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Look watch we found: Rolex Bombay Ref 5018

by Philip Kaspar
9 July, 2013
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About the author

Philip is widely travelled and has worked as a freelance journalist covering several topics including fashion, travel and watches. He also spent five years in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry in La Chaux de Fonds. Philip reports on all the latest watch news and is our WatchCrime reporter.

Rolex Bombay Ref 5018

Sometimes the names given for Rolex watches are every bit as fascinating as the watches themselves.

Catalogue clipping from 1940

At the end of the 1940 Rolex introduced a new model with an unmistakable design, characterised by its helicoid handles and rounded outline. The Rolex Bombay was merely defined as an Oyster Perpetual in the Rolex catalogue of that period and it was available in two versions, both featuring a calibre 9 ¾, ref. 5016, with auxiliary seconds at 6 o’clock and ref. 5018, with seconds in the middle. It was produced in gold 14 kt and 18 kt, yellow and pink, but there were also some rare models in steel.

Rolex Bombay Ref 5018 first series

These models are known by collectors and fans all over the world as Rolex Bombay, even though this definition was never employed by Rolex in any official publication.

The origin of this name is down to the use of the term ‘bombè’ which is used to identify the rounded outline of the handles, this became familiarised to ‘Bombay’ and has remained part of the Rolex collector’s vocabulary ever since.

In 1950 Rolex Bombay was fitted with the new calibre A260 and at the same time the version with small seconds at 6 o’clock went out of production.

 

Then these two models joined together to form one model which became known as  ref. 6090 and it was endowed with seconds in the middle.

In 1955 the new ref. 6590 was introduced differing from the previous model due to the usage of movement cal. 1030 Rolex Bombay 1011 and the new Tropic glass 12. For the first time a new model endowed with pebble bezel was introduced identified by ref. 6593.  The last change was in 1959 when the movement 1030 was substituted by cal. 1560.
As a consequence the references changed once again: 1010 for the model with the smooth bezel and 1011 for the version with the pebble ferrule. Moreover, the glass also changed with a sober design, simple sticker handles, stick shaped, thereby losing the typical style of the 1950s.

In the following years there were no relevant changes, apart from the introduction of cal. 1570 in to replace the previous cal. 1560 in 1965. Bombay was available with this shape until the 1970s when Rolex removed it from the catalogue.

Ref 5018 in 18kt gold

It’s details such as these that can make identifying a second hand Rolex something of a minefield. There are many variations, and in this particular case, the earlier stainless steel version is rarer than the 14 and 18kt gold versions. And no version ever had anything to do with formerly named Bombay, now known as Mumbai.

The watch itself would be small by today’s standards, coming in at 34mm. Even an average man’s watch these days is 38m to 40mm and some are considerably larger. There are still several Rolex Bombay Ref 5018’s available online, and with careful shopping you may be able to pick up a bargain.

Philip Kaspar | Website

Philip is widely travelled and has worked as a freelance journalist covering several topics including fashion, travel and watches. He also spent five years in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry in La Chaux de Fonds. Philip reports on all the latest watch news and is our WatchCrime reporter.

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