As World War II took hold, Rolex benefited from its growing reputation and unofficially became the brand of choice amongst British Royal Air Force pilots. Of course as captured pilots became prisoners their watches were confiscated, and when he caught wind of the situation the company’s founder – Hans Wilsdorf – offered to replace them, on the understanding that payment would be provided after the war. Below is a fascinating note sent to prisoner of war Corporal Clive Nutting, by Wilsdorf himself, acknowledging receipt of such an order.
Even more fascinating is the following: Nutting was a prisoner at Stalag Luft III, the camp from which 76 men (Nutting not included) famously attempted to flee just a year later, and he apparently needed the Oyster chronograph in order to time certain aspects of his comrades’ escape. In the early 1960s Nutting also worked as a consultant on The Great Escape, a movie based on the attempt.
Transcript follows. Many thanks to Maxwell for the tip.
MONTRES ROLEX S. A.
18, RUE DU MARCHÉ
TÉLÉGR.:ROLEX GENÈVE – TÉLÉPH. 5 03 36
Rappeler réf. HW/MC
GENÈVE, le 30th of March 1943
Cpl. C.J. Nutting
Stalag Luft 3
We beg to acknowledge receipt of your order dated 10th March 43, and in accordance with your instructions we will supply you with 1 Chronograph Oyster No 122. This watch costs to-day in Switzerland Frs. 250,- but you must not even think of settlement during the war.
As we have now a large number of orders in hand for officers, there will be some unavoidable delay in the execution of your order, but we will do the best we can for you.
Meanwhile, believe us to be
Montres ROLEX S. A.