Five million dollars is a lot of money to spend for anything. For most people, they’d expect to get real estate for that kind of money, and probably a lot of real estate, at that.
In this case, we’re talking about $5 million spent for a single wristwatch, the so-called “Bao Dai” Rolex. This watch bears the name of its first owner, Bao Dai, who was the last emperor of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam. He purchased the watch in Paris in 1954.
Officially, the Bao Dai Rolex is a Rolex Reference 6062. The timepiece features a gold case with a black face, and is one of only three such models sold. Making this one unique is that it’s the only one of the three that had diamond markers on the even numbers around the face. The watch is a certified chronometer with a sweep second hand, a moon phase indicator, and a display that shows both the day of the week and the month of the year.
The $5 million is the most money ever paid at auction for a Rolex, and this isn’t the first time that this particular watch has held the title. It previously sold in 2002 for a then-record $369,000.
While watch collectors seek out pieces that are unusually rare or which have unusual features, they’re also attracted to models that have unusual provenance. Watches with famous previous owners usually fit into that category, and this one is no exception.
This sale continues the trend of unusually high priced watches selling well in a market that is slowly growing a bit stagnant. That’s not to say that the market is sluggish, but it’s sluggish in the mid-to-somewhat-high-priced range. It’s not stagnant in the upper end of the spectrum, as the people who would buy such pieces have finances that are likely to remain stable over time.
Watches like this one also rarely come to market, so the opportunity to buy them is equally rare. In those case, buyers always seem to find the money to pay for them.
While a number of bidders were at the auction to bid in person, the ultimate bid was placed over the phone by a buyer whose name remains a mystery.
Though the $5 million price is a record for a Rolex, it is not a record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction. That belongs to a Patek Philippe Reference 1518 that sold for more than $11 million in 2016.
That’s a lot of money for anything, even for a one of a kind Rolex.