The Rolex That Might Sell for More Than $2.5M

Geneva--A rare Rolex with a historically significant backstory could become the most expensive watch from the brand ever sold at auction when it goes under the hammer in Geneva next month.

The 35 mm reference 6062 “Bao Dai” Rolex made its debut at Baselworld in 1950, and the watch lays claims to its fair share of “onlys”--it’s one of only three models from Rolex with a black dial and diamond markers; of those three, it’s the only one with diamonds at the even hours; and it’s the most complicated Oyster case model ever made by Rolex, featuring day, date, month and moonphase indications.

And, like any great piece of jewelry or watch that’s bound to stir up aggressive bidding at auction, the Bao Dai also has a fantastic back story.

The timepiece belonged to Nguyen Phuc Vinh Thuy, the last emperor of Vietnam who was granted the title of Bao Dai (Keeper of Greatness) when he ascended to the throne in 1925 at the age of 12.

The Bao Dai bought this Rolex in Geneva in 1954 when he was in town attending the Geneva Conference, the meeting that resulted in the Geneva Accords, which brought an end to the first Indochina War.

Paul Boutros, the head of Americas and senior vice president for Bacs & Russo, said they do not know how much the Bao Dai originally paid for this watch, as it was never sold commercially or appeared in catalogs.

(Bacs & Russo runs the watch department at Phillips; well-known watch auctioneer Aurel Bacs and his wife, watch specialist Livia Russo, re-established the department for the auction house in 2014.)

The Bao Dai died in 1997, and Boutros said that in 2002, the emperor’s family consigned the watch and it sold for $235,000 at Phillips, making it then the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction.

The man who bought it in 2002 sold it to a private collector, and it is this collector who is bringing the watch back to Phillips for a second sale, Boutros said.

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