Not all symptoms of modern watch collecting are as lamentable as the AD situation or Nautilus hype would suggest. One marked advancement, to my sensibility, has been the return to svelte proportion. Now, this in no way meant to be domineering. Buy what you like and what you feel expresses your character. However, the inclusion and even preference for watches under 38mm is something of a renaissance today. Some have suggested this is all an ageing Stallone’s doing. Others will say it’s a hallmark of purchasing power transferring to the East. Whatever the cause, high-grade watchmaking deserves to be appreciate in all its guises. The guise shown today is a historic one which is only just gaining significant collector traction, again: the bubbleback.
Ironically, Rolex’s bubblebacks may be the only dimly lit corner of their history to not be in a bubble recently. These diminutive, early Oyster-cased Perpetuals were the predecessors of Explorers, Datejusts, Day-Dates, and all that is holy in the world of understated Wilsdorf. Generally speaking, the watches were in production from the 1930s (after Mercedes Gleitze famously swam the English channel in 1927 with an early Oyster cased Rolex) until 1955 and were so named for their domed screw-down case backs, modified from standard to accommodate the then-new automatic’s oscillating rotor. That famous swim of Gleitze was not the watch’s only accomplishment. Malcolm Campbell set multiple speed records wearing a bubbleback. A latter bubbleback was (arguably) worn on top of Everest’s first ascent also. One thing’s for sure: neither dial up there actually said Explorer on it.
For all these historic landmarks and their art-deco charm, bubblebacks were the rage in Rolex collecting during the late 1970s and until the early 90s. However, until very recently, they had fallen entirely out of favor. I blame the Paneristi (joking, people). With the return to petite cases, so too has returned bubbleback fever. I should warn that, as these were highly collected a few decades ago, many have reproduction dials, toothpick cases, or outright forgeries. No so here. This 18k yellow gold 6030 hails from 1942. It sports a 36mm case, screw-down crown, lovely decorated chapter ring, red date wheel, and arrow indices. If FP Journe made this tomorrow, it would sell out instantaneous. Thankfully, enthusiasts still aren’t really overly-hot on bubblebacks yet. I would say this is still something of an honest watch and opportunity in a world full of hype.
This example sports a weathered dial which, all told, is in a remarkably strong condition. Light darkening around indices is visible but all fonts are present. It comes on a brick-link bracelet which may be original as far as I know. Certainly it is a genuine Rolex production of era. The case has seen a polish but is not aggressively altered. It comes from a well-regarded retailer.
Find this 6030 here from Theo & Harris for 19900 USD.