|Clive Nutting’s POW Stalag Luft III Watch”
Ref. 3525, Stainless Steel So-Called "Monoblocco” with Exceptional Original Documentation.
Rolex, “Oyster Chronograph, Antimagnetic”, Ref. 3525. Case No. 185983. Made in 1941, sold "gratis” on July 8,
1943 to Corporal Clive James Nutting whilst a prisoner of War in Stalag Luft III.
Very fine, one of very few remaining, water-resistant, stainless steel gentleman's wristwatch with black dial, round button
chronograph, register, tachometer, telemeter and a stainless steel Rolex Oyster buckle. Accompanied by the original numbered
receipt, numbered guarantee, Rolex envelope, three letters from the Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. signed by Hans Wilsdorf, and Corporal
Nutting's archives, correspondence, and photographs relating to his time at Stalag Luft III.
|C. Two-body, polished and brushed, screwed-down case back, concave lugs. D. Matte black with luminous gilt-edged Arabic numerals,
outer gilt minute/seconds track, subsidiary seconds and 30-minute register dials, outermost gilt tachometer and telemeter scales.
Luminous gilt "baton" hands. M. 13''', rhodium-plated, 17 jewels, straight line lever escapement, monometallic balance, selfcompensating
Breguet balance-spring, index regulator.
Dial, case and movement signed.
Diam. 35 mm. Thickness 14 mm.
Property of an Australian Gentleman
|Estimate: 130,000 CHF - 160,000 CHF
Estimate: 80,000 EUR - 100,000 EUR
Estimate: 105,000 USD - 130,000 USD
| Ref. 3525
was one of the first Oyster Chronograph references and was available in stainless steel as well as 18K pink and yellow gold. The condition of
the present watch and the rarity of the black dial make it one of the most desirable watches of this reference to appear at auction in the last
decade. When this watch first appeared In the early 1940s it cost 350 Swiss Francs in stainless steel, in 18K gold it cost 935 Swiss Francs.
Adding to the desirability of this particular watch is the almost unique survival of the original receipt bearing the reference and case number
of the watch and the original numbered guarantee with it's postally used Rolex envelope. Historically important correspondence from the
immediate post-war period between Clive James Nutting and Hans Wilsdorf himself is included with this lot and gives a fascinating insight
into the business methods of the Rolex Watch Company during the Second World War.
The documents included with this lot are:
- Original order acknowledgement from Rolex Geneva to Corporal Nutting in Stalag Luft III, dated March 30, 1943. Signed by Hans Wilsdorf.
- Original dispatch note from Rolex Geneva to Corporal Nutting in Stalag Luft III, dated July 10, 1943. Signed by Hans Wilsdorf.
- Original Rolex receipt bearing the watch reference and case numbers, dated July 8, 1943.
- Original Rolex guarantee and envelope bearing the watch case number, dated July 8, 1943.
- Letter from C.J. Nutting to Hans Wilsdorf requesting that the watch is serviced and offering to pay for the watch, dated August 11, 1945.
- Letter from Hans Wilsdorf to C.J. Nutting with instructions to return the watch for servicing and discussion of payment, dated August 20,
1945. Signed by Hans Wilsdorf.
- Letter from The Rolex Watch Co., Ltd informing C.J. Nutting that payment can now be accepted
at £15, 12s & 6d, dated March 23, 1948.
- Corporal Nutting's wartime log with original drawings and photographs made in Stalag
Luft III, official notices regarding his missing and prisoner status, newspaper cuttings,
letter from United Artists regarding the film "The Great Escape" and Wessex Film
Productions regarding the film "The Wooden Horse".
Rolex and Prisoners of War
Surviving documentation such as that included with the present lot shows that Rolex
(and perhaps other watch factories) were engaged in the regular supply of watches
to men incarcerated in Prisoner of War camps although this was probably limited
to just one or two "model" camps such as Stalag Luft III, which was
regarded as very civilised internment. How the prisoners chose their
watches is not known and the officers, presumably because of the cost,
were the main purchasers. The present watch was valued by Rolex at
250 Swiss Francs in 1943 although the purchasers were told that
they would not be expected to pay until after the war. The supply
of these watches to the prisoners was very enterprising of Rolex
although not without obvious financial risk, by doing this
they were helping the war effort and at the same time
knowing that the watches given to the prisoners were
very likely to be paid for after the war by those who
survived. This enterprise also gave Rolex another
opportunity for testing their products in extreme
conditions, this is evident because in surviving correspondence
Rolex always asks how the watch has
performed for the wearer.
