Ever wondered what the most expensive watches are? Well, Rolex is sure to be one of the first brands to come to mind when thinking about the world’s most exorbitant watches. Watch enthusiasts are willing to fork out a million dollars just to get their hands on vintage Rolex timepieces. This luxury brand of watches has become one of the best-selling and most investment-worthy. And throughout the years, it has always been associated with wealth, luxury, and elegance.
Today, let us look at 15 of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world. Check it out and see if your white whale timepiece is on the list.
The Most Expensive Rolex Watches
1. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 made history when it soared to a price of $17.8 million in 2017. It was auctioned off by Phillips Auction House and immediately became the most expensive Rolex watch ever auctioned off in history.
Named after the famous actor Paul Newman, this watch was made popular because of its unique story. Apart from this watch being visible in Newman’s famous shots and films, it was also given to him by his wife, with the engraved words, “Drive Carefully Me” on the back of the case.
This rare and priceless Rolex watch comes with exceptional features. A few of these include the three sub-dials with block markers, with the seconds sub-dial found at the 9 o’clock position marked with 15, 30, 45, and 60 as indicators. Other features of this watch include a 300 units-per-hour stainless steel bezel, 18,000 beats-per-hour movements, and a tachymeter scale that is attached to the bezel instead of the dial.
2. Rolex “The Unicorn” Oyster Cosmograph
The Rolex “The Unicorn” Oyster Cosmograph Ref. 6265 was sold for $5.9 million in 2018. The first public display of this watch was in 2013, at John Goldberger’s world-class collection. At that time, this watch was never intended to be sold, as Goldberger considered this watch irreplaceable. Only later, when he realised that the sale of this watch could benefit others, did Goldberger make the choice to auction off this timepiece. Goldberger donated all the proceeds from the sale to Children Action, a foundation built to support hundreds of children and youths around the world.
Throughout the years, the Rolex Cosmograph line of watches has almost all been produced in stainless steel or yellow gold. Only a few rare exceptions to this rule exist and “The Unicorn” is one of them. The watch was manufactured in 1970 with luxurious white precious metal upon special request from a German retailer. Professionals regarded it as the rarest and most expensive watch ever sold back then.
The heavy white gold bracelet, as well as the black “sigma” dial, make this watch stand out among the rest. The unique white gold case with a black background and silver graphics gives the watch an unusually luminescent glow that only white gold possesses. The watch is also marked with a crisp 18K gold hallmark, emphasizing its status as the only white gold Cosmograph that Rolex has ever produced.
3. Rolex Bao Dai
The Rolex Bao Dai Ref. 6062 (also known as “Keeper of Greatness”) was sold for $5.1 million in 2017 at the Phillips Auction House. This watch was first owned by the last Emperor of Vietnam, Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, who made a request for the rarest and most precious Rolex watch ever made, in 1952. During a fortuitous stroll in Geneva, the Bao Dai was offered to him when he came across Chronomètrie Philippe Beguin, a popular Rolex retailer.
In 2002, the Nguyen family auctioned off the watch, which had still been maintained in excellent condition. Originally sold at $235,000, the final bid for this watch was almost 22 times its opening price. The original Rolex 6062 line came in three versions, each with different dials. However, the Bao Dai stands out as being the only one with diamond markers set around its black dial.
This watch features five diamond markers embedded under the Bao Dai’s even hours and a yellow gold Oyster case. Moreover, it possesses the brand’s genetic code, particularly the full calendar complication featuring a moon phase display, and perpetual in-house movement. Its rich history and exceptional features make it the third most highest-priced watch ever sold from Rolex.
4. 1942 Rolex Antimagnetique
The 1942 Rolex Antimagnetiqe Ref. 4113 is another expensive vintage watch that was sold for $2.5 million at the Phillips Auction house in Geneva, Switzerland, five years ago. Interestingly, it was first auctioned at Christie’s for $1.16 million in 2013. The auction history of this watch goes to show how it, along with other Rolex watches, has only increased exponentially in value over time, regardless of the original date of release.
