Last weekend it was time for the traditional May auctions in Geneva. Expectations were high, and as the hammer came down, time after time exceeded! Especially Rolex shattered some records, making several of them the most expensive vintage Rolex in their category!
Phillips sold this weekend a rare Rolex Oyster Cosmograph “Paul Newman” which is also known under its other nickname “The Legend.” For years collectors and connoisseurs didn’t even know that a Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” with screw down pushers, existed. The watch on auction is the third legitimate and original watch to emerge in this configuration. On top of that is the Rolex in an almost perfect condition, and has aged very gracefully. It is no surprise that such a watch is highly collectible, but this one scattered its presale estimate of CHF 1.600.000,- by a mere 2 million Swiss Francs, making it the most expensive Rolex Daytona.
Prototypes are always desirable, especially when they are Rolex, and even more so when they are a popular model like the Submariner. This reference 1680, sold by Christie‘s, was one of three prototypes that were made in white gold. What makes this watch very special is that it is not only a rare prototype but also an exceptionally good looking one (to the extent that it is unclear why it never made production). It features an attractive “Thunderbird”-style bezel and beautiful blue “nipple” dial. The white gold President bracelet seems to have been an afterthought, although original to the watch, actually compliments the Submariner nicely. This watch had a pre-estimate of CHF. 250.000,- – 500.000,- but ended up being sold for CHF 631.500,- including buyer’s premium, making it the most expensive vintage Submariner to date.
While these are impressive prices paid for rare Rolex, the one that tops them all is the “Bao Dai” Rolex. This yellow gold, full calendar watch with diamond indexes is a rarity by itself, but this particular watch also comes with a Royal pedigree, as it belonged to the last Emperor of Vietnam, who apparently bought the watch in 1954 in Geneva while attending the Geneva convention. While the emperor passed away in Paris in 1997, his relatives sold the watch, at Phillips, in 2002 for a then record-setting $235.000,-. Now it was back at Phillips, and things went pretty crazy right from the start, where it took mere seconds to break the previous record for most expensive Rolex sold at auction (set at CHF 2.500.000,- about a year ago by a split-seconds ref. 4113 chronograph) and ended up at a CHF 5.066.000,- making it, for now, the most expensive Rolex ever to be auctioned.