Stalag Luft III
Perhaps the most famous of the Prisoner of War
Camps due to it being the scene of "the great
escape" of March 1944 and the subsequent making
of the 1962 film of the same name. Stalag Luft III
was located at Sagan, 100 miles southeast of Berlin
in what is now Poland, the camp was one of six operated
by the Luftwaffe for downed British and American
airmen. Compared to other POW camps, Stalag
Luft III was regarded as quite comfortable, although still
very unpleasant. The great escape itself caused a severe
reaction from the Germans and because of the diversion
of resources necessary to recapture to 76 men, it came to
the personal attention of Hitler who ordered that 50 of the
recaptured men be shot. After this, life became harder in
Clive James Nutting
A Corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, he was first thought
to be missing on June 16, 1940 and officially reported missing
on June 19, 1940. By July 3, 1940 there was still no news but
on July 20 a report came in from enemy sources to the effect
that Corporal Nutting was being held in Stalag Luft III, this was
confirmed on September 12, 1940. He had in fact been captured
on May 28, 1940. Corporal Nutting was to spend the rest
of the war in the camp and during his internment he worked as
a cobbler, he was finally released on May 28, 1945. In 1962,
United Artists - who were making the film of "The Great Escape"
contacted Mr. Nutting as a person who had been in Stalag Luft III
at the time of the escape and informed him of a planned reunion at
the film premiere of 1963.
The encirclement of Switzerland by Axis
powers from November 1942 meant
tough times for the country’s watch industry,
especially as it cut off its best customers, the
British and Americans.
But there were plenty of British and Americans
on Switzerland’s doorstep — literally a
captive market — in German prisoner-of-war
camps, not to mention the growing number of
escaped POWs finding refuge in Switzerland.
By early 1943, the POW
market was evidently
booming — at least for
Rolex, Geneva, when it
confirmed an order for one
of its more expensive
watches from prisoner No.
738 in Stalag Luft III,
In acknowledging the order
for one Chronograph Oyster
No. 122 from Corporal
Clive Nutting of the Royal
Corps of Signals, Hans
Wilsdorf, founding director
of Rolex, warned of “an
unavoidable delay in the
execution of your order.”
The delay was due, not to
wartime conditions or
restrictions, but to “a large
number of orders in hand
That large number of orders is explained by
the incredible offer Rolex was making to the
nearly 10,000 captured officers, mostly airmen,
in Stalag Luft III, and presumably to the
thousands more in other officer camps.
Underlined in Wilsdorf’s letter to Nutting are
the words “…but you must not even think of
settlement during the war.”
The “buy-now-pay-whenever” offer meant
that Wilsdorf, himself a German, was betting
his watches on an Allied victory.
By then the tide had turned;
the Russians were on the
offensive after Stalingrad,
and Italy was crumbling.
Yet this expression of trust
must have been a wonderful
boost to the morale of
the POWs. Besides being a
comfort in a POW camp,
watches were part of an
airman’s kit, and many had
lost theirs on capture or in
trying to avoid it.
Flatteringly, the offer was only open to British
officers, Wilsdorf believing their word to be
their bond. But he also extended it to Corporal
Nutting, who, though not an officer, was
gentleman enough to order a 250-franc chronograph.
The watch usually ordered by POWs
was the much cheaper Rolex Oyster Perpetual
model, popular among servicemen for its
The Rolex 3525 Oyster chronograph, ordered
on March 10, 1943, was eventually sent on
July 10 with a gratis invoice, and it was on
Nutting’s wrist by August 4. As a chronograph,
it could well have been useful in timing
the patrols of the goons (prison guards) or the
despatch of 76 escapers though tunnel
“Harry” in the Great Escape of March 24,
Nutting was among a few army personnel
quartered in the North camp of Stalag Luft III,
and as a valuable craftsman — he was a shoemaker
— held a privileged position in charge
of the camp’s leather workshop. He received
a wage from the Germans, sent remittances to
his family in England, and as an officer’s
promissory note testifies, had money to lend.
