The photos are gorgeous, as are the watches, but White’s emphasis is on practical, attainable Rolexes a collector might encounter in the wild, rather than the highest-end luxury items. The backbone of this edition remains his manual, first published in 2019: a helpful and inviting survey of what a potential collector would want to understand before purchasing a pre-owned or vintage Rolex. White takes readers “beneath the lugs,” exposing the period-correct guts of generations of Rolexes, including their winding screws, to a dozen types of hands, and the mechanisms at their ticking hearts (called “movements”). Those particulars are supplemented with a history of the brand and illuminating explanations of unique Rolex terms (“Oyster Perpetual Submariner” is just the start of it).
White’s a welcoming writer, eschewing the “jargon-soup” that he attributes to his hobby’s “insiders.” He addresses common misconceptions and encourages potential collectors to buy watches they’ll love and actually wear, rather than getting too hung up on acquiring a piece of the highest period correctness. White exhaustively catalogs all the information publicly available on more than 1,400 official manufacturing runs of Rolex watches. Even established collectors will find this a valuable resource.
Takeaway: This field manual gives an illuminating introduction into the world of Rolex collecting.
Great for fans of: Benjamin Clymer’s Watches: A Guide by Hodinkee, Gene Stone and Stephen Pulvirent’s The Watch, Thoroughly Revised.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
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Book Review: The Vintage Rolex Field Manual
Do I recommend the book?
Absolutely! It’s a must-read for fans of vintage Rolex watches and vintage watches in general. It’s fascinating, but it’s also immediately useful, and it can save you a lot of money and headaches.
This book will also make you appreciate Rolex for its legacy and for what it has done for the watchmaking world in general. So, even if you’re not interested in buying a vintage Rolex watch (for now), it’s still an entertaining read.
Add This Vintage Rolex Book To Your Library Right Now
The Vintage Rolex Field Manual: Chevalier Edition is required reading for any serious Rolex enthusiast.
Rolex in Aviation and Space
On top of that, VRFM provides historical context for it all. In addition to providing a historical overview of the brand, there are chapters on Rolex’s place in aviation and the military; a thorough survey of Rolex calibers; and much more.
The book also gave me a newfound appreciation for Rolex’s role in some of the most important human achievements of the 20th century. Not least of which is its role (I know, I know, Speedmaster stans) in aviation and spaceflight.
A book like this is an essential overview and probably enough to get by in terms of buying either a relatively recent or a less valuable reference from a trusted source. However, more than a book will be needed if you plan to buy the more coveted and thus more often altered models. Overall I enjoyed the book and applaud the author for his ambition and for making progress in demystifying vintage Rolex watches.