Philipp Stahl, the founder of Rolex Passion Report and an expert on vintage and collectable Rolex, noted that these big names weren’t paying much attention to The Crown and its small details. “It took a long time for people to start to realise the minor iterations of Rolex, even the auction houses took a long time to catch-up to what the real collectors knew.” During this time the brands gave out very little, to no information and so all the knowledge had to be gained by handling pieces. Something that the brands would do at the time however, according to Stahl, was replace or refinish a dial per clients’ requests. This was a common occurrence at this time, as many people preferred the clarity of a non-original dial. Stahl tells us that it was, again, the Italians that bucked this trend, “they would say you have to look at it like stamps, when it is untouched it is far more beautiful.” It would take some time for the market to catch-on and collectors to stop unknowingly devaluing their watches with the addition of unoriginal lume, for example.
This is echoed by Davide Parmegiani, a notable Italian dealer and collector, who noted in an interview with HODINKEE that during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, “there was no difference between a Small Crown or a Big Crown. There was no Mark 1, Mark 2 or Mark 3.” As a result of this general lack of awareness, values were attributed to broad categories of pieces, without much differentiation. For example, there was time when a Patek Philippe 1518 in yellow gold or steel, were approximately the same price, despite the much greater rarity of the latter. As the difference has become apparent over time, a steel example is now several times more expensive.
However, as you might expect, knowledge gradually began to grow, when enthusiasts were able to discover more about the history of various wristwatches. This information was pieced together over time by collectors, auction house experts and dealers, through repeatedly handling wristwatches, researching brand archives and sometimes even speaking to some of the individuals who had worked at the manufactures.