Paraphernalia, memorabilia, collectibles, chattels call them what you want — watch collectors love nothing more than amassing drawers full of watch related items that were once used to display, advertise and promote their favourite brand.

Just ask my wife — her tolerance is beyond what I could reasonably expect when it comes to the huge amount of Tudor and Rolex ‘things’ I have hoarded over the past near-two decades.

We even have a one-metre-square illuminated Rolex dealer sign hanging in the kitchen above the Jura espresso machine. And my desk in our joint office? Don’t ask. However, wives, girlfriends and significant others take note — Sotheby’s Hong Kong is having an online-only Watches sale that includes a collection of Rolex memorabilia and it might be the perfect opportunity to bag your partner the best-ever Christmas present!

Lot 8104: Rolex - A metal paperweight, made for Baselworld 2010
Lot 8104: Rolex - A metal paperweight, made for Baselworld 2010

Collector Genes

The sale is made up from two significant collections from private collectors. One of the two is well-known Rolex memorabilia collector, Jim better known as @kkevalll, who has such a passion for these items that he created his own personal Rolex Museum — a part of which was displayed in Hong Kong in 2017.

“It started around 13 years ago with my first Rolex collectible — a 1970s dealer display mirror that I found on eBay,” says Jim. “In fact, most of my early items were found on eBay and the different Rolex forums. Then when Instagram and Facebook became popular, they became another source. Now I’m well known for collecting these things and so now sellers actively approach me — they know exactly what my taste is!”

The second collector is equally passionate about these pieces, but prefers to stay anonymous. He has built a significant collection of these items and believes they are an interesting route for fans of Rolex, especially in light of the almost vertical trajectory of price increases of the watches over the past decade. While speaking with me, he shared,  “Over a decade ago, Antiquorum hosted one of the first international auctions dedicated exclusively to Rolex. That auction consisted of not only Rolex watches but also about 60-70 memorabilia pieces, some of them you can see again in this auction.

“When I saw these wall clocks, displays and tools, they immediately caught my eye and I tried to bid on everything. Unfortunately, I completely underestimated the demand for these objects and walked away empty-handed. But lesson learned, after that I now stop at all shows, auctions, flea-markets or anywhere that these treasures could be.”

Povey’s Picks

Lot 8142: Rolex and Herbert Leupin - A large advertising poster printed by Wolfsbergdruck, Zurich, circa 1959
Lot 8142: Rolex and Herbert Leupin - A large advertising poster printed by Wolfsbergdruck, Zurich, circa 1959

As a confirmed hoarder of these kind of items, going through the catalogue was akin to being a kid in a sweetshop…albeit an expensive one. But then having gotten used to the prices of the watches that these items were used to advertise, it’s interesting to read about a sale in which most of the lots are accessible.

Ever since I was a teenager I have had a love for posters. Rock stars and movie posters were my poison as a youngster, but now I would be very happy with any of the posters in the sale. A personal favourite is Lot 8142 a poster called “Fingers”, which shows a hand, wearing gold non-descript Rolex, pointing at a Rolex logo. Equally cool is a “Flags of the World” poster (Lot 8087), which has a gold Oyster Perpetual on gold straight-endlink rivet bracelet intertwined with a ribbon of the flags of the world. This one dates to 1952 and is a lithograph on linen. Either would look great in the office.

Lot 8087: Rolex - A large advertising poster, circa 1952
Lot 8087: Rolex - A large advertising poster, circa 1952

For Display

The undoubted king of the displays is the “Trident Fish Bowl”. I remember one of these being included in the legendary Rolex-themed Revolution sale at Antiquorum New York in 2008.

This stood out to me at the time, as something special and it would have been wonderful to see one in the 1960s in an authorised dealer’s window – an Oyster suspended in actual water in the fishbowl. What a great concept for Oyster watch sales – Lot 8126.

