The Complete History Of The Robert Redford Submariner
[Part 1 of 4]
...Profiles In Coolness...
[Rolex Submariner: Reference 1680]
An Amazing Career with a Rolex Submariner Keeping His Time
I recently began a series named Profiles In Coolness which covered The King Of Cool, Steve McQueen, and today we are going to take a look at another super-cool guy with an amazing career, Robert Redford.
One of the interesting similarities between Steve McQueen and Robert Redford, is that they both wore their stainless steel Rolex Submariner watches on their right wrist.
Robert Redford was born Charles Robert Redford Jr., on August 18, 1936 in Santa Monica, California and he has been in many famous classic films. When you think about it, Robert Redford is about as classic as it gets, and it should come as no surprise that he wears a Rolex Submariner.
The Candidate (1972)
Somebody once offered Robert Redford a yellow gold Rolex Submariner as a gift and he refused it by responding, "I am not a gold kind of guy." This is kind of interesting because I think that a yellow-gold Submariner would have looked great on Robert Redford because it would match his hair.
One of the obvious questions, is why does it say ROLEX on the front of the newscaster desk that Robert Redford is sitting in front of in the picture below from the movie The Candidate? I have not idea. I assume it was obviously some kind of Rolex advertisement.
The Candidate is considered by many to be the greatest Election film of all time and Robert Redford wears his Rolex Submariner throughout the movie and you can watch the entire movie here:
1972 Cannes Film Festival in France
In the photo below we see Robert Redford with fellow actor and director Sydney Pollack and Polish pianist Arthur Rubenstein and his wife Aniela Mlynarska to promote the movie Jeremiah Johnson in 1972 at the Cannes Film Festival. Sydney Pollack directed the movie Jeremiah Johnson which is considered to be one of his best films.
Arthur Rubinstein is considered to be one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.
Three Days Of The Condor (1975)
All The President's Men (1976)
Robert Redford costarred with Dustin Hoffman in All The President's men which was about the Watergate conspiracy that ultimately forced U.S. President Nixon to resign.
It is interesting to note that Robert Redford's Rolex Submariner pictured above and in the next two photos from the movie, All The President's Men has the winding crown completely unscrewed and pulled out all the way!!! I have no idea why?
Update: Tim Parker-Chambers is a reader of Jake's Rolex World and he wrote in and said:
I was reading your fantastic articles on the watches of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and saw a comment you made about the crown of Robert Redford's Submariner being fully extended while filming a scene.
Something I have read elsewhere, which might be applicable to that situation, is that for continuity and editing ease, in some close up shots, or multiple takes, sometimes the director has the actor pull the crown on his watch, so the hands remain static and constant in all takes. Just thought I'd pass on what I'd heard, thanks for taking the time to put together such fantastic articles, they're a pleasure to read."
Rolex used to make watches with Art-Deco styled dials that were really distinct. These dials featured an upside down triangle for the 12 indices, and rectangular indices at 3, 6, and 9. The 1, 2, 10 & 11 markers used Roman numerals, and the 4, 5, 7, and 8 markers used Arabic numerals.
For years, people have referred to these unusual dials as "California dials" and people as me all the time why the California Dial is called the "California" Dial. In other words, what does it have to do with California? The photo below was taken by Harsam of his 1943 Rolex Bubbleback, which has an original Art Deco "California" dial.
I think I might have recently figured it out, but I am not certain. I came across the image below which shows what appears to be a patent or trademark application filed by Rolex in 1941 for the dial design. The application does not refer to it as a "California" dial.
The person who showcased this image shared it on the Paneristi forum, and their name is Vincent Yeh. Vincent also said it is called a California dial because a California based dial company named Kirk Rich used to refinish a number of these art-deco dials in the 1980s. Vincent also pointed out that he believed that nobody beside Rolex sold a dial with mixed Roman numerals with Arabic numerals.
I don't know how much of this is true, but it is a good starting point. I will look into it and as I learn more, I will update this story. If you have anything to add to the history of the California Dial, please send me an email. (Update: It appears the patent number for the Rolex watch dial is 221.643, and it was originally filed on April 30, 1941).
