Christie’s has just announced its latest sale, which will be taking place in Geneva on May 15. And it’s not just your usual spring auction. No, this will be a Rolex-themed sale, including 116 lots encompassing 55 different references from nine decades. You might remember Christie’s Rolex Daytona "Lesson One" auction from back in 2013, but this is something very different. Yeah, you don’t want to miss this one.
To be more specific, the simply-named Rolex 1930s-2010s sale will be the entire afternoon session of Christie’s May auction in Geneva (with the morning session still featuring the usual mix of brands and periods). The goal is to trace the history of Rolex from just after the invent of the Oyster case (1926, in case you forgot) through to the present day. Low estimates start at just $2,000, so there will be some more accessible pieces, though they go all the way up to $500,000, so you’re going to get a few show-stoppers as well.
The full catalog is yet to be released, but here are the lots we know about so far:
18k Gold Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6264 With Lemon Dial And Tropical Subdials
This here is the big boy of the sale. This sort of perfect storm Daytona has only had two previous owners and the lemon dial’s sub-registers and outer track have both turned a nice, even brown color from the original black. Even a regular lemon dial would be rare, but this is something special – there’s only one other known ref. 6264 in 18k gold with this exact dial that has gone tropical.
Estimate: $500,000 – $800,000
Datyona Ref. 6263 With Green Khanjar Dial
Watches with the "Khanjar" symbol were made specially by Rolex for the Sultan of Oman to give as gifts. Fewer than 10 steel Daytonas are known that have this bright green Khanjar at 12 o’clock, a mix of ref. 6263 and ref. 6265 with both black and silver dials. To make things even better, this watch has the earliest serial number of any known green Khanjar Daytona.
Estimate: $320,000 – $420,000
14k Gold Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241 "John Player Special"
Fewer than 400 ref. 6241 Daytonas were made in 14k gold and they were only produced from 1966 to 1969. The black Paul Newman dial has a really striking look, and while the watch does show some signs of having been worn, it is fresh to market and still has the Rolex sticker in tact on the back.
Estimate: $200,000 – $400,000
Milgauss Ref. 6543
This is the original Milgauss, one of the strangest watches Rolex has ever made. It was an extremely idiosyncratic watch and was only made for three years, from 1955 to 1957. This example has the original honeycomb dial, a straight seconds hand (not the lightening bolt), and a bezel graduated to 60 units (not the really weird six-unit bezel).
Estimate: $150,000 – $250,000
Explorer Dial Submariner Ref. 5513
This is one of the true holy grails of Rolex collecting. Since so many out there are fakes, when a good one comes up for auction, it’s a treat. This 1963 ref. 5513 has a distinctive dial with an underline at six o’clock, a narrow coronet logo, and, of course, the Explorer-style 3-6-9 printing. The dial has also started to age, but all the better for the watch being honest. In fact, it’s brand new to market and comes from the original family.
Estimate: $120,000 – $200,000
Ref. 3525 Chronograph With Salmon Dial
Dating to 1941, this is an early example of an Oyster chronograph and a damn good looking one at that. This exact watch, with its aged salmon dial and crisp case, has appeared in books by both Pucci Papaleo and John Goldberger. There are lots of little details to like here, including the serial number and reference number clearly stamped on the caseback (later models would show these between the lugs, of course).
Estimate: $90,000 – $140,000
Ref. 6098 With Luminous Honeycomb Star Dial
This is about as beautiful as a midcentury Rolex can get. This ref. 6098 from 1953 has a silvered honeycomb dial with luminous star-shaped markers that is in incredible condition. Only eight watches like this are known to exist and from the photo we have here (along with Christie’s description), it looks like this one is in near perfect shape.
Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000
Submariner Ref. 16610 From Comex ‘Operation Everest’
On its own, a ref. 16610 Submariner would be nothing to write home about. But this watch belonged to Guillaume Despiau, a volunteer who took place in Comex’s famous "Operation Everest" experiment, which looked at how the human body reacted to conditions similar to those found at the peak of Everest over a sustained period of time. This watch accompanied him in the pressurized chamber during the one-month experiment and the watch comes with all the appropriate documentation to prove it.
Estimate: $35,000 – $55,000
Previews will be taking place in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Geneva, Taiwan, and New York, beginning April 18. Stay tuned for all the nitty gritty details as they become available.
For more, visit Christie’s online.