Phillips just revealed what it will be offering during its upcoming Geneva sale, and the big news is the presence of the elusive "Bao Dai" Rolex reference 6062 in the catalog. The term "grail watch" is often thrown around, but it seems particularly appropriate in the case of this triple calendar Rolex.
The combination of black dial and diamond markers is the rarest configuration for a 6062, but the imperial provenance of this unique piece further enhances its desirability. The "Bao Dai" was sold in 1954 to the last Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty of Vietnam, and has exchanged hands only once, back in 2002, when the original owner’s family put it up for auction. When the hammer struck, it became the most expensive Rolex ever sold, for $235,000. Fifteen years later, it is thought it could reclaim that title – which currently belongs to a split-seconds – as it has a low estimate above $1.5 million. Many believe this is only half what collectors will be willing to pay to get it.
Rolex produced only two references with a triple calendar and a moon-phase, both at the beginning of the 1950s. And both have become extremely coveted since, undoubtedly because of their striking look: the reference 6062 presents these complications in a traditional Oyster case while the reference 8171 went for a more angular (and bigger, at 38mm) case. Nowadays, these are the pieces that auction rooms go crazy for, equally for stainless steel and gold cases. Yet, the "Bao Dai" 6062 is on a whole other level. This isn’t a watch you expect to see again for quite some time.
This watch was last offered in 2002, and it achieved a then record-breaking price of $235,000 (remember that the auction market and the exchange rate were extremely different then). In May, it could very well become the most expensive Rolex ever sold, ahead of the $2.5M achieved by the split-seconds chronograph reference 4113 sold one year ago. Edmond Saran, editor of Le Monde Edmond, has shared live photos of the watch, which he recently went hands-on with, as well as his thoughts on the upcoming sale on his website – it’s definitely worth a visit.
The exceptional story of this watch definitely weighs into its valuation. It is quite uncommon to find a watch purchased by an Emperor while he was working in Geneva. At the time, he had inquired about the most exclusive Rolex that a retailer could offer him, and this reference 6062 was just that. It was also the most expensive watch Rolex carried, and only three examples are known to exist. Furthermore, the "Bao Dai" example is the only one to feature diamond markers for the even hours; the two others bear diamond indexes for the odd hours (one reaching 470,000 CHF in 2006). This configuration, which is unique, had a direct influence on the design of the watch. The crown logo had to be placed lower than usual, which resulted in the Chronometer line being placed just below the moon-phase.
This watch was manufactured in 1952, and exhibited at the Baselworld fair the following year. No surprise then that it was the most expensive Rolex one could buy in 1954, with a price tag comparable to a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar reference 1518. Uniqueness aside, this Rolex easily reinforces what makes any regular reference 6062 such a darling for collectors: it is fantastic to see the sporty Oyster case house such a complicated watch, and featuring an in-house automatic movement, the caliber 655. This reference is consistently among the top lots of any auction, and Phillips’ "Geneva Auction: Five" will offer two. The second 6062 is a stunning stainless steel example produced in 1953; its exceptional condition explains its estimate of 600,000 to 1,200,000 CHF.
This auction will not only be about reference 6062s, or even just vintage Rolex (although these were the first top lots announced, more details on other highlight pieces will follow). With this uber-rare reference 6062, we might witness the highest bids ever made for a Rolex, after last’s year record-setting results. Yet, there might be some other spectacular battles; for instance, the yellow gold Paul Newman Daytona below is expected to fetch between 800,000 and 1,600,000 CHF. It is indeed one of only three yellow gold Daytonas known to offer a lemon-y dial and black sub-registers, apparently it is nicknamed "The Legend."
It won’t be the only exceptional Daytona offered; a ref. 6265 Qaboos and a Tiffany-signed ref. 6241 "John Player Special" will also be included, and both are assumed to be the unique example with their respective features. There’s also one of the best looking yellow gold black dial 6238s we have seen in a while, if ever (not such a bold statement since only two examples have ever been found with this gold font over the black dial). The estimate for this special 6238 is between 250,000 and 500,000 CHF.
More information on the upcoming auction can be found on the Phillips website, with other lots of the "Geneva Watch Auction: Five" to be disclosed soon. The highlights from this auction’s catalog will be exhibited in Hong Kong (1 to 4 April), London (8 to 11 April), and New York (21 to 24 April), before the pre-sale preview in Geneva on Thursday 11 May.