October 11, 2016
by Paul Altieri
Pre-owned Rolex exchange website Bob’s Watches receives numerous Rolex watches, many of which come with powerful stories. In this series, owner of Bob’s Watches Paul Altieri will share real stories about real Rolex watches and discuss what makes both the watches and their very personal histories so unique and appealing.
Rolex is the world’s go-to watch for marking achievements and signifying success. Countless individuals over the years have received a Rolex timepiece as a symbol of an auspicious achievement or career landmark; however, very few of these watches have actually been given to these individuals by Rolex themselves. Since 1976, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise have honored individuals that have taken on new or ongoing projects that improve lives or preserve the world’s natural and cultural heritages. While the projects and causes span a great range of themes and disciplines, they share a commitment to expanding knowledge and improving life on this planet.
As Rolex states on their awards website:
“The Rolex Awards for Enterprise were launched in 1976 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Oyster Chronometer, the world’s first waterproof watch.”
Winners of the award receive 100,000 Swiss francs, access to Rolex’s network of past and present recipients, and of course, a Rolex watch as a trophy.
In 1990, Argentinian surgeon, León Herszage was named the recipient of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise for his Anabiosis: Success in a Simple Experimental Model. Herszage was a highly respected authority in the medical industry, and a true pioneer in the emerging discipline of abdominal wall pathology and surgery. As one of the first doctors to report on the antiseptic applications of concentrated sucrose and the medicinal properties of honey, Herszage’s work has had a widespread impact on the medical industry. Additionally, Herszage is recognized as having revolutionized the world of surgery using local anesthesia.
When the Rolex Awards for Enterprise recognized León Herszage for his outstanding work with anabiosis (the temporary state of suspended animation or greatly reduced metabolism), the watch that he was given was a reference 16233 Rolex Datejust. The reference 16233 is the quintessential Rolex Datejust. Measuring 36mm in diameter, the Rolex Datejust 16233 is crafted from stainless steel and 18 Karat yellow gold, and features a fluted bezel and Jubilee bracelet.
While the most recent incarnation of 36mm Rolex Datejust uses Rolex’s thicker, chunkier case and updated Jubilee bracelet, the Rolex Datejust 16233 follows the classic design with thinner lugs and hollow gold center links.
Although the Rolex Datejust 16233 adheres to the classic Datejust design in terms of aesthetics, it does feature a couple of key technological advancements that allow it to function on par with Rolex’s present-day Datejust offerings. While vintage Rolex references present an unprecedented level of history and collectability, they often lack the modern features that ultimately enhance practicality and ease of ownership – such as a quick-set date function.
A notable feature on the Rolex Datejust 16233 is its use of Rolex’s caliber 3135 movement. First introduced in 1988, the caliber 3135 is still in production today, and Rolex uses it to power the majority of their three-hand, date displaying watches. The caliber 3135 has a reputation for being highly reliable and easy to maintain, with scores of replacement parts readily available. Additionally, the caliber 3135 benefits from both a hacking feature and a quick-set date, further adding to the functionality of the reference 16233.
A feature on the Rolex Datejust 16233 that significantly helps it resist everyday wear and tear is the addition of a sapphire crystal. While acrylic crystals are less prone to chipping and shattering, they are exponentially less scratch resistant than their sapphire counterparts. Even when worn with extreme care, acrylic crystals will accumulate tiny marks and scratches over time, and will ultimately need to be replaced. By contrast, sapphire crystals are extremely hard and generally will not scratch unless in contact with a diamond or similarly hard substance.
With all of the same functionality of Rolex’s most recent Datejust, the Rolex Datejust 16233 is the perfect choice for those who find the aesthetics of vintage references appealing, but who also want the functionality and reliability of modern technologies.
This particular Rolex Datejust 16233 that León Herszage was awarded by Rolex features a champagne dial with yellow gold stick markers, a classic and timeless look among the different Datejust configurations. Although the watch was in Herszage’s possession for over twenty-five years, it is in remarkably pristine condition with zero signs of over-polishing or stretch in the bracelet links.
The real unique aspect of León Herszage’s Rolex Awards for Enterprise trophy watch is the watch’s case back. While Rolex case backs are generally left entirely unadorned, this particular one bears the Rolex coronet insignia in the center, along with Herszage’s name and the year that he received the award. Around the edge of the case back, right near the fluting, reads the inscription The Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
Although simple, this case back engraving carries with it great significance and truly sets this Rolex Datejust 16233 apart from the myriad of other two-tone Datejusts in existence. León Herszage is regarded as one of the world’s most influential medical authorities on the human abdominal wall, and any watch of his would hold some significance to collectors. However, what makes this watch so special is that it was actually given to Herszage by Rolex, to commemorate him winning the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
Not only is this particular Rolex Datejust 16233 one of a very small number watches that have ever been made for recipients of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, but this particular watch also serves as a symbol of the connection between Rolex and the medical industry.
It has become a tradition for individuals to receive a watch in recognition of their efforts or certain landmark accomplishments. As a company that embodies excellence, Rolex has become the international symbol of success. Each and every watch that Rolex has ever presented to recipients of the Awards for Enterprise will have a fascinating history, and each will have certainly once belonged to a remarkable individual.Paul Altieri is founder of Bob’s Watches, the leading online destination for used Rolex watches (including an example of a Rolex Datejust ‘Awards for Enterprise’ watch) where he created the Pre-owned Rolex Exchange Concept, which allows consumers to see both the buy and sell prices for a pre-owned watches, adding transparency to the market. Paul is also a watch collector and has many rare collectible watches in his collection.