Rolex and the Art of Time

A 2001 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 18ct gold cased gentleman’s bracelet wristwatch

There is much talk about the potential effects of AI on our jobs and society. I would observe, however, that across the centuries people have always valued the handmade and have been prepared to pay huge premiums for objects that have a direct connection with the craftsperson’s hand. This truth continues to this day and is very hopeful.

Handmade watches fall into this category.

Rolex is one of the world’s strongest brands representing more than a century of precision watch making, creativity and aspiration. Many may be surprised to learn that the company we know today as Rolex was founded in London by Alfred Davis and his brother in law Hans Wilsdorf in 1905. It traded as Wilsdorf and Davis. Hans Wilsdorf wanted his watches to bear a name that was memorable, short and easy to say in any language. In 1908 he registered the trademark ‘Rolex’. In the same year he opened an office in Switzerland.

In 1914 the Kew Observatory awarded a Rolex watch a Class A precision certificate for accuracy, a distinction usually reserved for marine chronometers and a reflection of their mastery of the art of time.

Heavy tax duties in the UK after the Great War on luxury imports and exported precious metals used in watch cases caused Wilsdorf to move the company to Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1927 Rolex developed the first waterproof and dust-proof watch named the ‘Oyster’. In 1931 this was complimented by Rolex inventing the world’s first self-winding mechanism.

Rolex diving watches have been design icons since their introduction in 1953. They were the first diving watches to be waterproof to 330 feet. Introduced in 1955 the mechanism was able to simultaneously show the time in two zones allowing it to be used for navigation by those crossing the globe. The movement was improved in 1982 making it easier to use.

A 1984 Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master stainless steel cased gentleman’s bracelet wristwatch

The 1984 Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master stainless steel cased gentleman’s bracelet wristwatch with its iconic red and blue bezel is part of this tradition.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 18ct gold cased gentleman’s bracelet wristwatch offered a restrained elegance. Both of these fine watches were sold in Toovey’s specialist watch sales for £9000 and £10,000 respectively.

New or old a Rolex combines the status of a handmade design icon with superlative time-keeping. This combination delights connoisseurs and collectors.

Perhaps it’s time to change your wristwatch. Toovey’s Director, Tom Rowsell, is always pleased to offer advice whether you are considering acquiring or selling watches in this growing market.

Porsche Celebrated at Goodwood

The 1970s Le Mans winning Porsche 917K at the 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Goodwood, with its Festival of Speed, Revival and annual Members Meeting has become the international venue for historic motor racing and is held here in the heart of Sussex. This year Goodwood celebrates its 75th anniversary since the start of motorsport at this historic venue. It has come along way since the now Duke of Richmond and Gordon was painting the footbridge over the track late into the night the Friday before the first Festival of Speed in 1993.

Another iconic automotive brand in the form of Porsche is also celebrating its 75th anniversary and was central to this year’s Festival of Speed. The Porsche Brand began in 1948, with the Type 356. It built on Professor Ferdinand Porsche’s design work begun in the 1930s.

A Porsche 356 suspended in front of Goodwood House © Holly Winbolt/Splined Hub

The Porsche 356 was the company’s first production car. Its lightweight body, rear-engine and rear wheel drive ensured nimble handling and provided the blueprint for the later 911s and subsequent Porsches. It looked extraordinarily contemporary hanging from the central sculpture outside Goodwood House.

In the Paddock I met up with Oliver Winbolt who has had a remarkable career in automotive design at many of the world’s leading marques including McLaren. Today he and his team bring this rigour to the restoration and re-engineering of E-Type Jaguars for the modern world through his company the Splined Hub.

We watched the 1970 Le Mans 24 hour winning 917K Porsche return from the track. Oliver explained how this car gave Porsche its first overall win at Le Mans. It was entered by Ferdinand Piech’s semi-works Porsche Salzburg team and was driven by Richard (“Dickie”) Attwood and Hans Hermann.

Dickie Attwood subsequently bought the Le Mans winning Porsche and referred to it as his “pension scheme” making numerous appearances with it in subsequent years. In 2000 he cashed up his “pension scheme” selling the car for more than £1 million. Dickie Attwood has remained a strong supporter of the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Porsche had a glorious weekend of celebrations. But it was the McLaren Solus GT which won Sunday’s prestigious timed shoot out on the famous Goodwood hill. Driven by Marvin Kirchofer it was a fitting moment for McLaren as they marked their 60th anniversary.

Congratulations go to all of the Goodwood team who, despite wind and rain, pulled off another remarkable celebration of motoring and motor racing.

