The Most Elusive Rolex Watch of All Time: Reference 4257

The Most Elusive Rolex Watch of All Time: Reference 4257

The photo above (1942) shows Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf admiring what appears to be an ornate bracelet. While the photo has existed on the internet for some years, the bracelet, which as you’ll find out is actually a watch, was identified just earlier this month. Thanks to some sleuthing by Jake Ehrlich (of Jake’s Rolex World) and Nick Gould (@niccoloy on IG), the reference number has been found, as well as some additional images of the watch.

The Rolex 4257

Rolex 4257 picture

Earlier this month, writer and researcher Nick Gould located the above image in an April, 1943 edition of Revue Internationale de l'horlogerie. He sent it to friend and fellow watch writer Jake Ehrlich, who quickly identified the middle watch as the same held by Wilsdorf in the previous photo. Finally, we have a second picture to work with. 

This newly-found colored image shows that the 4257 was made in pink gold. Based on the first image, the watch appears to be fairly large (especially for a ladies' watch from the 1940s). Assuming the links are solid pink gold, this watch has to weigh close to 300g. 

The image also shows gem setting on the 4257. A buckle-shaped decoration hugging the center link is set with a row of eight diamonds. The center link itself is set with ten more diamonds and five baguette cut rubies.

Hoping to find some evidence of timekeeping, or really any additional information about this strange reference, Gould continued to scour horological archives for pictures of the Rolex 4257.

Rolex 4257 hidden dial

Eventually, he found the above image in a September, 1943 edition of Revue Internationale de l'horlogerie, depicting the Rolex 4257’s hidden dial. The center link hinges to conceal a small dial for discrete time checking. These hidden-dial watches, or "secret watches" were very popular in the early 20th century. As watch/jewelry industry veteran Carol Besler explains,

“The secret watch was invented during the roaring ’20s, when it was more important for a lady to be luxuriously adorned than it was for her to know the time of day,”.

It's safe to say that the Rolex 4257 is a luxurious adornment, but saliently, the second image does not depict the same gem setting as the first. Notice that the second 4257 does not have diamonds and rubies set on the center link itself: just the buckle-shaped decoration. I’m unclear whether these images are illustrations or photographs, but this difference could indicate that Rolex offered the 4257 in multiple configurations.

What Makes the Rolex 4257 So Elusive?

Simply, not much is known about this watch. The article you’re reading contains every depiction of the Rolex 4257 that’s publicly available online. Given the lack of photos and information on this reference, we can only assume it was made in extremely low quantities, did not sell particularly well, or perhaps both.

While I love the mystery surrounding the Rolex 4257, I hope that at least one example surfaces during my lifetime. It would certainly make for an interesting auction, but I'd be more intrigued to simply see some high quality images of the watch.

A Strange Concealment of The Rolex 4257

Hans Wilsdorf Altered Photo rolex 4257

I wasn’t sure where (or even if) I should include this, but it’s a fun bit of lore associated with the 4257. A few months ago, Rolex released a video about Hans Wilsdorf called The Man Behind the Crown. In this video (at 4:13), they included the photo of Wilsdorf holding the 4257, but Photoshopped in what appears to be a Rolex ref. 2057 (or similar monopusher chrono). I’m not sure why they did this, but once you know the image is doctored, it’s pretty hard to unsee.

What do you think of the rare Rolex 4257? Let us know in the comments below.

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