Vietnamese emperor’s Rolex watch sets world record

A Rolex that once belonged to Bao Dai (1913-1997), emperor of Vietnam, sold for $5m at Phillips this week.

That makes it the most valuable Rolex ever sold at auction.

The lot is a rare gold and diamond studded ref 6020, one of only three to feature a black dial and diamond time markers.

Rolex Bao Dai

Bao Dai was the last emperor of Vietnam 

It last sold at Phillips in 2002, achieving $235,000 – then a record for a Rolex.

That equates to growth of 22.6% per annum over the past 15 years. 

Aurel Bacs, senior consultant at Phillips and the auctioneer behind the 2002 sale, said: “A watch that was originally discovered at Phillips in 2002, it was an absolute honour to offer the Rolex 6062 ‘Bao Dai’ for the second time in my career.

“Phillips has now surpassed its own world auction record for a Rolex, set in this saleroom 12 months ago.”

Meanwhile, a Patek Philippe ref 2497 presented to Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in 1954 made $2.9m at Christie’s.

That’s around three times its $1m valuation.

Hailes Selassie watch

Haile Selassie is considered a god by followers of Rastafarianism 

In addition to its imperial connection, the watch is a previously unrecorded variant of the reference (like Bao Dai’s Rolex, it features a black dial).

Thomas Perazzi, head of watches at Christie’s Geneva, explained: "It is without doubt one of the most captivating and important horological discoveries in recent years.

"The watch unites exceptional rarity, stunning looks, [and] the excitement of being a previously unknown iteration of the landmark reference 2497.

"Furthermore, it is the one and only known example of this reference to bear a type of military-style black dial with luminous Arabic numerals and luminous Alpha hands, all absolutely unrestored and in original superb condition."

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