A Heineken Rolex by Serpico y Laino
The watches we buy for our inventory, we buy regularly from the first owner. Someone who decided to sell the watch or trade it in for another watch. There are obviously different reasons to sell a watch, but we love to hear the story of the owner of the watch, their inheritance, especially when it is the first owner. Maybe he or she got the watch as a gift; maybe the owner inherited the watch from his grandfather. Maybe the watch was given as a gift for working many years for a company. Sometimes the watch was bought from a first salary. These all are beautiful, interesting and sometimes emotional stories.
It’s not that common that a watch becomes more valuable just because of the history of the watch or who the previous owner was. This story is about a great watch with a great history, we would like to share with you.
In the year 2007, we took a first look at the watch together with the owner. The owner got the watch from his father who passed away in 1996. The watch was put in a drawer, resurfaced a couple of times and was put away again because it didn’t run properly. In the year 2007, the owner decided to service the watch and he visited Amsterdam Watch Company to have the service done. This is how the story begins…
The first look at the watch
Looking at the watch, there were some significant features. The watch case is made of 18k rose gold. Nice. The shape of the Oyster case is somewhat different. The shape is called ‘Bombay’ because of the elegant shape of the lugs. A graceful feature of the rugged Oyster case. These so-called Bombay cases are mostly made from 14k yellow gold. 18k gold is, therefore, more popular with watch collectors and especially rose gold is rarer and therefore more desirable. This type of case in rose gold is rare but can be found if you look for it in the right channels.
What makes this watch more unique is the dial and especially the structure of the dial. This type of dial is called ‘Honey comb’ and is used in early models of Rolex but for a short period. And now for the ‘Wow factor’: on the dial is printed ‘Serpico y Laino’ and this is very cool. We explain the meaning of ‘Serpico y Laino’ further on.
When we turned over the watch, there was an engraving on the back. It was engraved quite well; at least it was done with a steady hand. Normally an engraving devalues the watch. Engravings are often personally and without any meaning for the new owner. But if the engraving matches a historically relevant person or event, it actually can increase the value of the watch, despite it being engraved. So, what about the engraving on this Rolex Bombay watch? The engraving clearly showed the letters ‘G. G.‘ and ‘Gervegeria Heineken 1954’. Our eyebrows rose to the maximum and we looked for answers with the owner of the watch.
It actually turned out to be that this particularly Rolex was a departing gift for his father from Heineken when he founded the Heineken Brewery in Caracas Venezuela. The owner was responsible for the overseas Heineken department and his family traveled with him in 1951. After three years, so in 1954, he got this beautiful watch as a gift for a job well done. For the remaining of his active career, he worked for Heineken in Amsterdam.
Serpico y Laino
It’s quite rare but no exception that the name of the jeweler retailing the watch was printed on the dial. Especially the more renowned jewelers who made large orders were able to print their name on the dial. Some well-known examples are Türler, Gübelin, Tiffany, and Cartier.
In the early years, it was less important which watch you bought: it was more important or relevant where you bought the watch. It was an early marketing tool because many generations of certain, probably rich, families bought their jewelry at the same jeweler. Beautiful jewelry which was shown at events, parties and became ‘talk of the town’. The brand, therefore, was less relevant and exposure of where the jewelry was bought, that’s was important back in the days.
In the early sixties when the world was more accessible by planes, trains, and automobiles, you could buy luxury products ‘all over the world’ and brands became more important because they would market their product worldwide. So, therefore, it became more important which brand you wore instead of the jeweler where it was bought.
A watch with ‘Serpico y Laino’ on the dial made it a watch which was bought at a renowned jeweler. A jewelry with a beautiful but sad story…
Vicente Laino was a young goldsmith who immigrated to Venezuela like many Italians back in the days. When Vicente arrived in Venezuela he had nothing. He met a compatriot who became his closest friend, his name was Leopoldo Serpico. There were many fellow Italians in Caracas and the friendship of these two Italians marked the beginning of one of the biggest Jewelry stores at the beginning of the century.
Vicente had no money but Leopoldo recognized his great intellectual and business skills and proposed to him starting a Jewelry store ‘Joyeria Serpico’. This is the first time in history were the name ‘Serpico y Laino’ surfaced. To increase revenues Vicente proposed to go to Europe and find a watch brand which was not already for sale in Venezuela. This time he returned to Europe with a different mindset: as a businessman or entrepreneur. He went to Switzerland and picked the brand Rolex. He spoke and negotiated with Rolex Director Hans Wilsdorf to acquire the rights to sell Rolex watches in their store ‘Serpico y Laino’ in Caracas.
Back in Venezuela he met the sister of Leopoldo and fell in love with her. During the preparations of their marriage, he received a letter from the Italian government to come back to Italy to participate in World War II. With great sorrow he left his wife to be and his beloved city. One year before the end of World War II his best friend Leopoldo Serpico died. Vicente felt the burden to continue the business on his own and with his last money he made a trip through Europe and back to Venezuela with lots of merchandise to sell in his Jewelry store. A few years after his return to Venezuela his wife became very ill and she passed away leaving him behind with two kids. Due to his pain and sorrow he devoted his whole live to his business which sold many important brands and became one of the biggest and most important Jewelry stores of Venezuela. In the year 1959 Vicente Laino died and thus the heart of Serpico y Laino. Venezuela became more and more violent and in 1966 the store closed its doors because of a planned bomb attack. The family decided to return to Italy and continue the name ‘Serpico y Laino’. Unfortunately luck turned against them and the once so powerful and renowned Jewelry store ‘Serpico y Laino’ came to an end.
The brand Heineken is unmistakably connected to Amsterdam. For more than 150 years The Heineken Brewery made Amsterdam important. Next to the former brewery at the Stadhouderskade (a Museum nowadays), Heineken invested in many local bars and their brand logo is to be seen on many buildings. The Heritage of Heineken is great.
On the 15th of February 1864, Gerard Heineken bought the local brewery ‘De Hooiberg’ for the staggering amount of 48.000,- Dutch Guilders. Because of filling up the ‘Nieuwezijdse Voorburgwal’ Heineken removed his brewery near to the ‘Singelgracht’ so that the distribution of supplies and raw materials became no problem. Exactly 100 years after Gerard Heineken acquired brewery ‘De Hooiberg’, the 23rd of January, his grandson Alfred ‘Freddy’ Heineken became a board member.
Already in 1927 Heineken purchased the first brewery abroad, Brasserie Leopold in Brussels. Many followed. The South American market became important for Heineken. In 1952 Brewery ‘La Criolla’ in Venezuela was ready and they began with the production and sale of Heineken Beer. The most important activities of Heineken abroad were in Singapore, Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Venezuela, Belgium, and Belgium-Congo. ‘Brasserie Leopold’ In Brussels was sold in 1963 and the Venezuela Brewery didn’t make money and was sold too.
Back to the watch
You probably understand that we were eager to acquire this watch as an addition to our collection. After servicing the watch the automatic winding didn’t work properly and the construction of the hands was very weak. We advised not to use the watch as a proper timing instrument but as a heritage instrument. Although the watch was worn on a daily basis, the watch was put back in a drawer never to be worn again until… In 2012 we saw the watch again and we were able to buy the watch. After the sale was done, the previous owner wrote down the complete history of the Rolex watch, which was added to the watch. Even the original box in which the watch was sold in the fifties was retrieved: a small box with the brand name Rolex and … Yes …‘Serpico y Laino.