This Antimagnetique watch was originally gifted to different drivers and racing teams as a celebration of their victory. It was during that time that Rolex was particularly active in the car racing scene, sponsoring several racing events. In fact, the famous British motorist, Sir Malcolm Campbell, even wore a Rolex watch during one of his competitions.
This million-dollar Rolex watch comes in stainless steel, with a split-seconds chronograph. The value of the watch is justified by amazing features such as raised pink gold-colored Arabic and baton hour markers; a distinguished, oversized case with a satin finish; and blue telemeter and black tachymeter scale in the dial. In addition to being a limited timepiece, this model has the distinction of featuring the largest case (44mm diameter) that the brand has ever made.
5. Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT-Master
For $1.92 million, the Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 1675 was sold in 2019 at a Phillips Game Changers event. It was named after the Academy Award winner, Marlon Brando, who wore this watch during the famous film Apocalypse Now. It is a 1972 Rolex timepiece that contains an engraved “M. Brando” which is said to be engraved by the actor himself.
In order to make this watch stand out from its peers, Marlon Brando was allegedly asked to remove the bezel during the filming of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines. The watch was later passed on to his daughter, Petra Brando Fischer as a celebratory gift during her graduation, along with the note expressing the actor’s pride for his daughter.
In its current form, the watch features no bezel and is fitted on a simple black rubber strap. Despite this austere, minimalistic design, it remains highly valued, especially for many watch connoisseurs. It may look like a simple old watch, but it has subtle details that set it apart, such as the luminous hour markers and hands that possess a golden beige shine because of how elegantly the watch has aged. It also has the Mark IV dial with a tiny oval at the base of the Rolex coronet. The crown, dial, hands, case, and crystals remain in their original form, preserving the watch’s initial designs and giving it a very classic look.
6. Eric Clapton’s Cosmograph Daytona
This 1971 Rolex Oyster 6263 Albino is another vintage watch that was sold for more than a million dollars. For a price of $1.4 million, it was sold in Geneva during an auction organized by Phillips. Before that, it was originally purchased at $505,000 in 2003 in New York, at less than half of its current price.
This highly-valued watch from Rolex is named after Sir Eric Patrick Clapton, a famous English musician and singer-songwriter. This watch belongs to the list of rare and famously owned watches around the world. Among the four known existing white-dialed Cosmographs, this is the only piece that features subsidiary dials that are not in black. It comes with white printing but possesses the same silver finish as the original dial plate, hence it is also known as the “All-White Cosmograph Albino”.
You can see that the clean and clear dials of the Albino perfectly match its gleaming stainless steel case and bracelet. It is powered by Caliber 727, which is manually wound and is based on Valjoux Caliber 72. Adding to its rarity and value is the fact that this expensive Rolex watch was originally owned by Eric “Slowhand” Clapton.
7. 1967 Jack Nicklaus Rolex Day-Date
In 2019, this Jack Nicklaus Rolex Ref. 1803 was valued at $1.220 million when it was auctioned off at the Phillips Auction House. This gold-cased Rolex watch was auctioned off for the benefit of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. 100% of its proceeds went to the support of children’s care around the world.
For 50 years, Jack Nicklaus, a golf champion, wore this as the first timepiece that he ever owned. This expensive Rolex watch was gifted to him when he won his second U.S. Open with a record-breaking score. Nicklaus is a renowned professional golfer who has set a record of 117 PGA Tour wins and 18 Major Championships throughout his career. As such, it is no wonder Rolex gave their most prestigious model and one of the world’s most famous watches to him. In an interview, Nicklaus claimed that this was also the only watch that he had worn at every professional tournament he attended. That also makes this the only Rolex timepiece that has been repeatedly photographed and chronicled throughout the decades.
This Day-Date watch was launched in 1956 and is famous for having the “President” bracelet. It features the first-ever date and day display that was spelled out completely on the dial. Although designed as a sports watch, this timepiece also manages to perfectly embody elegance and versatility. It flaunts an 18k yellow gold case that is paired with a colored “pie‐pan”‐style dial, which is an extremely rare color for watches. It also has narrowed baton hour markers that are reminiscent of golf tees, invoking the image of its renowned former owner.