1941 Art-Deco Rolex Viceroy
This is a World War II circa Rolex Viceroy with an Art-Deco California Dial. The California dial has Roman numerals on the top and Arabic numerals on the bottom.
Photo Credit: Padi56 Update #1
A reader named Tommy wrote in response to this story a few hours after I published it:
I think the "California" dial may have it's origins with the Melrose Avenue shops in L.A.
The dials became very popular during the bubbleback craze of the 80's. Many of the refinished dials being done for watches that these shops sold were half-and-half dials because they were so "deco" and were so popular with the people buying bubblebacks.
I think L.A. dealers were seeking those dials ON bubblebacks that they were buying and selling in their shops and so they became known as "California" dials because the California dealers were looking for them at shows elsewhere in the country. The people at the shows began referring to them as "California" because it's what the guys from California were looking for.
All is speculation but of course the term is only showing after the 80's.
The dial is really a half-Roman and half-Arabic dial, and that is how I have always referred to it. I never liked the term "California" because it was really irrelevant.
Another interesting variant is the all arabic with the triangle 12 marker. This is often referred to as...of all things "semi California".
I came across somebody who quoted James Dowling as saying: "The dial was patented by Rolex in 1941 and used by them on manual and automatic watches for about 7 or 8 years. It was known by Rolex as the 'High visibility" dial, as it used quite large luminous numbers. In the 1970s, when the vintage watch boom started, a LA based dial refinisher, Kirk Rich, did some dials with this design. They became popular & many vintage watch stores in California sent their dials to KR. So dealers in the rest of the US & the rest of the world began to call them the 'California' dial."
I came across somebody who said:
Rolex created the “Cali Dial” for it's various distributors and it became a fashion icon of high demand in California in the 30's-40's – hence the name.
I would like to dedicate this post to my pal Steve (LOL-X) who owns and runs RolexForums.com. Emily Scott is from Australia and she is gorgeous!!!! In this first image we see her wearing a Rolex Submariner. Can you say "Ouuuuuuuuuuch!!!!"
Note: I am working on Part 11 of my Complete History of The Rolex President series, and I thought I would share this fascinating preview with you. Once I officially complete this chapter I will remove this note.
Have you ever wondered where the term The Rolex Presidentcame from? It has taken me many years to finally solve the mystery of how, when and where exactly the name The Rolex President came from. The Rolex President Watch for many decades has symbolized and been equated with being The International Mark Of Success and Achievement.
Rolex marketing, in the United States has always been handled through the adroit marketing firm of J.Walter Thompson. In 1966, J. Walter Thompson came up with the Rolex magazine ad pictured below, which ran in the United States.
1966 Rolex President's Watch Ad
The Presidents' Watch
It is amazing when you think about it, how remarkably timeless this vintage 1966 Rolex Day-Date ad is. It features a wrist shot of a man wearing a yellow gold Day-Date holding a red phone in his hand. Kind of reminds me of Commissioner Gordon talking on the red Batphone ;-) It is interesting to note, in this 1966 Rolex Day-Date watch ad, how the title says "The presidents' watch." This of course, is referring to then elected, U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson. This moment in Rolex history represented a high-water-mark–having the sitting U.S. President wearing Rolex's flagship watch model.
Men Who Guide The Destinies Of The World Wear Rolex Watches
This particular magazine ad ads another dimension or piece of the puzzle to The Complete History Of The Rolex President. In particular, it is fascinating to see how much Rolex went out of their way to prove themselves 50 years ago. Today, Rolex has little to prove, since they have successfully become the international mark of success, but learning how Rolex achieved this is just fascinating.
I scanned and restored this vintage Rolex ad, but the page had no date on it. So how do I know it is from the mid 1960s? For one, the Rolex Day-Date pictured is a more modern model, and in the description under the photo, Rolex refers to the "President President bracelet, designed by Rolex for the Day-Date." To the best of my knowledge, Rolex first began referring to the the Day-Date bracelet in 1965, which was a year after U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson began wearing what became his trademark yellow gold Rolex.
