The present example of Rolex's legendary reference 4113 is of exceptional quality and condition, boasting a possibly never refinished case and the all original dial. Acquired by the present owner at Christie's New York in 1996, where it was the object of desire of many international bidders and eventually sold for over 4 times the presale estimate, it has been looked after since then with enormous respect and has hardly ever been worn. Consequently, it presents itself some nearly 20 years later in the same original and appealing condition. The case, throughout satin-finished with the exception of the bezel and straight, raised detail of the lugs, is crisp and does not show any corrosion. The dial reveals a lovely, gentle champagne tone patina and only very few surface marks. The movement is remarkably crisp and performs all chronograph functions smoothly.
The appearance of such an overall original example of the most important and desirable chronograph model ever made by Rolex is an extremely rare event that any avid Rolex collector should be aware of.
For collectors of Rolex chronographs, the Daytona is the perfect synonym of this category. The pinnacle of stardom however is the famous "Paul Newman", a watch that many have declared their ultimate aspiration.
If one were to remain in this concept then the split seconds reference 4113 must be beyond reach and be situated at divine heights, so rare and exclusive, that many experienced collectors not only have never been offered one but have actually not even seen one outside literature. In fact, it is thanks to a very small number of scholars who have helped during the last twenty years to understand this watch, its history and rarity, and published those examples which are known to have survived.
Recent research reveals and confirms that indeed only twelve examples of this outstanding chronograph were ever made by Rolex. All cased in steel and finished in 1942, they carry individual case numbers ranging from 051313 to 051324. Thanks to noteworthy publications and detailed descriptions it became easier to spot differences in dial design but also to identify individual watches given their published case numbers.
Numerous conversations with collectors and scholars lead to the compilation of the enclosed table, establishing that eight of the twelve references 4113 are known to have survived, their public appearances at auction, where possible their current location and, if applicable, their mention in literature.
This listing impressively shows that this model is held in the highest esteem by its long-term owners but also how rarely it appears at public auction. In fact, in over thirty years of auction, only five of the eight known examples have been available to the public and have always attracted enthusiastic responses. As a matter of fact, the current all-time world record for any Rolex watch ever sold at auction stands at over 1 million Swiss Francs - achieved only once in auction history by a reference 4113 split-seconds chronograph (Christie's Geneva - Important Watches including a Connoisseur's Vision Part IV, Monday, 16. May 2011, lot 129).
Besides its rarity, Rolex's one and only ever produced split-seconds chronograph wristwatch is also impressing with its unique case shape and size. With a substantial diameter of 44 mm, reference 4113 surpasses all other Rolex chronographs by at least half a centimeter in size. Furthermore, its case design is unique in the family of Rolex chronographs with a bezel as thin as technically possible, allowing a dial size nearly as big as the entire case. The result is an impressive level of legibility which is, eventually, to the benefit of the user friendliness.
The history of reference 4113 has always been the subject of speculation and legends. In fact, since this model was never publicly available and never illustrated or mentioned in Rolex's advertisements from the period, all knowledge of its origins was based on hearsay and auction catalogue entries following the seller's descriptions. Interestingly, there is a clear pattern throughout all those examples known and they all lead to the world of car racing. The vast majority of reference 4113 which have returned to the market during the last thirty years was linked to Sicily, home of the famous "Giro Automobilistico di Sicilia", with its 11,000 bands at the time the longest closed circuit race in Europe.
As a matter of fact, much of the today available scholarship is thanks to Rolex chronograph 051313, sold at Christie's Geneva on 15 May 1991 (lot 348) which was then consigned by a family member of the renowned driver Stefano La Motta, Barone di Salinella (1920-1951). The auction catalogue of the time also showed La Motta wearing his beloved split seconds chronograph.
Besides the Sicilian connection it is only England where references 4113 resurfaced. In fact, the example offered at Christie's Geneva in 2011, no. 051318, was first auctioned at Christie's London (2 October 1991, lot 361) when the seller was the widow of a gentleman working for a racing team. Interestingly, Rolex was closely associated to motor sports already as early as the 1930s and most notably sponsoring Sir Malcolm Campbell, who, with a Rolex on his wrist, set the world land speed record and entered history by exceeding 484 kilometres or 300 miles per hour in his famous "Bluebird".
All research and conversations with family members of the original owners lead to the conclusion that these twelve watches were exclusive gifts to famous race drivers and team owners during the early 1940s. This fact further enhances the exclusivity and myth surrounding this ultimate model.
Without exaggeration, reference 4113 is broadly accepted to be the most desirable and by far most valuable model in the universe of Rolex watches. Any serious collector cannot help but desiring one and those happy few who can call one their own will likely part with most of their collection before considering the sale of their trophy, the legendary reference 4113.
Examples of reference 4113 are prominently described and illustrated in I Cronografi Rolex - La Leggenda, Pucci Papaleo Editore, pp. 144 & 145, in 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pp. 62 & 63, in Rolex Collecting Wristwatches, Mondani Editore, pp. 416 & 417, and in Chronograph Wristwatches to Stop Time by Gerd-R. Lang and Reinhard Meis, p. 174, pl. 323.