8. Rolex “Stelline” Gold
The Rolex “Stelline” Gold Ref. 6062 was sold for $895,000 in 2015. With its cool debonair elegance, the Stelline was also the fourth most expensive watch sold in the 2012 Christie’s auction in Geneva. This model was released in 1950, featuring a Jubilee bracelet and an in-house automatic movement.
This expensive watch contains the Rolex’s genetic codes with its Oyster case and a triple calendar and a moon phase display housed in a water-resistant case. This was the first-ever automatic watch made that possessed these kinds of features.
Stainless steel and yellow gold are the materials used to create this piece. With its then-groundbreaking new features, crisp polish, and luxurious design, Rolex considered this watch a top-of-the-line timepiece. Watch collectors nicknamed it “Stelline”, an Italian term that means “small star”, as a representation of the watch’s unique, small star hour markers. Just like many other vintage watches, the Stelline also has a hard durable case enclosing the blue numerals and the day and date apertures.
9. Rolex GMT Master II Ice
Renowned football star, Cristiano Ronaldo, wore the Rolex GMT Master II Ice Ref. 116769TBR. He was spotted wearing this during the 14th Dubai International Sports Conference. This Rolex watch is considered the most expensive watch that the brand has released in the last few years. It came with a retail price of $485,350 when it was first released in 2007. This timepiece best describes what luxury should look like in the 21st century.
The gleaming silver and diamond-encrusted exterior of this watch have led to it being nicknamed “Master Ice” by watch enthusiasts. The Master Ice positively drips with 30 Carats of brilliantly cut diamonds. Every inch of this watch is not lacking in these precious stones, making it aesthetically pleasing and a sure head-turner. Adding to its luxurious appearance is the 18k white gold Oyster case that features a Triplock winding crown and a screw-down caseback.
With regards to the watch’s technical features, the Master Ice comes with the Caliber 3186 self-winding automatic movement, along with 31 jewels, all of which are enclosed in a 100-meter waterproof case. The shining white dial displays the date aperture at the 3 o’clock mark and a GMT 24-hour time zone. Luminous hour markers complete the icy features of this watch. In addition, the hands of the watch are lined with black to increase readability, so you do not have to worry about being able to see the time clearly.
10. Dr. Rajendra’s Rolex
This historic watch is one of the most exquisite pieces ever made by Rolex and is valued at $440,000 today. It was made for India’s first President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. It is believed to have been gifted to him during the nation’s first republic day in 1950. This Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch is one of the first few Rolex watches made that contains 18k gold, instead of being made with the usual stainless steel.
One unique element to this watch is the map of India, with the date 26 January 1950, engraved on the dial. Moreover, the engraving also shows India connecting to Afghanistan and Nepal, with underlying black, blue, and yellow hues coloring the dial. The oversized gold numerals match the overall classic look of the time display.
Adding to the value of the watch is its interesting, tumultuous history. The watch was confirmed by the Indian government to have been stolen from Prasad’s family years ago, only to re-emerge at a Sotheby’s auction in 2011. However, Prasad’s family successfully petitioned to have the auction halted, and it has not been auctioned for sale since. To this day, it is not known whether Dr. Prasad’s watch remains with Sotheby, or if it was returned to the Prasad family.
11. 1977 Rolex Sea-Dweller
Sold for a price of $414,000, the Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 was made in 1977 for the Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. Given the Sultan’s reputation as a famous luxury watch collector, Rolex specially customized this model of the Rolex Sea-Dweller for him, engraving a golden “Khanjar” on the dial of the watch, at 6 o’clock position. The Khanjar is a national emblem of Oman that features a traditional Khanjar-type dagger, which is commonly used in special national events.
