Phillips, Geneva, May 12
Sold for CHF 5,937,500
People have been saying for years that the Rolex sports watch “thing” must soon come to an end, that the market is overheated and that prices aren’t justified – but the fact that the Phillips Daytona Ultimatum sale devoted to the Cosmograph raised CHF 22.2m from just 32 lots indicates otherwise.
Unsurprisingly the record-for-any-wristwatch $17.8m paid last year for Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Daytona stood firm, but the prices seen at Daytona Ultimatum were remarkable in anyone’s book, not least the amount realised by this 1970 Reference 6265 that was estimated to fetch in excess of CHF 3m – but ultimately went for nearly double that.
To the casual observer, the watch might look like most other black-dial, non Newman, steel Cosmographs. But very close inspection would reveal otherwise, because this watch is the only known example of the model to have been cased in white gold, its rarity earning it the soubriquet “The Unicorn” in the Phillips catalogue.
Never before seen at auction, it was consigned for the sale by John Goldberger, an Italian photographer who has published seminal books on Rolex, Longines, and Patek Philippe, and a man regarded as being among the world’s greatest living watch collectors.
How or where he acquired the watch is not revealed in the catalogue, but it does explain that it was created in 1970 as a special order for a German retailer and delivered the following year, complete with the unique suffix “9” added to the 6265 reference number – to denote the use of white golf.
The unusual – and somehow incongruous – bark effect white gold bracelet was added by Goldberger in place of the leather strap that was fitted when he found the watch.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the sale is that, before the sale, Goldberger pledged to give the entire proceeds to Switzerland’s Children Action charity – so perhaps multi-million dollar wrist watches are more than mere gew-gaws after all .