Collector: Geoffrey Hess

“The Eagle Beak [Rolex] is a great watch to analyze. A lot of the joy in this watch comes from looking at its various elements and thinking about what makes each of those particularly special, in this case. Watch collectors often use the expression ‘it ticks all the boxes.’ For me, this is a watch that does that. It’s a tropical dial, so it’s a very even brown, a very creamy, coppery, caramel type of brown. The chapter ring—that circle around the edge—that’s somewhat coveted. If we look at this bezel, first and foremost it has a red triangle, which is very rare. Moreover, the bezel is faded to a nice, very light gray. When it was born it was probably much more of a jet black, and the numbers are what we would call ‘fat font.’ On a more modern bezel, the font would be a little thinner. It has what are called ‘eagle beak’ crown guards, because they kind of look like the beaks of eagles. They were made only in 1959, which represents a brief stage in the development of a crown guard for Rolex. Crown guards started being square, and the divers that used them found that to be cumbersome. So this was a part of the evolution of Rolex developing its hardware for a real purpose: for a diver.

Rolex 24_First_Submariner_1953If I think about what the aspects are of watch collecting that make it special to me, without question, the first thing on the list would be the people I’ve met through this hobby—it has introduced me to a set of friends who are so important to me and so near and dear to me, and the vast majority of them don’t even come from America. When we talk about watches, we focus on the metal itself, the dial itself, on the hardware itself, but it’s really about the story that goes with the watch, the people that go with the watch, and that can come in a variety of different ways.

HESS - ROLEX #2Collectors often use the word ‘provenance.’ You see it most readily with vintage military watches, and I think that’s why they have such a great following. You think about a watch, for example, a military Rolex, that was a watch that was issued to the British Ministry of Defense.

And you think about, okay, who had that watch? Where did it go? Was this a watch issued to the Army, or was it a watch issued to the Navy? What are the engravings on the back, what do they mean? I have a Paul Newman Daytona that came from the original owner. I have a three page letter about how this guy in the UK came to get this watch. He’s not a famous guy and there’s no way of looking him up, but I have the original purchase receipt that has his name on it, I have a copy of his passport, and a three page letter from him about how he came to secure this watch, how he saw it in the window of a store in the UK and bought it. I try to tell people it’s sort of like art collecting and the study of art. Each watch has so many different characteristics, especially when it comes to vintage watches. Because of this, I’ve developed so much respect for certain people because they study this their whole lives.”As told to Hyla Bauer