Top 10 Most Expensive Rolex Watches In The World of All Time
|Top 10 Most Expensive Rolex Watches In The World|
|Table of Content|
Rolex holds a special place in the world of high-end watches. It is one of the most valuable luxury watch brands in the world. Rolex is also one of the most expensive watch brands. The Swiss watch manufacturer produces iconic models that have become a true status symbol. For example, owning a Rolex Day-date watch or a vintage Submariner is also very informative about who you are and what you have achieved in life.
Here are the 10 most expensive Rolex watches in the world.
What Makes Rolex so Successful?
Fame: Rolex is clearly the most well-known among the world’s luxury watch brands. You’ve heard of it even if you’ve never heard anything about Omega or Breitling, or even Patek Philippe. Fundamentally there are two Rolex customer groups – those who know a lot, and those who know very little. Aficionados buy Rolex for its extremely high quality. They may be less interested in extremely fine, complicated craftsmanship in favor of having the best all-around watch for daily wear. Other Rolex customers don’t know much about watches, only that Rolex is the best. For them the primary motivator is this: if you’re going to wear a watch, it’s got to be a Rolex. And this is a huge compliment for the manufacturer – because if even a person who knows nothing about watches views one specific brand as “Number One”, the company is doing something right.
Product quality: The basis for Rolex’s success is its extremely high product quality extending over the many years of its existence. Rolex watches show time accurately and are robust, sturdy and reliable. Maintaining consistently high quality with estimated annual production numbers of about three-quarters of a million pieces is an art unto itself. And it’s to Rolex’s advantage to omit unusual complications. It has no tourbillons, perpetual calendars or minute repeaters – not even movements with a large date display, power reserve indicator or alarm function. The company concentrates on what it does best, and improves the detail ongoing. This is true for the movements as well as for the case. You won’t find a rotating bezel that ratchets so cleanly and smoothly like the one on the Submariner or GMT-Master II from any of its competitors – even other high-end manufacturers with much more expensive products.
Design and recognition: The everyday wearability of a watch is a function of its design. The round shape of a Rolex contributes to its water-resistance and its superior legibility. Add to this a central sweep seconds hand and Cyclops date magnifier (another Hans Wilsdorf invention). Existing collections are maintained and continuously improved over the years. This is supported by Rolex expert Percy Christian Schoeler, founder of the German-language internet portals Luxify and R-L-X-Forum: “Only very careful modifications to the iconic design of individual model collections over the decades have resulted in a high degree of recognition.” There are no sudden design shifts or leaps, and even case sizes are altered only very gradually. Typical design features like the grooved bezel, “Mercedes” hands, Cyclops magnifier and the Oyster bracelet are part of several different models and have rarely undergone change so a Datejust or a Submariner today looks very much like earlier models. It’s why it is always easy to recognize a Rolex from a distance. Watch expert Gisbert L. Brunner calls this the “10-meter rule” – and it’s not just the specialists who recognize them.
Auction prices: The price stability of used but still relatively new watches depends in great part on the high prices achieved regularly by older Rolex watches at auction. After Patek Philippe, Rolex is the next hottest brand. There are thousands of examples of auctioning success with Rolex watches over the last several decades. In some cases the prices have reached dizzying heights. Back in October, in fact, a Rolex Daytona owned by actor and racing enthusiast Paul Newman became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction, netting $15.5 million at Phillips’ New York “Winning Icons” auction. This beat the previous record for the most expensive Rolex wristwatch ever sold, a Ref. 6062 with its triple date display (pointer date indicator, weekday and month in window openings) in the one-time variation with a black dial and diamond markers that once belonged to Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam. It was sold this past May at Phillips in Geneva for more than SF5 million.
