Rolex Triple Calendar Moonphase 8171 'Padellone'

Museum Piece
The Padellone—Italian for large frying pan—is one of the most -and few- complicated watches Rolex has ever cooked up.
The Padellone—Italian for large frying pan—is one of the most -and few- complicated watches Rolex has ever cooked up.

Produced for just a short period of time in the early 1950s, it is simultaneously one of the most curious and most mythical pieces ever made by Rolex. By the 1950s, Rolex was increasingly known for producing tough, no-nonsense watches with its iconic waterproof Oyster case. The 8171, however, not only featured a dressy non-Oyster (and thus non-waterproof) case, but an uncharacteristically large one at that. Sized at a healthy 38 mm, it was much larger than the average dress watch from that era, with Italian collectors later lovingly dubbing it Padellone, which means large frying pan in Italian. The 8171 was only produced in small numbers for a handful of years, from 1949 until around 1952, making it an extremely rare and desirable piece.

Aside from its oversized appearance, the Padellone stood out for its complications as well. In fact, with its triple calendar and moonphase functionality, the Padellone (together with its smaller Oyster cased sibling, the ref. 6062) are the most complicated watches ever fully produced in-house (Aegler) by Rolex. In comparison, the more complicated Rolex Datocompax ‘Jean Claude Killy’ from the same era—a watch with a chronograph function in addition to the full calendar and moonphase—was powered by the Valjoux caliber 72C movement.

The Padellone features an exceptionally pleasing design, consisting of a rather large round case with strong lugs and sharp polished bezel, here executed in stainless steel. Meanwhile, the dial is beautifully proportioned, aided in part by the rather large size. The bright blue pointer date scale on the rim of the dial is given ample space, while the day and month apertures are harmoniously placed opposite to the moon phase, with the Rolex signature cleverly placed between the two. Finally, the arrowhead and pyramid-shaped hour markers together with the leaf-shaped handset infuse the watch with a quintessential mid-century quality.

This historically important 8171 dates back to 1951 and is in excellent condition with a grainy ivory dial that has patinated to a pleasing grayish color. The case features thick lugs and sharp lines, indicating that it was sparsely polished in the past and comes on a period-correct stainless steel straight-end beaded Gay Frères bracelet.