Updated: Feb 28, 2022
There are many who believe that a Rolex watch played an important role in the escape of British prisoners of war from a German prisoner of war camp called Stalag Luft III during World War II. In 2007, this particular watch sold at auction for sixty-six thousand British pounds, which worked out to just over $128,000 at the time. Why was this watch so significant and desirable? The answer lies in the remarkable history surrounding it.
In March of 1943, the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, received a letter from a British Soldier in the POW camp. In it, Corporal Clive Nutting ordered a Model 3523 Rolex Oyster Chronograph. It was a very expensive model, and Nutting promised to pay for the watch with earnings he’d save as he worked as a cobbler in the camp. Wilsdorf already had a policy guaranteeing replacement of Rolexes stolen from British prisoners during the war, and the watch arrived five months later along with instructions not to pay for it until after the war ended. The letter came from Wilsdorf himself.
Corporal Nutting used the watch in order to time the patterns of the guards’ patrols with absolute precision. In March of 1944, more than seventy prisoners made their way through a tunnel under the camp and escaped. Though most were recaptured, the daring of the prisoners and the impeccable planning gained widespread fame. Later, a book and a movie were made based on the events. The Great Escape was a worldwide box office hit in 1963.
The watch in question certainly holds value to any history buff and any collector of Rolexes. The Great Escape also demonstrated Wilsdorf’s confidence in British Troops and his certainty that a tyrant such as Hitler could never win his unjust war. Perhaps we can’t hope to wear such a significant part of history on our wrists, but any Rolex carries with it the rich heritage of the brand.
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dealer. We buy and sell pre-owned Rolexes only.