Impressive Rolex Range
Alongside big-ticket auction pieces, regular Rolex collections range from $13,000-$34,000. For instance, the classic Rolex Submariner Date – the first wristwatch to take divers to 100 meters – starts at $13,337, and was popularised by James Bond movies. The Rolex Day-Date was the first of its kind to offer a calendar with both a day and date display and will set buyers back $34,500 and upward – choose from platinum, or yellow, white, or rose gold.
If you’re looking for something more prestigious, there are limited edition collections to peruse, including the Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster with 42 jewels and a custom bezel that sold for $277,850 in March 2011, and Steve McQueen’s 1967 Rolex Submariner that went for $234,000 in 2009.
And then we have other celebrity-owned pieces such as the Paul Newman Daytona mentioned above, Marlon Brando’s Apocalypse Now Rolex GMT-Master, which sold for $1.952 million in 2019, and Eric Clapton’s Rolex ‘Oyster Albino’ Cosmograph Daytona, exchanging hands for $1.4 million in 2015.
How about vintage Rolexes? These are virtually a fail-safe in terms of investment, with value often increasing over time. Their scarcity makes them desirable and exclusive, with each watch having a story to reveal. Rare pieces are very much in demand, as collectors and aficionados seek to be part of Rolex’s distinguished history.
Rolex watches – vintage, new, and pre-owned – are expensive to buy, and their worth often goes up as time goes by, too. But it also depends on demand and supply: The rarer the piece, the more people are willing to pay. If you’re thinking about investing in a Rolex, consider four main factors: Is the Rolex rare, is it vintage or collectible, is it one of the most popular models, and is it crafted from a desirable material?
What are the top most expensive Rolex watches ever made in the world?
1. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona: sold for $17.8 million
|Photo: Monochrome Watches|
The Rolex Paul Newman Daytona is one of the world's most highly coveted vintage watches. Newman's personal Daytona, which he wore for 15 years, sold for 17.75 million USD at an auction in 2017, making it the world's most expensive Rolex.
The Rolex Paul Newman Daytona is one of the most sought-after watches in the world. Defining features of vintage Paul Newman Daytonas include their multicolored "exotic" dials and Art-Deco-style numerals. Back in the 1960s and 70s, this look was not nearly as well-received as it is today, resulting in very low production numbers. This rarity – combined with the fact that famous actor and race car driver Paul Newman wore his watch every day – has only fanned the flames of the Daytona legend. In turn, this chronograph is now one of the most expensive vintage watches on the market.
If you'd like to own the same model Paul Newman wore, you should look at the ref. 6239. Its sister model, the ref. 6241, comes with an acrylic bezel. The rarest version is the 6262. Other references include the 6263, 6264, and 6265.
Be sure to keep your eyes out for an "exotic dial." Many watches bear one of the aforementioned reference numbers but feature a standard Daytona dial. You should always do your research before making a purchase, as some watches will come with an "exotic dial" that is not original to that timepiece. The original papers and an easy-to-understand service history are good places to look for this information.
5 Reasons to Buy a Rolex Paul Newman Daytona
- Cosmograph Daytona with the especially rare "exotic dial"
- Popular reference numbers: 6239, 6241, 6263
- Prices starting at 223,000 USD
- The most expensive watch in the world: Paul Newman's sold for 17.75 million USD
- Chronograph function and tachymeter scale
Every Rolex Paul Newman Daytona, regardless of its reference number, is incredibly rare. You should pay attention to the original condition of the Paul Newman Daytona when purchasing one. There are many, many watches with fake Paul Newman dials, as well as convincing replicas. You'll often find standard Daytona models that someone later fitted with a panda or exotic dial. They look like a Paul Newman but aren't. Get as much information from the seller as possible before you make a purchase and review everything carefully.
2. The 1971 Rolex Daytona Reference 626 Unicorn: sold for $5.9 million
|Photo: National Jeweler|
Uniqueness and rarity explain the price of this 1970 Rolex Daytona that was sold for $5.9 million in 2018. The Reference 6265 is the only model available in 18-karat white gold, hence it’s “Unicorn” nickname. The vast majority of Rolex Daytona produced at the time were in stainless steel.
