Central London pawnbrokers, Hopkins & Jones, are watching the auction of a Rolex with interest. Due to take place in the Midlands, at the end of January 2018, the Rolex was uncovered during one of the most spectacular stories of World War II, even featuring in the famous film, A Bridge Too Far.
Hopkins & Jones understand the Rolex brand and its associated value well, with their central London jewellers boasting several different Rolex for sale at any given time.
The story behind the WWII Rolex, however, is proof that watches can come with fabulous human-interest stories as part of the whole package.
The watch in question is the Rolex Panerai Military Diver watch came to be owned by British soldier, George H Rowson, during the battle for the bridge at Nijmegen. A key strategic river crossing in Holland, the Germans had set out to destroy the bridge with charges in September 1944.
Following the D-Day Landings, the bridge at Nijmegen was critical to the Allies as they moved eastwards. Part of Operation Market Garden, the Allies battled the Germans for the bridge with the liberation of the Dutch cities of Arnhem, Eindhoven and Nijmegen the Allies’ aim.
George Rowson, the British soldier, detailed his acquisition of the Rolex in a hand-written letter, “German frogmen towed the charges down the Rhine to Nijmegen Bridge and fixed them underwater to the main supports. Unfortunately for them, they came out of the river too soon thinking they were back in their own lines again. I was the sergeant along with my section who captured them and took them prisoner. The charges they had placed were defused and so Nijmegen bridge remained undamaged.”
The Rolex Panerai Military Diver watch auction package is set to include the hand-written letter, as well as a piece of the rubber from the specialist Italian-made diving suits as worn by the German divers.
The Italian link is fascinating in itself as the German diver, who was in possession of the Rolex, had trained in Italy with this Rolex model originally intended for the elite Italian diving corps, the Italian Decima MAS. Taken from the Italians by the Germans, the watch came into George Rowson’s possession and he had his full name, rank and the year 1944 engraved on the watch face reverse.
The watch has only been worn a few times and was passed down through the Rowson family, before going to auction, with an estimated price tag of £30,000 to £40,000.