What is better than a vintage Rolex? A vintage Rolex with a story! To tell the story of this Ref. 1802 Day-Date, we have to travel to Oman. Specifically, the quickly reforming Oman of the 1970s. Let’s dive in!

By Thomas van Straaten on 6 November 2020

Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said

This is not a name that will ring a bell with the masses. Still, the Sultan is one of the longer-lasting leaders of the middle east, with a reign of over 50 years before his passing in early 2020.

The Sultan played a crucial role in the resurrection of Oman. The country was poor and under-developed when he took the reign. He used the rich natural oil supply of the country to build a much more modern society and a booming economy. It is a double-edged sword though, as Oman remained one of the last bastions of slavery even under all this reform.

Qaboos is also remembered as a key player in international relations. A silent type of diplomat that played a crucial role in balancing conflicts between the USA and Iran and even between Israel and the middle east. In that sense, he had major positive and peace-keeping influence in the region.

He did all of this while keeping an iron grip on his country. He was the absolute monarch for half a century. He kept busy too. He appointed himself prime minister, defence minister, finance minister, foreign minister and chief commander of the armed forces.

Source: www.rnz.co.nz
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said (1987) Photo: AFP or licensors

Double signed Rolex

Back to watches then. As any seasoned aficionado will know, there is a big demand for double signed Rolex watches. Whether it is a dealer stamp (Tiffany & Co, Beyer, etc), an organization’s stamp (for instance Comex) or the sign of a Sultanate, a double signing adds depth to a watch.

There has always been some status connected to double signing. To get Rolex to (allow you to) stamp your name on a dial, you need serious connections, a serious reputation, serious cash or, more likely: all three.

The resulting double signed watches are rare, sought-after, often faked and a collectable category all of their own. The signature often adds a twist to an already interesting story.

Khanjar & Qaboos Rolex

Now back to Qaboos. The Sultan was not only a monarch and diplomat but also a big fan of horology. With an impressive collection of his own, he started using watches in his diplomatic efforts. He ordered batches of Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe watches with the Omani Royal Crest, or “Khanjar” printed on the dial.

The Khanjar is a crest consisting of two crossed swords with a dagger on top. Our particular watch is executed with a “Qaboos” dial instead of this crest. The Sultan’s name is printed in Arabic above the standard “Superlative chronometer” certification at six o’clock. This is likely a rarer execution.

"The Sultan’s name is printed in Arabic above the standard “Superlative chronometer” certification at six o’clock. This is likely a rarer execution."

The Sultan made it a habit to give these watches to people who have been of value to the Sultanate. There are different versions of the story with regards to who would be eligible and why, but Qaboos certainly used them in his political efforts.

One particular story that speaks to the imagination is that of an English pilot who flew the Sultan from Muscat to Rome. Upon landing, he was presented a Rolex Daytona with green Khanjar dial for his service. After importing it for ten pounds in customs duties, he kept the watch for a couple of decades. When it finally hit auction in 2017, it fetched over 650.000,- euros.

It is unknown how many “Khanjar” and “Qaboos” watches were made. It is generally accepted that there were a lot more of some models than of others, and of course, some references are rarer and more desirable regardless of double signatures, explaining the large price differences between specific references at auction.

The Ref. 1802 “Qaboos”

On offer here is a ca. 1974 reference 1802 in 18k yellow gold. The Ref. 1802 is already a rare variation in itself, with its smooth bezel. To find it on a riveted gold oyster bracelet and with ivory-coloured “Qaboos” dial makes it an extreme rarity.

Many of the “Oman specials” were ordered through London dealers Asprey. You will often find an Asprey signature on the case back. Our example, however, reads KR for “Khimji Ramdas”. KR is one of Oman’s leading business conglomerates with activities in dozens of sectors. They also represent Rolex in Oman, explaining the signature on this watch.

Both the day and date wheel are executed in the same Arabic as the “Qaboos” signature, resulting in a coherent and balanced aesthetic.

This is an extremely rare and collectable Rolex. You will not run into a second one any time soon!