Beside its precious material, the story of the watch is itself interesting. Few people had ever heard of it until it was announced in 2013 that famous Rolex collector John Goldberger had acquired the watch (Auro Montanari of his real name).
“The Unicorn” was the only vintage white gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ever produced. It was sold by famed watch collector John Goldberger, who donated the proceeds to the charity Children Action.
Rolex manufactured this particular watch in 1970 and delivered it in 1971 to a German retailer, who, it is believed, had placed a special order for an exclusive client with enough means and influence to convince the watch brand to stray from its norm. (Though Rolex made plenty of watches in white gold in the 1970s, they were Day-Dates.)
“The Unicorn” is so known because of its rarity, being the only known white gold manual-winding Daytona ever produced.
Until the discovery of the Ref. 6265, it was believed that Rolex only produced manually wound Daytonas in stainless steel or 18-karat yellow gold, with some 14-karat yellow gold watches created for the U.S. market.
3. The Rolex Bao Dai: sold for $5.1 million
Spring of 1954, Geneva. Following the Indochina war, the world powers meet in Switzerland to negotiate with the Viet Minh on the future of Vietnam. During a recess, a man steps out of the Hotel des Bergues, where informal negotiations were taking place, to get some fresh air. He doesn't know it yet, but his country will soon be split in two and he will be known as the Last Emperor of Vietnam.
He decides to take a stroll but his footsteps take him only across the street to Chronomètrie Philippe Beguin, a famed Rolex retailer. The Emperor's request to the staff is a simple one. He wants the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made. Before the numerous refusals of the different models presented to him, Rolex is called to the rescue and a clerk is rapidly dispatched from the Rolex workshops in the outskirts of Geneva, bringing with him a rare timepiece: the Rolex reference 6062 in yellow gold, with a black dial and diamond indexes.
A timepiece that will forever be associated with the Last Emperor of Vietnam, even taking his name: Bao Dai.
Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy was the 13th and last emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty. It was not until he ascended the throne in 1925 at age 12 that he was granted the title of Bao Dai — Keeper of Greatness. Bao Dai championed reforms in the judicial and educational systems, and tried to end the more outdated trappings of Vietnamese royalty. He ended the ancient Mandarin custom that once required aides to touch their foreheads to the ground when addressing the Emperor.
Not only a man of wealth, Bao Dai was also a man of taste. He commissioned the greatest artisans of the time to create superb unique creations fit for an Emperor, may it be a villa, private yacht or car. (He notably owned a famed Ferrari 375 MM Spyder rebodied by Scaglietti to a blue/silver Tour de France.) He wanted the best, and had the eye and finesse to recognize it.
This elusive Rolex 6062, cased in yellow gold, is one of only three black dial models known to be set with diamond markers. While two examples feature six diamond markers for odd hour numbers, this particular lot from The Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE displays five diamond numerals for even numbers and a different dial layout, making this piece truly unique. It is interesting to note that due to the diamond numeral at 12 o'clock, the Rolex crown was moved down, consequently making it impossible to have the "Rolex Oyster Perpetual" above the day and month apertures. The "Officially Certified Chronometer" wording was also removed from the center of the dial and placed below the moonphase indication.
This timepiece is not only extremely desirable due to its imperial provenance, but is also a condensate of Rolex's genetic code: the iconic Oyster case, a Rolex "perpetual" in-house movement and of course the ultimate rarity of a full calendar complication featuring a moonphase display. The reference 6062 embodies what Rolex stands for without a shred of compromise.
4. Antimagnetique Reference 4113 from 1942: sold for $2.5 million
A Rolex will always warrant a reasonably high price tag, so how much does an extraordinarily rare one cost? Well, this remarkable, Antimagnetique Ref. 4133 sold for around $2.4 million last May at an auction in Geneva (almost double what it was excepted to fetch). The split-seconds chronograph features an oversized design with a 44mm stainless steel case. The wristwatch, which was made in 1942, is one of only twelve Ref. 4113 ever created.
