the functioning of the Auto-Rotor. Rolex then began producing the watch in three different sizes to make it more appealing to individuals of both genders. In 1941, Rolex launched a Bubbleback model intended specifically for ladies.
Most popular versions of the Bubbleback are Steelium (stainless steel), Rolesor (half gold, half steel) and gold (9k, 14k, 18k pink or yellow gold). The terms Steelium and Rolesor are unique creations of Rolex, who patented them in 1931 and 1933 respectively. Case style variations include engine-turned and smooth bezels as well as some with hooded lugs. More variation can be seen in the dial designs, which differ between black, pink, or white dials, two-tone dials, 24-hour military-style dials, and an atypical California dial with mixed Roman & Arabic numerals.
The Rolex Bubbleback is a very iconic watch, and a coveted collector’s piece.
Rolex Bubbleback 14K Gold Mens Vintage Wristwatch
Rolex Bubbleback 14K Gold Mens Chronometer Ref. W263
Rolex Bubbleback Stainless Steel California Dial Ref. 15502
Christie's of London auctioned Lord Mountbatten's Rolex Bubbleback in 2006.
Ref. 3065, Rose Gold So-Called “Rigid Hooded Bubbleback” Rolex
Sold by Antiquorum on 13-05-2007 for: $24,307 USD
Ref. 3458, Stainless Steel and Pink Gold, So Called “Bubbleback” Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'Chronomètre'
Sold by Antiquorum on 13-05-2007 for $14,513 USD