The Canadian Rolex: Eaton’s ¼ Century Club Watch

By: Dara Vandor

Lot 74 – Rolex ‘1/4 Century Club’ Oyster Perpetual Wristwatch circa 1965; reference #1011; serial #1301143; 33mm; 26 jewel cal.1520 automatic wind movement; the dial with “1/4 CENTURY CLUB” replacing the numerals, signed for Eaton; in a 14k yellow gold case 44.0 grams working; no strap; back with engraved presentation. Estimate $2,500-$3,500

Today, Rolex offers one catalogue for all of its clients around the world, apart from the use of local languages and numerals on specific models. But when Rolex was in its ascendancy, the company worked hard to bring its products to as wide an audience as possible, which meant collaborating with other brands to create crossover products, one of which was Eaton’s ¼ Century Club watch.

Founded in 1869, the T. Eaton Company, better known to Canadians as Eaton’s, was a chain of department stores that was once the largest in the country. Around 1930, Rolex and Eaton’s partnered to produce an exclusive watch for employees who had worked for the company for 25 years. The numbers on the face were replaced with “1/4 C E N T U R Y C L U B,” and any Rolex branding on the dial or case back was replaced with the name “Eaton.” It is only when the watch is opened that it becomes apparent that the watch is a Rolex.

While allowing a proprietary watch to be rebranded might seem strange for modern consumers, it was common around the 1930s for watch dials to advertise the jeweller’s name rather than the company which had made the watch. Unlike contemporary watches which arrive ready-made and sealed up, a century ago it was actually the jeweller who typically assembled the watch from parts. This practice is due in part to the higher taxation rates on completed watches, whereas parts could be imported and exported with relatively more ease.


While contemporary Rolex watches are made almost entirely from parts manufactured by Rolex itself, earlier iterations of the watch were assembled from various vendors – standard procedure for other companies as well. Both Rolex and Gruen, an American watch brand, liked to use parts from Aegler SA, a Swiss company. Rolex and Gruen came to an agreement that any Aegler movements that Rolex did not buy would be sold to Gruen. Gruen also made a deal with Rolex that no Aegler-based Rolex watches could be sold in the United States, forcing Rolex to focus on alternate markets in the early mid-twentieth century – markets like Canada.

Rolex made several models specifically for the Canadian market. Rolex used Canada as a test market when they launched their collection of manual-wind watches using movements from Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF), the famous Rolex Caliber ‘59’, a departure from their fidelity to Aegler and their deal with Gruen. These watches are known as “Canadian Rolexes,” even though the movements are classically Swiss. Some of these Canadian Rolexes were packaged into Swiss Oyster cases, while others were packaged into English, American or other foreign cases. The majority were gold-filled or stainless steel, and were sold to Canadian troops serving in the Second World War. These are found under numerous model names on the market including Victory, Wellington, Skyrocket, Campbell and Majestic.

Eaton’s was a large enough concern that it had its own in-house watch brand, Solar. Partnering with Rolex, Eaton’s released a line of “Solar Aqua” watches. “Aqua” was a Rolex trademark, a riff on their signature Oyster brand. Collectors should take note that watches labelled “Solar” without “Aqua” are not Rolexes.

While Solar Aquas were available for purchase, Eaton’s ¼ Century Club Rolex watches had to be earned. Some models of the ¼ Century Club watches are manual wind Rolex Oysters or automatic Oyster Perpetual models, while the earliest versions were Rolex Prince models. Rolex and Eaton’s also offered a unique model for women who had reached the 25-year mark. The Eaton’s ¼ Century Club Rolex was given out until 1966, when the practice stopped.

An important moment in Canadian horological history, Waddington’s is pleased to offer an example of an Eaton’s ¼ Century Club Rolex watch as well as a Solar Aqua in our Wrist & Pocket Watches auction, held online from April 20 — 25, 2024.


Totalling 250 lots, this will be our largest Wrist & Pocket Watch auction ever, featuring both recent and historical timepiece examples by Rolex, Tudor, Omega, Cartier, Breitling, Patek Philippe, Oris, Baume & Mercier, Concord, Tag/Heuer, Tiffany, Tissot, Solar, Marconi, Unicorn, Doxa, Montblanc, Zenith, Chopard, Sandoz, Zodiac and others.

Please contact us for more information.

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