When you talk about Rolex chronographs, this is the one that stands above all the rest. The 4113 is the only Rolex to break the $1 million mark at public auction, back in 2011 when this example ended up at 1.17M. So what makes the 4113 so special? First, it’s gigantic – 44mm. It’s incredibly rare – only 12 were made, while just 8 have surfaced, mostly from the original families. It features an unusually thin bezel (for a Rolex), and wears like a thoroughly modern watch, though all 12 were produced in 1942. But what makes this guy SO special, and SO valuable is that little extra button popping out of the crown – the 4113 is the only split-seconds chronograph to be built by Rolex, ever.
Why does that matter? Well the Rolex chronograph is something of a benchmark in the industry, and the rattrapante complication is one of collectors’ collective favorites, especially in true sport watches, which the 4113 is. This is how the rattrapante works in this oversized, 1940s Rollie.
5. Marlon Brando’s Apocalypse Now Rolex GMT-Master: sold for $1.952 million
An iconic Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675, this watch was worn by Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, released in August 1979. With its absolutely superb provenance, it is the watch seen by millions on the wrist of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz – the character played by Brando – and long thought to have been missing. In addition to its role on the silver screen, the GMT-Master being offered at Phillips is made even more extraordinary by the never-before-seen engraving on the caseback, “M. Brando,” hand-engraved by Marlon Brando himself.
This watch remained in Brando’s possession until 1995, when he gifted it to his daughter, Petra Brando Fischer. The auction this December marks the watch’s first time ever being shown publicly and offered for sale since having been acquired by the legendary actor in the early 1970s.
Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is among the greatest accomplishments in cinematic history and Brando’s performance is amongst his most iconic. Brando played the role of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, a former Green Beret who, during the Vietnam War, went rogue running his own military unit in Cambodia. On Marlon Brando’s wrist, as seen in the film, was this exact Rolex GMT-Master, a reference 1675 manufactured in 1972, fitted on a black strap with its bezel missing. Brando told Petra that he wore the watch to the set of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, and he was told that he had to remove it during filming, as it would stand out. Brando said that he argued, “If they’re looking at my watch, then I’m not doing my job as an actor.” He said that the filmmakers let him wear the watch, but he removed the bezel, resulting in the unique-looking timepiece that is so closely associated with Colonel Kurtz.
In 1995, 20 years after the filming of Apocalypse Now, Brando gifted the watch to Petra following her graduation from Brown University in 1994, before she went to Law School at the University of Southern California. Brando handed Petra a hand-written letter in which he wrote that he was proud of her accomplishments, then gave her this GMT-Master and said, “This watch is like a tank. You can do anything you want to it and it will keep on going. I want you to have it as a reminder of how proud I am of you.” In 2003, Petra gifted the watch to her husband, Russel, on their wedding night. He appreciated its significance and has cherished it ever since, having chosen to never wear it.
The Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 is being offered as it was received by Petra, without a bezel and fitted on a rubber strap. The watch is exceptionally well preserved, retaining all bevels, curves, and sharp edges as delivered from the Rolex factory nearly five decades ago. The luminous hour markers and hands have aged beautifully to a gorgeous shade of beige, and the dial, hands, case, crystal, and crown are all original to the watch.
6. Eric Clapton’s Rolex “Oyster Albino” Cosmograph Daytona: sold for $1.4 million
Clapton is well-known in watch circles for his fabulous collection of rare Rolex and Patek Philippe treasures. And while watches from his collection pop up at auction every now and then, they don’t come up often enough for a true fan of both great music and great horology to miss out on an opportunity.
