SOLD – 1954 Rolex Turnograph Ref. 6202 With “Tropical” Dial


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This beautiful example is found with its original gloss black gilt “tropical” dial that changes colour in different lights to show a strong brown colour. Thanks to the mesmerising and dynamic nature of this dial, it must be said this is easily one of the best tropical dials we have come across as it still maintains the glossy finish to the dial that many tropical dials lose. The dial features the original radium luminous appealing to the most obsessive of collectors & connoisseurs. The originality of luminous has becoming increasingly important to collectors in recent years with these radium dials becoming a rarity now, as many were recalled and replaced by Rolex for tritium service dials. An indication that the luminous is infact original without the use of a Geiger counter, is when the colour of the 6 o’clock marker is mismatched compared to the rest of the luminous. This was possibly done for orientation purposes but is unknown as to exactly why. Featuring its original Mercedes hands and much admired red triangle bezel, it is powered by its original “semi bubbleback’ automatic movement. This example comes fitted to a Rolex Oyster riveted bracelet from a slightly later period.
The case with serial number 95X,XXX corresponds to the case back date I.54 (first quarter of 1954). The 36mm diameter is something that has held this model back in terms of collectibility and demand relative to the other Rolex sports models from the period, but this refined case size is now something collectors are starting to appreciate. Overall this is a great example with one of the best remaining original dials to exist.










The Rolex Turn-O-Graph

Initially launched in 1953, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph’s release sparked an exciting turning point in their horological industry. Considered Rolex’s first serially produced tool watch, the Turn-O-Graph ref. 6202 was iconic for its eponymous feature; its bidirectional rotatable bezel. Armed with such a useful function, the Turn-O-Graph was designed to measure and record time. As such, the Turn-O-Graph was chosen by an elite aerobatic squadron of United States pilots called the Thunderbirds to aid in their pilots’ navigational calculations. Recognizing the opportunity, Rolex marketed the Turn-O-Graph as the “Thunderbird” in the North American market, which helped it achieve widespread popularity and acclaim.

An influential moment in Rolex’s history, the Turn-O-Graph’s rotating bezel would soon become the foundation for their key sports watches, including the Submariner, GMT Master and later the Sea-Dweller and modern models like the Yachtmaster I & II, Sky-Dweller, with it even featuring on some variants of the Milgauss. It is also important to note that the Turn-O-Graph prospered during the 1950s, the decade in which most of Rolex’s iconic lineup of modern tool watches were born. Released in the same year as the Explorer, Submariner, one year before the GMT-Master and produced alongside their earlier ‘Pre-Daytona’ chronographs, the Turn-O-Graph ref. 6202 was a popular and beloved model that challenged all of Rolex’s other models for brand-wide importance.

Not only was the Turn-O-Graph amongst Rolex’s bestsellers, all of these years later the Turn-O-Graph is still considered a true icon in the world of fine watches with a genuine cult following. In particular, the ref. 6202, like the example we have here, is particularly sought after thanks to its age, iconic status and short production run. Adding to its desirability, the example we have here also features an illustrious tropical dial.

Tropical Dials and Radium

Easily regarded as one of the most sought after dial types in the world of watch collecting, a Tropical dial will only occur under the correct mixture of conditions. These conditions essentially boil down to the intensity of the light, the humidity, and the heat of the environment, all conditions found in tropical climates. Our example here, as it once featured a black dial, has the classic brown-coloured tropical dial.

As stated, this is an infrequent occurrence that can only occur in certain conditions with specific dials. Two seemingly identical watches that have been kept in identical conditions their whole lives might not both develop tropical dials. It might only happen to one of the pieces in the pair due to manufacturing differences in the paint used on the dials. As Rolex once outsourced their dial manufacturing, different dials would come from different manufacturers who would use different painting techniques and use slightly different paint mixes.

Furthermore, Rolex also used radium paint as the luminous material to supply the dial with its glow-in-the-dark properties. Used until around 1963, these radium dials have become sought after thanks to their infamy amongst watch collecting communities. Radioactive in nature, radium paint was banned when the US Atomic Energy Commission highlighted the danger of working with the paint. Existing in trace amounts, the radium in the watch is safe for those wearing radium-painted timepieces like the example we have here. Still, those working in the factories where the paint was used were subject to thousands of radioactive dials at once, which they painted by hand, resulting in their global ban.