I was interested to read about how Rolex offered to replace confiscated watches for British Royal Air Force pilots during World War II, when the pilots themselves were taken as prisoners of war, on the understanding that payment would only be expected after the war. In fact, Corporal Clive Nutting needed the functionality provided by the Oyster chronograph so that he could time his team’s escape from prison. Letters of Note has the transcript of a letter from the founder of Rolex, Hans Wildorf, to Corporal Nutting.
It’s amazing that even in the 1940’s, true brands knew what the right thing to do was. One of the thoughts that came to my mind was that Rolex could have given the watches free but I immediately knew that was a dumb thought because a) as you’ll see from the letter, the company had a large order for watches from officers during the war and b) if the price of a vintage Oyster chronograph is currently $30,000 on eBay, surely it would have been worth a lot even in those days, and the company obviously had to consider its viability. I doubt I’ll hear similar stories today from a luxury watch brand – what do you think?