Geneva’s spring auction season kicked off in style at the weekend, when an exceptionally rare and unique Rolex watch became the most expensive Rolex ever to be sold at auction, going for $5,060,427.
The one-of-a-kind Rolex debuted at the Baselworld fair in 1950, where it stood out amongst others for many reasons. The legendary timepiece is one of only three that feature a black dial and diamond markers, and the only one to boast diamond markers at every even hour. Crafted in 18 carat yellow gold, the watch also has a triple calendar, moonphase indication.
The watch was sold on Saturday, at the Philips auction held in Geneva, and went for more than three times its pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million, although collectors suspected it would sell for a much higher price-tag. This allowed it to overtake the previous record holder, “Split-Seconds,” and claim its title as the world’s most expensive Rolex ever to have been sold at auction.
According to sources, there was an eight-minute bidding war between 10 in-room bidders at the Hotel La Reserve in Geneva, and three people bid by phone. The watch went to a buyer on the phone, who wished to remain anonymous.
The watch was originally purchased in 1954 by the last emperor of Vietnam for an unknown amount. Nguyen Phuc Vinh Thuy was granted the title of Bao Dai, or Keeper of Greatness, when he ascended the throne in 1925, aged 12.
Following Bao Dai’s death in 1997, the family consigned the watch to Phillips, where it sold for $235,000 in 2002. At the time, this was the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction.
The private collector who purchased the watch in 2002 is the very same who brought it back to the auction house to be sold again.
Whilst the Bao Dai is now the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction, it remains well short of the world auction record for an individual timepiece.
That title belongs to the Henry Graves Supercomplication, a Patek Philippe-made pocket watch that is often referred to as the “Holy Grail” of watches. It is renowned for being the most complicated watch ever to be made by hand, and reached a remarkable $24 million at Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, 2014.
If this article has left you wanting an antique pocket watch of your own, come and browse the extensive collection on offer here at Pieces of Time. Antiques are a sound investment, and in ten year’s time, we could be writing about a record-breaking auction sale of our own!