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These Rolexes are the Hidden Gems of the Geneva Auctions May 2024

Rolex Daytona Beach Ref. 116519

Whilst watch auctions are held all over the place – London, New York and Hong Kong – it is a given fact that the best watches appear at the Geneva auctions. These are held in May and November, and the May ones are regarded as the more important of the two as they tend to feature the best watches that each of the auction houses have been able to acquire throughout the year, with lesser pieces being used to fill out the catalogues for the sales in the other locations.

This means that the chances of coming across a ‘hidden gem’ in Geneva are, in reality, pretty low. Especially when it comes to a brand like Rolex, as these are the best curated sales of the year. But that’s not to say it’s impossible. Let’s examine a few of the less well known or less well-regarded Rolexes at the Geneva auctions that you should take an interest in.

Sotheby’s Important Watches: Part 1, 12 May

Rolex Daytona Alpine Research Ref 6265
Rolex Daytona Alpine Research Ref 6265

Lot 91: Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona

Lot 91 is a lovely Paul Newman Daytona coming from the family of the original owner, but what makes it special is that this is the watch which proves Jose Perez’s belief that the engraved symbol on the case back is that of the Alpine Research Foundation.

Estimate: CHF 250,000 – 500,000

Rolex Day-Date Mandarin Calendar Ref 18348

Lot 18: Rolex Day-Date

Lot 18 is a very flamboyant, heavily jewelled Day-Date with Mandarin Day and Date discs, these unusual Day-Dates have been doing very well recently and I expect this to be no exception.

Estimate: CHF 30,000 – 50,000

More details at Sothebys.

Christie’s Rare Watches, May 13

Rolex Submariner Smurf Ref 116619LB

Lot 3: Rolex ‘Smurf’ Submariner

Lot 3 is one of the discontinued “Smurf” Submariners in white gold. Very few of these were made, as the folks who wanted a gold Submariner normally chose yellow rather than the more discreet white.

Estimate: CHF 25,000 – 50,000

Rolex Daytona Beach Ref 116519 Pink
Rolex Daytona Beach Ref 116519 Green

Lot 8-11: Rolex White Gold Daytonas

Lots 8 to 11 are one of each colour of the “Beach” versions of the white gold Daytona. Introduced with the launch of the automatic Daytona they were intended to appeal to the fairer sex but have proved to be much more popular with men. This is a rare opportunity for someone to obtain a full set of the four versions.

Estimate: CHF 25,000 – 45,000 each

More details at Christie’s.

Phillips The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX, 11-12 May

Rolex Milgauss Ref. 6541

Lot 142: Rolex Milgauss

Lot 142 is a reference 6541 Milgauss. By far the rarest of the tool watches introduced by Rolex in the 1950s, it was a massive failure for the firm and its subsequent rarity means that values will keep climbing.

Estimate: CHF 100,000 – 200,000

Rolex Triple Calendar Ref 4768

Lot 217: Rolex Triple Calendar

Lot 217 is a reference 4768, one of the very rare non Oyster triple calendar chronographs; these are often ignored by collectors as, unlike the 6036, they do not bear the legend “Oyster”. However, the 6036 watches are probably as water-proof as a teabag and the 4768 is a much more stylish piece made in far smaller quantities.

Estimate: CHF 100,000 – 200,000

More details at Phillips.

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About the author

James Dowling

James began collecting wristwatches around 35 years ago and writing about them a decade later; his third book, this one on the Hans Wilsdorf years at Rolex in London and Geneva will be published in the New Year. His recent pronouncement that quartz timekeeping was the most important horological advance of the 20th Century has seen him ostracised from almost all polite watch circles. But still he persists.