To learn more about Oliver Winbolt’s extraordinary work with E-Types go to or visit their stand at the 2023 Goodwood Revival.

The Freedom of the Downs

Happy Sheep on the Sussex Downs

We set out from the top of Chantry Hill at the back of Storrington. Walking to the west we looked down towards the coast the scene bathed in an almost Provençal light. The sea’s azure blue was like a bold brush stroke defining the space between the landscape and the sky.

And as we walked a Red Kite circled over a field of grazing, happy sheep. The wild flowers bordering the chalk path were abundant and alive with insects, birds and butterflies.

It is impressive how the Angering Park Estate has been proactive over many years in balancing the need to produce food with the needs of nature and conservation. They work at scale investing in technology whilst articulating long term stewardship of the land.

They work hard to achieve a balance between maintaining the fertility of the land and producing food for the nation, with close attention to the preservation of nature. They have become increasingly sophisticated in analysing the environment in their fields and in the nature corridors of woodland and hedgerows which they are continuing to create.

As we turned to the north we walked down into the Chantry Hill Cross Dyke. We were greeted by a view I have known all my life with Storrington beneath us and the Weald and North Downs beyond. The late Bronze Age/Iron Age dyke is easily distinguishable. It is thought that these dykes were territorial markers and for defensive purposes. It is located on a north eastern promontory on the ridge of the Downs.

Robin Lenharth cycling on the South Downs

As we returned to the path to the south of the dyke we heard the cheery ping of a bicycle bell. As we turned to see who was approaching we were greeted by the smiling face of my oldest friend Robin Lenharth. We stopped and chatted reflecting how daft we were on our bikes in our youth Cycling up the downland tracks, long before mountain bikes were invented, we would delight in the cool breeze on our faces as we descended at speed, especially during the heatwave of 1976. We weren’t time poor in those days. My Dad would come home from work and have time to help me spray a ‘new’ second-hand bike blue in the evenings. We had less when I was growing up but perhaps we had more. Today I am in awe of the athleticism of Robin and my brother Ben who together cycle across the downs and the county and think that 80 miles is a decent ride! The Sussex Downs bless us all with such freedom.

The Ancient Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring in West Sussex

After our sojourn in the Channel Islands last week I’ve been reflecting on the extraordinary wealth of Neolithic sites in Sussex. Cissbury Ring is the largest hillfort in Sussex and its history stretches back over 5000 years. It sits high up on a chalk promontory just to the north of the coastal town of Worthing and is enclosed by a ditch and ramparts which enfold some 65 acres.

On a good day the view stretches to the Isle of Wight in the west and the chalk cliffs beyond Brighton in the east.

Centuries of uninterrupted grazing over this land has allowed rare fauna, flora, butterflies, insects and birds to flourish; species like Pride of Sussex, a rare round-headed Rampion. The site today is home to herds of wild horses too. And in autumn migratory birds pause at Cissbury – one of the first coastal landing points.

Two Sussex-found early Neolithic flint axes, one detailed in black ink ‘Cissbury, Vineyard Hill 17/1/70’, the other ‘Cissbury South 1967’

Long before the construction of the hill fort Cissbury Hill was mined for flint during the Neolithic period. Radiocarbon dating of materials from all of Britain’s flint mines show that our county’s were the earliest in the country.

It is thought that these mines were dug using deer antlers as picks and ox shoulder blades as shovels. The hollows within the Ring show where the pits and shafts would have been and archaeological excavations have revealed struck flint flakes from the making of axe heads like the two illustrated which were discovered at Cissbury in 1967 and 1970. These early Neolithic flint axes recently sold at a Tooveys specialist antiquities auction.

Cissbury Ring appears to have been a ritual burial ground in the Bronze Age. The hillfort dates from the Iron Age and was built around 400 BC. It is thought that the fortifications would have defended the settlement for some 300 years. There are also signs of agriculture within the enclosure dating from around 100 BC.

Millenia later its defensive position was also employed during the Second World War with a number of gun emplacements

The Victorians pioneered archaeological investigation. George Irvine carried out the first dig in 1857 and was followed in 1867 and 1868 by Colonel Augustus Lane Fox – better known as Pitt Rivers, whose famous museum is at Oxford -together with the Reverend Canon William Greenwell. The 30 or so pits they excavated revealed flint axes, tools, bones, teeth, charcoal, shells, and fragments of Neolithic pottery.

Toovey’s antiquities specialist, Mark Stonard, is always delighted to discuss your special finds.