Eric Clapton’s Daytona, dubbed the Rolex “Oyster Albino” Cosmograph, sold not once but twice for substantial amounts during public auctions. The first time was in 2003 in New York where the watch was bought for $505,000 during an auction organised by Sotheby’s. Twelve years later, in May 2015, Eric Clapton’s Daytona was sold once more but this time for $1.4 million at a Phillips auction in Geneva, nearly three times its previous price.
Besides its famous first owner, the Rolex “Oyster Albino” Daytona is special because only four pieces are available with the dial in a single colour. The Daytona dial usually has two colours to make the chronograph totalisers contrast with the rest of the dial.
This particular Reference 6263 is one of only four known examples categorized as an Albino. If you know anything about vintage Rolex, then you probably also know that the most sought-after examples – the ones that make collector hearts beat as fast as they can go – are those that have something unusual about them, something that not every Rolex can boast, something that makes them rarer than four-leaf clovers picked by a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow (see another ultra-rare Rolex variant with an interesting nickname here). In this case, it is the silvered dial with the same-color silvered chronograph totalizer subdials (hence the nickname “Albino”). This reference usually sports black chronograph totalizers with white printing.
This "Albino" Reference 6263 was manufactured in 1971 and is powered by manually wound Caliber 727 (which – in case you are a watch nerd like me and need to know this – is based on Valjoux Caliber 72). It is housed in a stainless steel case and comes on a stainless steel bracelet.
Clapton bought this watch in the late 1990s. It was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York sale of June 5, 2003, where it broke the previous world record for a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona by selling for $505,000 (five times its pre-auction estimate). Its pre-auction estimate for May is 500,000 to 1,000,000 Swiss francs.
7. Jack Nicklaus Rolex Day-Date: sold for $1.22 million
Jack Nicklaus had already won six major championships by the time Rolex gifted him this Reference 1803 gold Day-Date watch. Which means it was on his wrist for a staggering 12 more. The first watch Nicklaus ever owned — Gary Player suggested the model to him — it has been witness to more golf history than perhaps any other timepiece. The Golden Bear's daily wearer for 50 years, he's now putting it up for auction, with all of the proceeds going to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation. The auction will take place in New York on December 10; prior to that, it will be on display at various places around the world, including the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio, and the US Open at Pebble Beach.
Rolex gave this yellow gold Day-Date to legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus in 1967. He pretty much wore it every day since then. Jack Nicklaus, known as the Golden Bear, wore this Rolex when he won 12 of his record 18 professional major championship titles. The watch was also often photographed when Nicklaus hoisted the championship trophy following his victories.
The yellow gold Day‐Date on a President bracelet is Rolex’s most prestigious model and one of the world’s most famous watches. “This is the very first watch I ever owned, and the only watch I wore for every professional tournament I’ve won throughout my career,” Jack Nicklaus said. “It has accompanied me at U.S. Opens, Masters Tournaments, PGA Championships, Open Championships and countless other events for over five decades, and has served me well at every step along the way.“
The watch sold for $1.22 million at a Phillips auction in December 2019. All of the auction proceeds went to Nicklaus’ charitable Foundation that cares for children in need around the world.
8. Rolex GMT Master II Ice: $485,350
One of the most expensive Rolex watches to date is certainly the extravagant and extremely rare Rolex GMT Master Ice men’s wristwatch. Retail pricing has set the value of this particular timepiece (when the watch was first released) set at $485,350 USD.
The Rolex GMT-Master Ice wristwatch is certainly aesthetically stimulating and visually pleasing. It is made of some of the finest materials, including 18 ct white gold and nearly 30 Carats of brilliantly cut diamonds that cover almost every inch of the watch.
Though covered in diamonds, Rolex did not skimp on the watch’s key technological features and the precision for which Rolex is known. The watch features an 18 ct white gold case that has a thickness of 13 mm. This Oyster case, which utilizes a screw-down Triplock winding crown and a screw-down case back, is able to withstand water pressure up to 100 meters (330 feet).
