The Rolex Prince is One of THE classic!
During the 1930s, the price of the Rolex Prince is equivalent to the price of a car! It is widely known as a doctor's watch as it has a large separate subsidiary second dial for ease of reading for doctors when measuring the pulse rates of the patients. Rolex has recently re-launed a new Prince series but the feel of the watch is different (Please see enclosed photo).
Like the bubblebacks, the Rolex Prince comes in many variations, steel, gold (9k, 14k, 18k), silver, gold and steel, tiger straps etc. The Gruen doctor's watch and the Rolex Prince shared the same movements as the former were made for the US market while the latter were made for the rest of the world. They were not sold as competitors. However, the price of the Gruen is 30% of that of a Rolex. That's the power of brand building!
Rolex Prince - Watch History
The Rolex Prince has its place in watch making history as being one of the most groundbreaking watches released. Rolex released this watch in 1928 and its accuracy and ease of use set the standard for luxury watches. The Rolex Prince featured a stylish rectangular shape as well as two easily legible dials. Hours and minutes were tracked by the larger dial on top and seconds were counted on the smaller dial on bottom.
On initial release, the prince was available in two case styles, one was a more rectangular case (Classic) and the other was a much rounder design (Brancard), the choice of materials was yellow gold, sterling silver, platinum, and two tone combinations (steel was available later on). Brancard model watches were designated model 971 and Classic watches were model 1343. Shortly after its release, the Rolex Prince was augmented with a self winding movement, which eliminated the need for winding.
The “Railway Prince” was released in 1935 and was designed after the look of locomotives, this model was designated 1527. Rolex then introduced a new movement which was nicknamed “Jumping Hours”. This design would only feature minute markings on the larger top dial, with a slot open at the top (12 o’clock position) with a number display (1-12 Hours). As the minute hand swung past the hour display, the number would switch over to the next hour. This would also serve as the inspiration for the Rolex Datejust down the line.
One of the last models of the Rolex Prince was the “Super Precision Aerodynamic” version. It featured a singular large dial where the hour, minutes, and second hands all lived. The Rolex Prince line would be discontinued sometime in the 1940’s and replaced with the more circular and sporty designs.
Special Edition Rolex Prince Watches
Throughout its production period, the Rolex Prince watch has had numerous production runs as special editions. The “Sporting Prince” was a pocket watch that was designed to be used while engaged in athletic activities. It was contained in a case that would activate a spring mechanism that would present the dial to the user by popping out and tilting.
A large Canadian department store commissioned Rolex to create special edition versions of the Prince to give employees that have worked for more than 25 years, appropriately named the “Quarter Century Club”. These watches had the words “1/4 Century Club” printed on the edges of the hour and minutes dial instead of number markings.