It’s all Rolex, all afternoon. At its May 15 Important Watches Auction, Christie’s will dedicate its entire afternoon session to Rolex watches. The 116 watches, in 55 different references from the 1930s to the modern day, is the largest assemblage of Rolex timepieces any auction house has ever offered in a single afternoon, with estimates ranging from $2,000 to $ 500,000. Here are eight of the most notable watches that will be on the block.
Lot 175: Gold Oyster Perpetual with Honeycomb Star Dial
This 18k gold automatic watch, one of the rarest Rolex wristwatches from the 1950s, features an attractive “honeycomb” dial with star-shaped, luminous-centered indices. The dial has remained completely untouched over the past 65 years. According to Christies’ researchers, this gold-cased honeycomb-dial version of the Reference 6098 is one of a total of only eight publicly known examples. Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000.
Lot 193: Oyster Chronograph with “Tropical” Salmon Dial
This stainless steel model is among the earliest produced of the famous Reference 3525 chronographs. It features the reference and serial number on the outside of the caseback (rather than between the lugs, as in later models). The dial has aged (“tropicalized”) to a uniform salmon-colored tone. Reference 3525, one of Rolex’s first “Oyster” chronograph wristwatches, was produced between 1939 and 1945, and was available in a variety of metals. Italian collectors have nicknamed the reference “monoblocco” referring to the fact that, with the exception of the caseback, the entire case consists of a single block, including the bezel and lugs. Estimate: $90,000 – $140,000.
Lot 200: Milgauss with Honeycomb Dial
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss — originally intended for use by scientific professionals — was the first watch able to withstand magnetic fields of up to 1,000 Gauss. The first model, Reference 6543, worked on the principle of the Faraday Cage, a soft iron band bracing the movement, whereas the more modern version, Ref. 6541, uses a soft iron container enveloping the entire movement. This stainless steel watch with sweep-seconds and a black honeycmob dial, is one of the very rare examples of the original Milgauss reference 6543, which was in production for just three years, from 1955 to 1957. Estimate: $150,000 – $250,000.
Lot 216: Gold Daytona, “Paul Newman John Player Special”
With its well-preserved dial and patinated 14k gold case, this Cosmograph Daytona, known as the “Paul Newman John Player Special”, or Reference 6241, was manufactured in 1967. Stored away for many years after initially being worn and used, the watch’s Rolex green-and-gold caseback sticker is still intact, an extremely rare occurence. Produced between 1966 and 1969, this reference’s total production amounts to roughly 3,000 pieces, with slightly less than 400 in gold cases. The “John Player Special” reference 6241 is an extremely rare model among the so-called Paul Newman Daytonas, with fewer than 10 examples in gold cases with the classic black “Paul Newman” dial appearing at auction within the last 20 years. Estimate: $200,000 – $400,000.
Lot 218: Gold Daytona Paul Newman with “Tropical” Lemon Dial
Fresh to the auction market, with only two previous owners, this Paul Newman Daytona (Ref. 6264) with a “tropical” lemon dial is a watch that almost nobody knew existed until recently. Both the outer dial ring and all three chronograph subdials have aged from black to a rich chocolate brown, and the dial is an extreme rarity in its own right. Very few examples are known of the so-called pale-hued “lemon” Paul Newman dials, and their shade can vary from pale straw to almost yellow. Only four examples of this particular Reference 6264, with an 18k gold case and lemon dial with white printed subdial numerals, are known to exist, and only one other piece among these four is known to be tropicalized. Estimate:$500,000 – $800,000.
Lot 267: Steel Submariner with “Tropical” Underline Explorer Dial
This steel-cased Ref. 5513 Rolex Submariner is an exceedingly rare example of a model made in 1963 featuring pointed crown guards. Its so-called Explorer dial combines three rarities, hardly ever seen together on the same dial: “underline” gold printing, which was unique to 1963; the Explorer layout with the Arabic 3,6, and 9 indexes; and the extremely rare, narrow Rolex coronet variation. The “tropicalization” of the black lacquer dial to a dark chocolate hue adds additional interest. The watch has spent the last four decades in the same family, and still retains the original bezel (also a rarity) as well as its period riveted bracelet. Estimate: $120,000 – $200,000.
Lot 272: Submariner Made for Comex “Operation Everest” Experiment
The ongoing collaboration between Rolex and Comex has produced, among other milestones, the iconic Rolex SeaDweller in the early 1970s. This piece up for auction exemplifies the continued effort by the two companies to advance scientific research and push human boundaries. The watch was worn for the Comex-led “Operation Everest” experiment, which took place over one month in 1997. For the experiment, a group of volunteers – which included the consignor of this timepiece, at the time a 25-year-old student – was sealed in an artificial environment simulating the oxygen concentration, pressure, and similar parameters of an ascent up Mount Everest. The watches were presented to the volunteers — who underwent a series of physical tests and analyses to evaluate the human body’s reactions to such conditions — by Comex before the beginning of the experiment and worn during its entirety. The watch (Ref. 16610) is a stainless steel Submariner with a special engraved caseback, and is accompanied in the lot by pictures and video that documented the experience. Estimate: $35,000 – $55,000.
Lot 282: Daytona with Green “Khanjar” Symbol Made for the Sultan of Oman
This stainless steel Daytona (Ref. 6263) belongs to an exceedingly small series of so-called “Green Khanjar” Daytonas made for the Sultan of Oman; this one was presented by the Sultan to its current owner in 1974. To date, less than 10 examples of this model in stainless steel are known to exist: References 6263 and 6265, featuring silvered and black dials, respectively. The piece up for auction, very recently discovered and bearing serial number 3’048’923, is believed to be the earliest known “Green Khanjar” Daytona on the market. Estimate: $320,000 – $420,000.
The Christie’s Important Watches Auction will take place Monday, May 15, 2017, at 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. Pre-auction exhibitions will be help throughout April and early May in New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Taiwan, and Geneva.