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Article: POW: a Survivor from the Second World War

POW: a Survivor from the Second World War
History

POW: a Survivor from the Second World War

Can you imagine putting a part of history on your wrist? One of the most fascinating and interesting stories regarding Rolex models is one of that the 3525. This is the tale of reference that represents a beacon of hope. Through times of war, suffering helplessness are ever present. We can only imagine what it is like to endure times of trouble. One great trouble for the airmen that were captured had their personal valueables such as knives and watches seized during intake at prison camps, therefore left them watch-less. The gentleman, Hans Wilsdorf, so happens to be the founder of Rolex came up with an idea of supporting allied prisoners in Germany to boost moral and give them a watch as a tool to help with their prison endeavors as well as to served as a sign that there are people out there standing with them beyond the prison walls. I can imagine it also sucks to not have a watch on your wrist.

Hans Wilsdorf portrait

Hans Wilsdorf, vers 1940. — © KEYSTONE/IBA-ARCHIV/Str

P.O.W. the acronym stands for Prisoners of War; this not only refers to the individuals as well as the chronographs sent personally by Hans Wilsdorf to the English officers that were captured and imprisoned by the Germans in the Second Wolrd War. Hans was an anglophile and this is demonstrated with the use of the crown as the logo of Rolex. It was led to be known that if the officers were to send a message through the post to Rolex and designated their circumstances, they are permitted to choose their desired configuration of a wristwatch available in yellow gold, pink gold, bi-metal combinations and stainless steel. At the time the 3525 was top leader of the Rolex Catalogue so as you can imagine it was very desirable.

The method of delivery was quite ingenious. In order to smuggle the watches across the lands they used the delivery system via Red Cross parcels. These parcels are packages containing essentials such and food, tobacco, hygiene items and most importantly in this special instance; rare watches… (wasn’t rare at the time, this leads to history being created). During 1940’s Rolex was quite generous as the watch would be delivered to the incarcerated without expecting payment until they are released, and many chose to reimburse Rolex when freedom is regained. This would absolutely not happen the modern era, we are literally offering Rolex to take our money but instead we are giving a long juicy name on the waitlist.

With the overall historical significance of the reference, this has given the 3525 plenty of nicknames with its popularity and importance. Known as the Barilotto or 'Little Barrel' due to its compact chunky appearance. The 3525 is also known as the POW watch due aforementioned points above. Also often referred to as the "Monoblocco" as the case body is an incredible creation from a single piece of metal.

Rolex Chronograph "Monoblocco" Ref. 3525
Rolex 3525 in Stainless Steel
 

Production of reference 3525 was launched in 1939 and discontinued in 1945. The watch was in 35mm, manual winding movement featuring the cal vz 13, 17 jewels, water proof oyster case; top of the line specs for its time. It is a forerunner to the legendary Rolex Cosmograph Daytona that we all know and love. This was Rolex’s very first chronograph wristwatch to be housed in an Oyster case defined by water resistant screw down case back as well as screw down winding crown. The accuracy of these models was instrumental to the famous escape of 76 prisoners from the Stalag Luft III camp in 1944 (which of course inspired the movie “The Great Escape”).

 

A cross-section view of Tunnel “Harry” just as the tunnelling efforts neared an end in late March 1944.

 

Watches are a tool, yes, however they are also a tool for us to immerge ourselves into history and be a part of important and significant stories. They act as a lesson and a reminder with the meaning that has been imbued within the reference. I think the 3525 is the perfect demonstration of this philosophy.

 

Discover our Rolex 3525 Prisoner of War

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