He could evidently afford a special watch.
The next we hear of the watch is on Nutting’s
return to his home in Acton, London, in
August 1945 when he writes to Wilsdorf that
although his watch served well in the cold
weather during the evacuation of the camps, it
was now gaining an hour a day. Where can he
have it fixed? And can he have the final
Due to British currency restrictions, Rolex
could only send Nutting the invoice of £15
12s 6d for his watch in 1948. The chronograph
stayed with him until his death in Australia
in 2001 at the age of 90.
The last record of Nutting’s POW watch is a
restorer’s bill for 2,356 Australian dollars
( 1,400), dated March 28, 2003 — exactly 63
years after its original owner became a prisoner
During his long captivity, Clive “Nobby”
Nutting kept a war log filled with drawings,
cartoons and photographs depicting life
in World War II’s most famous prisoner-ofwar
camp, Stalag Luft III — scene of the
He starts the book with a colored drawing by
an artillery officer that sums up his time in
action prior to his capture on March 28, 1940,
south of Dunkirk. It shows him clinging desperately
to a damaged telegraph pole, trying
to establish communications as bombs and
shells rain down on a battle-torn landscape.
Nutting had joined the Royal Corps of Signals
— the army’s communications engineers —
in 1935, as a part-time soldier in the reservist
By April 1940, Corporal Nutting was in
France with the 44th Territorial division, part
of the British Expeditionary Force guarding
the border with Belgium. On March 10, the
Germans attacked, splitting the French
armies, encircling the BEF, and forcing it in a
tighter pocket around Dunkirk — the only
port of evacuation.
On March 28, the Germans overwhelmed
Nutting’s position near Cassel, a strategic
communications center. That night, the remnants
of his 44th division managed to slip
away. Some were among the 340,000 British
and French troops evacuated from Dunkirk.
A series of official letters evokes the agony
that Clive Nutting’s parents must have felt
when they discovered their son hadn’t got
back from Dunkirk. First he’s posted missing,
and it’s not until September 12, 1940 that they
know he’s a prisoner-of-war.
We next see Nutting in a press photograph
published in an American men’s magazine.
He’s a haggard and exhausted prisoner on a
cold, hungry march through Belgium and
Germany to captivity. German soldiers hold
their rifles at the ready. A contemporary handwritten
account among his mementoes speaks
of potato fields being stripped bare as the prisoners
march over them, and of drinking milk
as fast as they can steal it from the cow.
From June to September 1940, Nutting is
incarcerated at Stalag VIIIB in Lamsdorf.
Then he’s moved to Stalag Luft I at Bart on
the Baltic, where he stays until 1942. He spent
from 1942 to 1945 at Stalag Luft III in Upper
Silesia, where he was the camp shoemaker. At
the end of January, he was evacuated ahead of
the advancing Russians across Germany to
Westertimke on the North Sea, and spent the
remaining few weeks of his captivity at the
Milag Nord camp for captured merchant seamen.
The drawings and watercolors of camp life are
typical of the British serviceman’s humor-inadversity.
We see Nutting distilling 100-
octane hooch from marmalade, or wondering
whether to make potato substitute from bread
or bread substitute from potatoes. One accomplished
artist contributed a cartoon of a young
man hurrying upstairs, a packet of ice-cream
in one hand and dragging a scantily clad lady
in the other, and urging: “Hurry darling! Before
it gets soft!” But there’s also a grimly detailed
pencil drawing of a camp watchtower, and
series of watercolors of the march out of Stalag
Luft III in midwinter 1945. First the POWs
struggle through snow dragging a sled.
Then the snow melts and they have to carry
their loads. A dramatic drawing records an
attack by a RAF Mosquito aircraft on February
Apart from the unpublished collection of
POW art, there are a number of photographs
with Nutting and his fellow POWs behind
barbed wire, standing next to their huts or at
work mending shoes.
Nutting was in a way better off than many
POWs. His job as cobbler kept him occupied.
In wartime, your boots are your best friends,
gold to the prisoners and their guards alike.
He was undoubtedly popular, judging from
the contributions to his scrapbook, and his
evident sense of humor — natural in a Londoner
— would have helped keep up the
Nutting came home in 1945, announcing his
return to Rolex in a letter dated August 11.