Lot 8126: Rolex - The trident fish bowl, reference 313. A gilt brass and green enamel retailer's window display, circa 1960
Lot 8126: Rolex - The trident fish bowl, reference 313. A gilt brass and green enamel retailer's window display, circa 1960

Another favourite display of mine is the 1960s “Desk Calendar” display (Lot 8098). Made from brass and green enamel, the Day-Date display has a watch stand positioned next to a desk calendar that prominently displays the day (Vendredi/Friday) and the date (18). It’s simple and stylish as are all of the window displays included in the sale.

Lot 8098: Rolex - Day-date, a gilt brass and green enamel retailer's window display, circa 1960
Lot 8098: Rolex - Day-date, a gilt brass and green enamel retailer's window display, circa 1960

Clock On

Lot 8088: Rolex - A stainless steel and brass building sign clock, circa 1970
Lot 8088: Rolex - A stainless steel and brass building sign clock, circa 1970

There are also a number of wall and display clocks. Can it get cooler than a clock made by Patek Philippe for Rolex? Well, Lot 8089 is just that — a black faced table clock that has a large outer seconds counter around an inner hours and minute dial. Or a Pan-Am clock that measures 52cm across? Grab one in this sale — Lot 8128! I have always loved those clocks with a gold fluted bezel. You know the ones — you see them in airports or golf courses. Lot 8088 I imagine was mounted on a plinth or wall when in use. You know you need this in your man cave to keep track of the time you spend looking at watch magazines.

Lot 8089: Patek Philippe for Rolex - A Green Painted Metal Electric Desk Clock, Circa 1970
Lot 8089: Patek Philippe for Rolex - A Green Painted Metal Electric Desk Clock, Circa 1970
Lot 8128: The Ohio Advertising Display Co. for Rolex - Referrence G-062, a large blackened metal wall clock, circa 1965
Lot 8128: The Ohio Advertising Display Co. for Rolex - Referrence G-062, a large blackened metal wall clock, circa 1965

All Sorts

From original boxes to case-opening tools via Comex wetsuit, diving helmet and torches (Lot 8141) – there is something for every budget in the sale. The pair of dealer trays (Lot 8112) is to be sold with no reserve and the large size Seahorse or Hippocampus window display stand might be a bargain for somebody – Lot 8130. And its not just vintage items that have been included – there is a modern Rolex watch winder (Lot 8106) as well as a Baselworld paperweight from 2010 (Lot 8104). All eras and all pockets – everybody can find something in this sale. And there are no reserves on any of the memorabilia lots…so fill your boots!

Lot 8141: COMEX - A very rare set of deepsea diving equipment, consists of a diving wet suit with intergrated hood, circa 1980; a COMEX injection molded diving mask with improved face seal, circa 1970; a heavy chrome metal diving flashlight, circa 1980 and a yello safety light, circa 1980
Lot 8141: COMEX - A very rare set of deepsea diving equipment, consists of a diving wet suit with intergrated hood, circa 1980; a COMEX injection molded diving mask with improved face seal, circa 1970; a heavy chrome metal diving flashlight, circa 1980 and a yello safety light, circa 1980
Lot 8130: Rolex - A velvet retailer's window display, circa 1970
Lot 8130: Rolex - A velvet retailer's window display, circa 1970

Firm Favourites

I asked both the consignors what there favourite ever item is. “That’s a difficult question. But if I had to part with my whole collection and would only have the choice of one piece left, I would go for one of my fishbowl displays. Remember, most of this stuff is made from brass covered with enamel — all handmade unlike today’s style. All of them bear a reference number like watches. Once you get hooked, it’s difficult to stop!”

And it seems Jim also loves his fish bowl display: “Among the all the items I own, I would say my 50/60s Rolex fishbowl display ‘The Lily’. It is a vintage Rolex Oyster Perpetual glass fish bowl display with a brass lotus and dragonfly green enamel stand. I have over 300 items of Rolex paraphernalia and there are dozens worth mentioning. Another favourite is a ’70s Rolex salesman’s briefcase.”

The sale runs from 19th November until 26th of November on Sotheby’s website. Check out the sale here.