Bring a rare Rolex to bear on an auction hall of dedicated collectors and you know what to expect: a feeding frenzy to make Piranha 3D seem understated by comparison. Come to think about it, the Rolex doesn’t even need to be that rare. Prices for vintage Rolex pieces are still on the rise and even though all indicators point towards a bubble soon to burst it just isn’t.
That said, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a Rolex that’s actually significant in any way. Most have found their ways into the hands of wealthy collectors that have no intention of letting them go. Or out of their sight. Next month though we’ll be in for something almost unheard of.
In 1950 Rolex released the 35mm reference 6062. It was and still is the most complicated Oyster model ever made; it’s one of only three models with a black dial and hour markers; of them it’s the only one with diamond indexes on the even numbers. Whoever managed to get their hands on it was a very, very lucky individual.
That person just so happened to be the last emperor of Vietnam, Nguyen Phuc Vinh Thuy, so perhaps not quite as fortunate as you might think. Turbulent political climate aside the Bao Dai at least had excellent taste in watches. It also made a good distraction from the reason the Keeper of Greatness was in Switzerland, namely the eventual signing of the Geneva Accords.
That’s right, while the nations of the world were settling the aftermath of the first Indochina war and discussing the future of the region, the Bao Dai of Vietnam had the (in our opinion much better) idea of buying himself a watch – a now very, VERY important watch.
It’s not the first time the Rolex Bao Dai has come to auction, though its earlier record-breaking amount of $235,000 seems a relative pittance now, and that was just back in 2002. Evidently the buyer fell on hard times as the precious piece is now back at auction and with a significantly increased estimate of $1.5m.
So where does the headline $2.5 million come from? Well Phillips, the auction house in charge of the sale, are all but certain that not only will it eclipse its estimate, but will also break the current record for the world’s most expensive Rolex, the 4113 split-seconds sold in Hong Kong late last year for, you guessed it, $2.5 million.
Personally I’m not sure I’d ever pay that much for a Rolex but that’s beside the point; there are more than enough collectors who will with some serious capital behind them to ensure that there will be a bidding war – far better for everyone than an Indochina one, but also guaranteed to drive the price up like a missile. Provided the Rolex bubble doesn’t burst between now and May this will be an auction for the history books.
The Rolex ref. 6062 “Bao Dai” will be going under the hammer at Phillips’ The Geneva Watch Auction: Five in Geneva on May 13 & 14.
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