In the 1980s he retired to Australia, and died
in Queensland, aged 90 in 2001.
A TREASURE OF UNPUBLISHED POW MEMENTOES
THE GREAT ESCAPE - A game turned to tragedy
Of all Clive Nutting’s mementoes of prisoner-
of-war life, none is more poignant
than an illustrated poem depicting the tragic
escape from Stalag Luft III in March 1944.
The verse was penned by an Australian airman
when the camp learned that the Nazis had
murdered 50 of the escapers. Accompanied by
a detailed drawing of the tunnel beneath the
camp, it expresses the outrage and defiance of
“…Fifty fine fellows
With good stout intentions
Trusting no doubt in the Geneva Conventions
Reckoning not with he mind of the Hun
Fifty fine fellows — and now there are none.
“Will we forget — or pardon this? Might we?
I’ll wager a bet — ‘Not bloody likely!’”
What became known as the Great Escape was
an ambitious plot launched in early 1943 to
get up to 250 POWs out of Stalag Luft III
through tunnels beneath the wire. The mass
breakout was designed to tie up as much of the
German resources as possible in hunting the
Masterminded by Squadron Leader Roger
Bushell, a South African, it quickly grew to a
massive undertaking, employing more than
500 of the camp’s artisans in the production of
escape equipment — civilian clothes, German
uniforms, compasses, rations and hundreds of
forged documents and maps.
The escape organisation built, stole or
extorted tools, ventilation and lighting equipment
for the tunnel engineers. The operation,
under the noses of the Germans, required
elaborate security and a constant monitoring
of guards and patrols.
As a shoemaker with well-equipped workshops
at his disposal, a specialist in signals
and an experienced “Kriegie” (POW), Nutting
was part of the escape organisation from the
start, making civilian belts, shoes and briefcases
for the escapers.
Nutting had already been involved in the ingenious
“Wooden Horse” escape from Stalag
Luft III in the summer of 1943. The POWs
had started a tunnel from beneath a vaulting
horse built out of Red Cross cases. Every day
they carried the horse, with a man hidden
inside it to the same spot in the prison compound
as near to the wire as possible. While
the prisoners vaulted, the man inside dug the
tunnel. Nutting was one of the people who
dispersed the earth dug out of the tunnel by
dropping it out of bags inside his trousers. The
three escapers got home.
After the war, Nutting acted as consultant for
both the 1950 Wooden Horse movie and the
Great Escape of 1963.
The real Great Escape started with the launch
of three tunnels, “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry,”
each starting in a barrack hut, through the
concrete foundations of the stove or shower
because the huts themselves were elevated on
stilts. “Tom” was discovered, and “Dick,”
abandoned and used for hiding escape kits.
All energies were concentrated on “Harry,”
dug 10 meters deep to avoid German tunneling
detectors and more than 100 meters long
to come out in the pine forest beyond the wire.
The breakout through Harry was scheduled
for the no-moon night of March 24. It started
with the disappointment at seeing the tunnel
emerge well short of the pine forest in an open
snow-covered area patrolled by German sentries.
Having to wait for the sentries to pass, a
power blackout and tunnel collapses slowed
the throughput to barely a dozen men an hour
instead of the planned one a minute.
By dawn 76 POWs had got out. The next man
emerged from the tunnel under the feet of the
All but three were captured. Hitler was so
furious at the breakout that he ordered them
all shot. Eventually, Goering, head of the
Luftwaffe and responsible for the prisoners,
persuaded him to limit the number to more
than half. Thus 50 prisoners of war were
handed over to the Gestapo and killed.
For the British, this had started out as a game,
as the verse commemorating the tragedy
“Bloody fine fellows
To prove this was done
Set out for freedom,
And thought it was fun.”
That the Germans should not play the game
by the rules — in this case the Geneva Conventions
— was deeply shocking to the
British, who made great efforts to bring the
perpetrators to justice after the war.
The Luftwaffe, which had meticulously
respected the Conventions in the treatment of
their prisoners, was embarrassed, allowing the
POWs to build a memorial to their murdered
comrades.Nutting’s scrapbook contains a sensitively
drawn post-card of the fine memorial
to the 50 airmen, which still stands at the
camp site, now in Zagan, part of Poland.
|Important Collectors’ Wristwatches, Pocket Watches & Clocks