Rolex ref. 6062 “Bao Dai”: An Imperial World Record

On Saturday May 13th 2017 every respectable watch-lover had his eyes on the lot 93 of the Phillips “The Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE” and the second appearance of a unique timepiece: The Rolex ref. 6062 “Bao Dai” cased in yellow gold, carrying a black dial with 5 perfectly-shaped diamond markers. The undeniable complexity, provenance and endorsement – John Goldberger had talked about his love for this specimen in a recent interview – resulted in the impressive auction result of CHF 5, 066, 000, entitling it with the world record for the most expensive Rolex wristwatch.

The history of this reference, begins in the early 1950s and as many of such begin, we find ourselves in that year’s Basel Fair. In the past years before this event, specifically in the second half of 1940s, Rolex had perfected its legendary screw-down “Oyster case”, the world’s first waterproof case. During the fair, Rolex brought to life what would be the dream of collectors up until this day and many more to come: a model featuring the date, weekday, month and moon-phases, all carefully protected by the Oyster Case. The contrast of the triple calendar’s high-end complications cased in the sporty mentality of the Oyster patent, ensured the beginning of a beautiful journey.

Rolex reference 6062 “Black full set”, triple calendar with moonphase manufactured in 1951 and details of the dial and caseback. Upon request at www.onlyvintage.com

In terms of characteristics, the case of the reference 6062 was a perfect for the times 36mm, embracing the in-house Rolex movement 9 ¾’’’. Throughout the production of the model, a brief three years from its launch in the beginning of the 1950s, the world saw examples mainly in yellow gold while the rarest ones, were cased in pink gold and stainless steel.

Rolex reference 6062 with inside caseback stamped 6063 in pink gold 18K, 1953. Sold by Phillips in November 2015 for CHF 1,265,000 (approx. 1,180,000 €). Discover more at www.phillips.com

The complexity of this reference though, does not end with its high-end complications and choice of material but is enhanced by the dial configurations. The launch of the reference was made in gold and featured the mythical “Stelline dial” an Italian nickname meaning “Starlet dial”, which carried 8 five-pointed golden stars in the place of the hour markers.

Rolex reference 6062 triple calendar “Stelline” with moonphases, in 18k yellow gold, circa 1952 sold by Phillips in November 2016 for HK$5,120,000 (approx. 621,000€). Discover more at www.phillips.com

Among all featured dials, usually silvered showcasing arrow or pyramid hour markers, the “Stelline” causes a sensation every time it appears in an auction. To make this story even more interesting, the most sought-after examples carry a black-lacquered dial which if found featuring a Stelline dial along with a black moon disk instead of blue, we are talking about one of the rarest timepieces of Rolex watchmaking. Among all dial combinations, the most desirable are the “Bao Dai”, named after Vietnam’s last emperor and carry diamond numerals. Only three are known to have appeared up until today.

Rolex reference 6062 with black lacquered “Star dial” in 18K yellow gold, 1950. Sold by Phillips in May 2016 for CHF 905,000 (approx. 844,000 €). Discover more at www.phillips.com

Lastly, the description of the characteristics of this reference would not be complete without mentioning another legend that appears on this specimen, the “Super Oyster crown” making it the first ever model to appear with this feature.

Details of the “Super Oyster Crown” from the Rolex ref. 6062 “Black”, manufactured in 1951. Upon request at www.onlyvintage.com

Whenever a reference 6062 appears in an auction, especially the exclusive version with a “Stelline dial”, every collector skips a heartbeat. Recently, a perfect example in yellow gold appeared in the Phillips Rolex Milestones auction “38 legendary watches that shaped history”. Described by John Goldberger as “one of the most beautiful examples of this reference”, it achieved the price of HK$5,120,000 ( approx. 621,000 euros). In November 2015, another example in pink gold appeared in the Phillips Auction at Geneva, pricing up for CHF1,265,000 (approx. 1,178,400 euros). In May 2017, the ref. 6062 triple calendar with moonphase cased in steel, achieved the record for the highest price achieved by a steel Rolex ref. 6062 accounting for CHF 1,930,000 (approx. 1,770,000 euros).

Rolex reference 6062 in stainless steel with two-tone dial, 1953. Sold by Phillips in May 2017 for CHF 1,930,000 (approx. 1,770,000 €). Discover more at www.phillips.com

The crown jewel of auction results though, is the aforementioned Rolex “Bao Dai”, that broke the existing world record for the most expensive Rolex wristwatch. Out of the three ever known examples of Bao Dai, two of them carry 6 diamond numerals in the odd hour positions. The third is a unique timepiece and is the one that currently holds the world record: it carries 5 diamond hour markers placed in the even hours. Having a diamond on the 12 o’clock position, inevitably changed the familiar layout of a Rolex dial. The Rolex crown is moved down in order to fit the diamond and as a consequence, the “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” writing is found under the day and month apertures. So simple, so effortless. The same specimen had appeared in a 2002 Phillips auction, offered by the family of the Emperor, having broken again the then existing price world record for a Rolex wristwatch.

Rolex reference 6062 in 18K yellow gold with black dial, carrying diamond indexes, model “Bao Dai”, 1952. Sold by Phillips in May 2017 for CHF 5,066,000 (approx. 4,640,000 €). Discover more at www.phillips.com

The reference 6062 triple calendar, also called “Cosmograph” in early advertisements, is the flawless embodiment of timeless form and function. With this timepiece Rolex proved its impressive power in the world of high-end watchmaking with a design that carefully balances a sporty mentality, a dash of elegance and rarity in numbers.

Author: Luca Balella