Last Sunday May 14th, 2017, this Rolex Triple Calendar ref. 6062 a.k.a 'Bao Dai' from 1952 sold at the Phillips Watches Geneva Watch Auction FIVE for $5.1 Million USD making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction. But what makes this watch so valuable and special? Well, it is all about its provenance. Following the Indochina war in 1954, 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 took place to stretch his legs and 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. Born Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, he 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 Bao Dai championed reforms in the judicial and educational systems, and tried to end the more outdated trappings of Vietnamese royalty.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 Triple Calendar ref. 6062, cased in 18K 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, the present lot 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 moon phase 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 moon phase display. The reference 6062 embodies what Rolex stands for without a shred of compromise.
The “Bao Dai” first appeared on the market in 2002, consigned by the family of the Emperor, where it was already sold by Phillips for a record breaking CHF 370,000 Swiss Francs, making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold at the time. Fifteen years later, this Rolex from the collection of the second owner still remained untouched and in unrestored condition. Its imperial provenance, rarity and superb condition make the "Bao Dai" one of the most valuable timepieces ever produced.
Along with this watch, setting a new world record for any Rolex Daytona ever sold at auction and holding now the second place for the most expensive Rolex wristwatch ever sold at auction, lot number 237 at the Phillips Watches Geneva Watch Auction FIVE was sold for CHF3,722,000 Swiss Francs plus buyer's fees totaling CHF4,168,640 Swiss Francs —$4,182,023 USD— and all details are here.
For more info on Phillips Watches and the rest of the lots click here.