Friday, March 11, 2016

Rolls Viceroy non-electric

An impulse purchase...

Complete in box with instruction leaflet. (Important: Do not blame the dry shaver if you have not read this booklet.)

The Rolls Razor company filed patents for this dry shaver around 1937. Evidenced from mention in advertising directories, the company launched this product onto the British market in 1939. It was manufactured essentially unchanged into the 1950-ies. This specimen with serial number K069535 probably was manufactured in 1953, judging from the year code on the cutting-element (as per Rolls Razor standard practice). 

Early specimens of the Viceroy can be a bright red color and come with a slightly different cassette with purple velvet lining, otherwise identical. Sometime early in the 1950-ies the company dispensed with the screw on the oiling-hole. The instruction leaflet has errata-slips glued in telling the user to ignore any instructions on removal of this screw. From at least 1950 the company also manufactured an electric version of the Viceroy dry shaver. (The ignominious demise of the Rolls Razor company is documented online.)

Good thing to have the instructions - who knows what this dry shaver would've been blamed for otherwise!

The shaver with the handle unlatched.

The cutting elements come out for cleaning. The only thing missing from the set is the original cleaning brush. Perhaps that's just as well. All these parts were rather gross and dirty as can be imagined. All carefully cleaned and disinfected with alcohol.

To properly clean everything (and being curious for its inner workings), the appliance comes apart fairly easily with the mechanism still together.

The body shells washed clean (strong soap and toothbrush) and some of the old grease was removed from the innards. Lightly oiled, good to go!

Rather noisy and hard work. It didn't catch on. Little wonder...


  1. Heh, I have a couple of these squeezy shavers. Older, though, all-metal and a bit rusty. Haven't tried 'em out, tho :D

    1. Neat! You've missed an experience... missed ;-)

  2. I have 2 of these, one KO17891 and KO33876, I have the earlier one in the car and used to use it on way to work, around a 40 minute drive, did take at least 20 minutes to get a perfect shave, but was achievable with time and patience.
    Until finding this page I thought it was a 1960's design.
    I'm surprised this has never been improved upon given the fact it has no carbon footprint other than that at time of manufacture, I wonder if anyone still holds an active patent? Feel a visit to The Dragons Den coming on....

  3. Oh.. Just noticed, the serial number doesn't seem to divulge age, the head on lower serial is 54, and higher 52. Unless they worn and replaced of course.

    1. Don't think anyone on the net has found rhyme or reason in Rolls serials; unlikely to have been incremental serials with my even higher serial made in '53.
      (Thank you for sharing your serials, by the way :-)

  4. Been boot sale and picked up another, purple lined hard box with metal hinge and metal closing clip (that's quite interesting too).
    Serial K005488, has 39 dated cutter, screw in oil hole and is virtually bright red. Cutter is different design to my others, body on one side is blank (no Viceroy moulders in)
    Other side has Pats Pending for 1937 and 1938.
    The workmanship is top class, case alone would be £20-30 these days, made in England

    1. Congratulations! Good find, that :)
      Rolls launched their non-electric and electric shavers in the fall of '39, so this will be a very early one. Perhaps even the launch-batch. It was of course a bad time to launch a metal-using luxury product - most were sold after the war.
      Interesting to hear that they changed shearing head design.
      Absolutely solid workmanship (as are their blade razors) - again congrats on your find!

    2. Hi, Robert, after a little research I can confirm the one I have was made in 1939, marked only with 2 UK patent numbers 15590-1937 and 579-1938, (both pending) US Patent 2104929,there is no maker marks on case.
      The cutter head is marked with same patent numbers and D39 and has to letter R back to back, is very different to the latter post war heads.
      Can do some photos if you wish to add.

    3. From images, their first head I think lacked the centre groove. The US patent has a very different head still, interesting design that. If you can upload/share images, would be interesting indeed.
      When Rolls launched their dry shaver in the Fall of '39, afaik they launched in Britain and in the US at the same time. Not sure how many (if any) were sold into the US though.

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  6. I have one, it belonged to my late Father, #044889, it has the two cleaning brushes, but no instructions. Do you have any idea of the year?

    1. Well, the Rolls serial numbers are still a mystery afaik. But on the shaving head itself there should be the year in two digits. Rolls did that with all their razor blades and with the dry shaving elements too.
      In general, red shavers are pre-war (up to late '40 I'd guess) and brown are post-war.
      Am curious what year-code your (father's) shaver has - maybe the serial numbers will start to make sense in the end :)