This is one of the rarest and most valuable watches that the brand has ever made. Among all the different models of the Sea-Dweller, the dial of the Golden Khanjar Sea-Dweller is like no other. It possesses a white coronet at 12 o’clock and has no luminous material placed in the hour markers, which is an uncommon feature in watches. The watch has also been kept in excellent condition, preserving its original sharp bevels, angles, and curves. The pristine condition of this vintage watch, along with its status as an exclusive timepiece, makes the Golden Khanjar Sea-Dweller well worth its price.
Indicating its authenticity is the engraved serial number found on the back of the case, and the lugs at the 6 o’clock position. It also has the engraved “Rolex” logo that can be found horizontally on the case back, marking it as belonging to the 1970s era of Sea-Dwellers.
12. 1972 James Bond’s Rolex Submariner
For $365,000, the 1972 Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 was auctioned at Phillips Watches Auction Number Two in partnership with Bacs & Russo in 2015. This is one of the most expensive Submariner watches ever sold in history. Widely known as James Bond’s Rolex Submariner, it was named after Sir Roger Moore who, as James Bond, wore the watch in the popular Bond film Live and Let Die. The watch was made popular when it was used as a prop in the movie, and even contains a signature on the back of the case that reads, “Roger Moore 007”.
Adding to the value of the watch is the fact that it was even specially modified for the movie. Its bezel was changed into a buzzsaw that can spin and was used by James Bond to cut through a rope. The watch’s magnetic power was also showcased in the film, as the watch was used to unzip Miss Caruso’s dress and to catch a spoon off of a coffee saucer.
This 39.5mm diameter Submariner watch is made of stainless steel. Its black dial is paired with a golden beige hour and minute markers. The hands of the watch are of a similar golden beige hue lined with silver, adding to the watch’s classic style. Since James Bond’s Rolex Submariner is just a movie prop, it actually has a removed movement and won’t tell you the time. Nevertheless, the watch’s status as a part of this iconic Bond film makes it a desirable and highly-valued timepiece, both for watch enthusiasts and for Bond fans.
13. Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster
The Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster was launched in 2011 for a price of $277,850. This model is from the Day-Date collection, which offers limited pieces only. Besides the rarity of these timepieces, what adds to the desirability of the watch is its meteorite diamond feature, with forty-two diamonds embedded in its bezel. This is the kind of watch that every luxury watch collector would dream of owning.
It has a 39mm diameter platinum case and a patterned silver dial that houses the full day display as well as two large diamonds placed at the 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The sleek look of the watch is completed with its dark Arabic numeral markers, which are perfectly designed to contrast the shining case, dial, and crown of the watch.
14. Steve McQueen 1967 Rolex Submariner
Another highly-prized watch is Steve McQueen’s 1967 Rolex Submariner. This watch was sold for a price of $234,000 at an auction in 2009. Its classic vintage look emblematizes the actor’s fashion sense during his heyday in Hollywood. This watch was even featured in his 1971 movie, Le Mans.
Although this watch has no particularly distinguishing elements, the famous actor’s legacy contributes to its value and provenance. It comes with the usual Submariner features such as the robust stainless steel strap, luminescent dial, 200 meters water resistance, and a date display.
15. Rolex GMT Master II
Last on the list is the new Rolex GMT Master II 126755SARU. This 2021, it has a reported price of $173,999.00. It is one of the newly-released watches of Rolex, capable of accompanying divers to a depth of 100 meters (300 feet).
The original GMT Master II models got their popularity during the 1950s and 60s when these watches were a favorite, not just of celebrities, but of pilots and astronauts as well — a testament to the consistent, reliable quality of these GMT Master II watches. Due to the immense popularity of the GMT Master II, Rolex has continued to release updated models of this line even up till today. These newest models feature a 40mm diameter with rose gold case, Rolex Calibre 3186 as its movement, and are made with Oyster Steel and 18k yellow gold.
Rolex has always been a brand of watches that never loses its value for its products. As you can see from the list above, even vintage and discontinued Rolex watches still continue to increase in value over time. This proves just how investment-worthy these timepieces are. More than just a fashion statement, these timeless watches can also be passed on as an heirloom from generation to generation.
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