It's profoundly ironic, how in this ad, which was published around the time I was born, Rolex talks about how famous people you see everyday wear Rolex, and suggest that next time you see them, you should look to see if they are wearing a Rolex. Why is this ironic? Because I have been doing this now for almost 5 years straight, on Jake's Rolex World, and that is really one of the main signature features of Jake's Rolex World Blog, is that I find and showcase photos of famous, successful people wearing their Rolex watches ;-)
Another Red Phone
Speaking of Rolex ads with men wearing a Rolex Day-Date with a Red telephone in their office, if you scroll down the page to the Mark McCormack Rolex ad from 1986, you will notice he also has a Red phone, except his is push button instead of a dial phone like the one in the picture below.
A supreme irony is that if Rolex made this ad today the man in the ad would have an iPhone 4s in his hand. Part of the irony in this is that in the last 45 years since this ad was published, telephone technology has changed radically, and Rolex still makes this exact same model, and it looks identical–talk about timeless design!!!
The 1966 Rolex Day-Date ad above has a headline that reads "The presidents' watch." In 1965, just after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson had a gaul-bladder operation, he emerged and showed the press his scars, and there he was wearing his now trademark yellow gold Rolex Day-Date and he wore it very proudly.
Lyndon Johnson was the second U.S. President to wear a modern Rolex, and the first to wear a Day-Date, with a Rolex "President" bracelet.
1984 Rolex President Ad
Rolex Coolness: Mark McCormack
Another Rolex Myth Busted And Mystery Solved!!!
This is the quintessential 1980s Rolex ad. In 1986 Ronald Reaganwas the President of the United States and Rolex was reaching new heights in status and popularity.
This cool vintage Rolex ad has a very interesting detail. One of the unanswered Rolex folklore questions (until today) always was:
Where did the term The Rolex President come from?
It has always been put forth that Rolex began referring to the bracelet on the Rolex Day-Date, as "The President" bracelet (around 1966) but never referred to the the actual Day-Date as The Rolex President. It was believed that people just started refering to the Rolex Day-Date as The President, but that Rolex never specifically referred to it as such.
It turns out that was a false myth and for the first time, as early as 1984 we have direct evidence of Rolex specifically referring to a watch model named:
"The Rolex President Day-Date Chronometer. Available in 18kt. gold, with matching bracelet."
This ad was very popular in the 1980s and I believe it clearly proves it was indeed Rolex that specifically coined the term: The Rolex President.
Wow!!!!! Rolex appears to have briefly referred to the watch as The Rolex President, then they stopped, and went back to calling it just The Day-Date, but the term "The Rolex President" stuck, and once the cat was out of the bag, that was it!!!!! Another fascinating Rolex mystery solved!!!!!!
Peter Benchley's 1975 Jaws movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and it was a mega-hit. Jaws prompted a slew of underwater/aquatic adventure movies and TV shows. This include movies like The DEEP, and TV shows like The Man From Atlantis.
Nick Nolte wore a Stainless Steel Rolex Submariner as he costarred with Jacqueline Bisset from the movie "The Deep" from 1977, as seen below. I remember tripping on The DEEP when I was a kid. It was a great diving movie.
I took this photo of my favorite Rolex, which is an original LV Submariner, while sailing around Waikiki Beach on Oahu Island in Hawaii as the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean. I remember when I took this photo, thinking it was really cool how the green on the LV bezel looked similar to the glass buildings in the background.
The 7 Up Submariner
For some reason, I was just talking with my girlfriend on the phone, and I said "Tell me about your childhood?" She asked me what I was talking about? I mentioned I was imitating the 7up commercial dude from the 1970s. Of course that made visit YouTube to find the commercial, and for those of you old enough to remember Geoffrey Holder who was the face of 7up in the 70s and 80s, all I have to say is "7up is the Uncola!!!! Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.!!!!"
BTW Geoffrey Holder played Baron Samedi, the voodoo guru in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die, with Roger Moore playing 007.
Come to think of it, Geoffrey Holder kind of laughs like the Count from Sesame Street!?!? I Googled "Tell me about your childhood" and realized in was also in the opening line to the song "Hyperactive" by Thomas Dolby.
Rolex is one of the most recognizable brands on earth, but very little has been known about its real history. If you really, really want to understand what makes Rolex tick, I very highly recommend you read the fascinating story of Rolex's amazing founder–Hans Wilsdorf.
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