History of the Rolex 3525 "Monoblocco", the Great Escape watch stolen by the Nazis

picture camp

In 1944, the men of the Royal Air Force were imprisoned in the Stalag Luft III camp in Poland. An escape is planned by Lieutenant Gerald Imeson and his men for March 24-25, using tunnels over 100 meters long dug into the ground.

book sign

Out of 250 prisoners, 76 will succeed, 50 will be executed by the Germans, and the others will be released in 1945. This story, told by Paul Brickhill in his book "The Great Escape" inspires the very famous eponymous film by John Sturges with Steve McQueen

The great escape book
The great escape film

Jack Williams, one of the men of Imeson's regiment, also had a Rolex 3525, serial number 186045.

Rolex 3525
Backcase 3525

Caught by the Gestapo during the escape, he will be shot with 50 other prisoners on Hitler's orders. But the day before his escape, he entrusted his watch to a comrade who remained in the camp to bring it back to his family in case of misfortune.

Group Photo

Brought back to its parents at the end of the war, the watch will be restored at Rolex and sold for £165,000 at auction on December 12, 2015 with all the official documents as well as personal belongings that belonged to the war hero.

3525 on a map
Soldier medals

Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex, knew that the Nazis confiscated watches from prisoners. To allow the men to replace them, he sent new watches hidden in Red Cross parcels, with the possibility of paying later at the end of the war.

red cross certificate

Lieutenant Imeson had also managed to order the famous watch from Rolex while being a prisoner. It bore the serial number 186052, produced after that of Williams.

This watch was used as a tool to plan the famous escape by timing the travel time of the guards, the time it would take them to go from the dug hole to the forest, as well as the route inside the tunnel.

Gerald Imeson was to be the 172nd prisoner to escape but he never made it to the tunnel as the German soldiers realized the escape plan. He was not killed. Released in 1945 with other prisoners, he kept the watch until his death.

Geralt Imeson

Now brought to Christie's auction for the June 9 sale, Gerald Imeson's watch has been preserved in remarkable condition and is still running. It is sold with the lieutenant's personal effects, total estimate $200,000



Second Vintage

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