As many in the vintage watch world will be quick to inform you, it’s all in the details. Even the most seemingly insignificant applications of dial text, and colours of those extra lines, have the ability to intensify a piece’s desirability. Unsurprisingly, these desirability fuelling details will usually multiply the value of an example, should the particular configuration be rare and unusual enough to attract serious interest. One of the best examples of such captivating details are retailer signatures, providing further context to the origins of a great vintage watch. In that you’ve likely already heard of dials signed by the American luxury retailer Tiffany & Co, were now going to shed a little light on a South American retailer that ought to be on your radar.
If lucky enough to come across any Rolex with an extra line of text reading “Serpico y Laino” above or below the handstack, you’ve just chanced upon a watch sold by one of South America’s most legendary authorized dealers. This retailer’s story begins in Venezuela back in 1925, with two men by the names of Vincente Laino and Leopoldo Serpico. Going against what many would expect, both gentlemen were not Venezuelan, but Italians who’d immigrated to South America. Laino, a goldsmith, joined forces with the jeweller Serpico, who renamed his already existing shop Joyeria Serpico to Serpico y Laino, with the intention manufacturing, selling, and repairing jewelry as a team. Fear not, watches would soon enter the picture.
With the 1930s quickly dawning on the country’s capital of Caracas, the two Italians began to look for new ways to distinguish themselves from other local jewellers. Given the similarly artistic nature of horology, offering watches was the logical next move for Serpico y Laino. With their future success at stake, Vincente Laino travelled to Europe in hopes to discover a fine brand that was not yet available in Venezuela, and he couldn’t have made a better discovery. Immediately drawn to Rolex’s timepieces, Laino struck a deal with Mr. Hans Wilsdorf himself, resulting in their offering of the brand.
Like other retailers of the era, Serpico y Laino began to stamp the dials of the Rolex watches they sold with their own name. At the time of their initial sale, this was a regular practice which wasn’t uncommon in the watch sales industry, but grasps tightened over the years concerning how watches are to be retailed, the double signature has evolved to be somewhat of a novelty. Today, collectors are especially interested in examples of the brand’s most coveted sports models bearing this retailer signature including the famed Submariner and GMT Master. Furthermore, Oyster Perpetual Dates, Datejusts and Day Dates featuring the Serpico y Laino name enjoy tremendous appeal, making them wise purchases for those looking to acquire pieces that will continue to be collectible for decades to come.
Serpico y Laino signed Rolexes are also unique among the bunch of watches featuring retailer signatures, in that their markings aren’t limited to their dials alone. In addition to signing the dials of the watches they sold, the Venezuelan retailer went as far as engraving the casebacks with “S&L,” and sometimes the name of the case material, to make their offerings easily traceable. Collectors of double-signed Rolex watches will know that finding a timepiece sold by this retailer is an exciting occurrence to begin with, but one with a still legible engraving is all the more uncommon. This is because over years of wear, and occasional polishing, such caseback engravings were often obscured.
Naturally, the top dollar numbers commanded by Serpico y Laino signed Rolex watches have resulted in many attempting to replicate the signature on authentic watches, making the process of purchasing an example daunting for less educated buyers. With this in mind, it’s always preferable to track down an example coming from a trusted source, as this eliminates much of the likelihood of getting duped. Buy the right watch from the right dealer, and you really can’t go wrong.