The Grail Among Grails?
Hodinkee calls the Rolex Reference 4113 “the rarest, most valuable reference of Rolex on earth…the grail among grails for chasers of the crown” and wonders aloud if the specimen you see below could soon be the first Rolex to sell for more than $1 million at auction. Christies, who will put the hammer down on a Rolex Ref 4113 bearing case no. 051318 (Lot 129 of the May 16, 2011 Geneva Auction), states that “Recent research reveals and confirms that indeed only twelve examples of this outstanding chronograph were ever made by Rolex. All cased in steel and finished in 1942, they carry individual case numbers ranging from 051313 to 051324.” Further research indicates that just eight of the twelve Rolex References 4113 are known to have survived, and of these eight, only five have ever been offered at auction. Seems the twelve Ref 4113′s were exclusive gifts to famous race drivers and team owners during the early 1940s, thus their obscurity (see Lot Notes, below). Indeed this is a legendary watch if there ever was one! Stay tuned for a post-sale update on May 16.
Rolex Ref. 4113 Split Seconds Chronograph
44mm steel case (No. 051318), circa 1942
More Lot Notes, via Christies:
Besides its rarity, Rolex’s one and only ever produced split seconds chronograph wristwatch is also impressing with its unique case shape and size. With a substantial diameter of 44 mm, reference 4113 surpasses all other Rolex chronographs by at least half a centimetre in size. Furthermore, its case design is unique in the family of Rolex chronographs with a bezel as thin as technically possible, allowing a dial size nearly as big as the entire case. The result is an impressive level of legibility which is, eventually, to the benefit of the user friendliness.
The history of reference 4113 has always been the subject of speculation and legends. In fact, since this model was never publicly available and never illustrated or mentioned in Rolex’s advertisements from the period, all knowledge of its origins was based on hearsay and auction catalogue entries following the seller’s descriptions. Interestingly, there is a clear pattern throughout all those examples known and they all lead to the world of car racing. The vast majority of reference 4113 which have returned to the market during the last thirty years was linked to Sicily, home of the famous “Giro Automobilistico di Sicilia”, with its 11,000 bands at the time the longest closed circuit race in Europe.
As a matter of fact it is thanks to Rolex chronograph 051313, sold at Christie’s Geneva on 15 May 1991 (lot 348) which was then consigned by a family member of the renowned driver Stefano La Motta, Barone di Salinella (1920-1951). The auction catalogue of the time also showed La Motta wearing his beloved split seconds chronograph.
Besides the Sicilian connection it is only England where references 4113 resurfaced. In fact, the example offered here for sale, no. 051318, was first auctioned at Christie’s London (2 October 1991, lot 361) when the seller was the widow of a gentleman working for a racing team. Interestingly, Rolex was closely associated to motor sports already as early as the 1930s and most notably sponsoring Sir Malcolm Campbell, who, with a Rolex on his wrist, set the world land speed record and entered history by exceeding 484 kilometres or 300 miles per hour in his famous “Bluebird”.
All research and conversations with family members of the original owners lead to the conclusion that these twelve watches were exclusive gifts to famous race drivers and team owners during the early 1940s. This fact further enhances the exclusivity and myth surrounding this ultimate model.
Without exaggeration, reference 4113 is broadly accepted to be the most desirable and by far most valuable model in the universe of Rolex watches. Any serious collector cannot help but desiring one and those happy few who can call one their own will likely part with most of their collection before considering the sale of their trophy, the legendary reference 4113.
Examples of reference 4113 are prominently described and illustrated in I Cronografi Rolex – La Leggenda, Pucci Papaleo Editore, pp. 144 & 145, in 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pp. 62 & 63, in Rolex Collecting Wristwatches, Mondani Editore, pp. 416 & 417, and in Chronograph Wristwatches to Stop Time by Gerd-R. Lang and Reinhard Meis, p. 174, pl. 323.