Inside the waterproof case is the caliber 3186 self-winding automatic movement with 31 jewels. Though this is a self-winding movement, the watch does have a 50-hour power reserve. The dial features a date aperture at the 3 o’clock mark, while a black GMT 24-hour hand allows the wearer to set and view a second-time zone.
What makes this particular Rolex model so visually appealing are the many brilliant diamonds that adorn the case, bracelet, dial, and bezel. The 18 ct white gold case and lugs are set with 79 round diamonds. The bezel, also made of 18 ct white gold, is set with baguette-cut diamonds. The dial of the Rolex GMT Master Ice is one of its most striking features, with waves of small diamonds flowing on the dial face. Luminous hour markers paired with hands that are lined in black improve legibility.
Atop the case is a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The timepiece is finished with a matching 18 ct white gold Oyster bracelet, completely covered with diamonds. The center links are covered in baguette-cut diamonds, while the links on either side of the central link are covered in round brilliant diamonds. The bracelet is completed with an Oyster lock clasp, which ensures the watch remains securely on the wrist.
Though extravagant, this timepiece also meets Rolex’s strict standards, offering advanced features like a date aperture and a waterproof case. This timepiece is also known for its precision, despite the clear effort that went into its visual design. The Rolex GMT Master Ice is really a perfect fusion of both extravagant luxury and technological innovation.
9. James Bond’s 1972 Rolex Submariner: sold for $365,000
"Bond, James Bond." Sean Connery first introduced himself as the British secret agent with these words in 1962's "Dr. No." In the film, the charming and stylish agent pairs his impeccable manners with exquisitely tailored suits and a fantastic wristwatch: the Rolex Submariner 6538 from 1959. Rolex released the original Submariner in 1954. However, this professional diving watch first gained international attention on the wrist of 007.
The 6538 also accompanied Connery on the silver screen in "From Russia with Love" (1963), "Goldfinger" (1964), and "Thunderball" (1965). The Submariner from "Goldfinger" is especially interesting, as it features a black and olive green NATO strap instead of a metal bracelet. Today, manufacturers refer to this style as the "Bond NATO strap."
The Submariner was Bond's constant companion through 1989. For example, George Lazenby sports a ref. 5513 in 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." His successor, Roger Moore, later dons the same watch in "Live and Let Die" (1973) and "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974). The next James Bond, Timothy Dalton, wears the ref. 16610 in the 1989 film "License to Kill." Since then, Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, has exclusively worn watches from the Omega Seamaster collection.
What Makes the James Bond Submariner Stand Out
- A legendary diving watch
- Classic, unmistakeable, and highly coveted
- Popular among fans and collectors
- A safe investment
- A true style icon
How much does the James Bond Submariner cost?
122,000 USD pre-owned
Big crown, 37.5 mm, caliber 1030
30,500 USD pre-owned
Crown guard, 40 mm, caliber 1530
16,500 USD pre-owned
Crown guard, 40 mm, caliber 1520 or 1530
15,500 USD new
Date, 40 mm, caliber 3115 with a Parachrom hairspring
10. Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster: Sold for $277,850
|Photo: Sant Blanc|
Unlike its modern sibling, the Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster is based on the Day-Date collection instead of the Datejust. The limited-edition watch is made from meteorite diamond and counts 42 diamonds on its custom bezel. The 39mm dial watch was first released in 2011 for $277,850.
Absolutely Stunning brilliant Rolex Crown Collection with genuine Rolex Meteorite Diamond Dial and 42 Baguette Diamond Bezel! This is the Rolex Men's PearlMaster - Rolex model 18956 39mm size Platinum PearlMaster. The "MasterPiece" - This is the newest style with genuine Rolex Platinum bracelet with 71 baguette diamonds and inner bezel engraving.
Comes with genuine Rolex presentation boxes, Rolex books, Rolex tag, Retail Appraisal and The Sant Blanc Three Year Warranty!...In pristine condition...The Perfect Gift!
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