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The Geneva Watch Auction: 5 Rare & Exceptional Timepieces

This May, Phillips presents the Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE, featuring a selection of rare and extraordinary watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. 

On the 13 and 14 May, Phillips will present its first watch auction of 2017 at Hôtel La Réserve in Geneva, and it is certainly setting the bar high. The double-evening sale, which attracts collectors from across the world, will feature 240 unique and magnificent timepieces for men and women from Rolex, Omega, Tiffany & Co. and Patek Philippe. From a storied, record-breaking Rolex commissioned by Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, to a one-of-a-kind Patek Philippe chronograph, we present five horological highlights from the inaugural auction. 

Rolex Reference 6062, "Bao Dai"

This storied timepiece was first purchased in 1954 by Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam. Following the Indochina war, the world powers met in Switzerland for a meeting to negotiate with the Viet Minh on the future of Vietnam. While in Geneva, Bao Dai visited the prestigious Swiss Rolex retailer, Chronomètrie Philippe Beguin. The emperor’s request was a bold but simple one: he wanted the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made. Step forward the elusive Rolex 6062 in yellow gold, with a glossy black dial and diamond indexes. 

It is one of only three black dial models known to be set with diamond markers and the only example to feature diamond indexes at even hours. Due to the position of the diamond numeral at number 12, the Rolex crown motif has been lowered, making it a truly unique design.

The emperor was known not only as a man of wealth but one of impeccable taste, and this astonishing timepiece is now synonymous with immaculate and uncompromising style, imbued with imperial provenance. The wristwatch was first sold in 2002 for a record-breaking CHF 370,000, making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold at the time and this year, it is estimated to sell this year in excess of US $1.5 million. 

The Tiffany & Co. John Player Special Paul Newman Daytona 

Undoubtedly one of the most exclusive and complex Rolex timepieces ever made, this unique yellow gold oyster chronograph wristwatch features an exceptionally rare lemon-coloured dial. 

The Rolex Daytona was inspired by racing drivers and enthusiasts, most notably, Paul Newman. The legendary actor reportedly wore his Daytona every day from 1972 until his death in 2008, thus inspiring its moniker, which was coined by Italian collectors in the eighties. Today, it is one of the most desirable watches on the market and this particular model is lauded for its exceptional rarity and vibrant dial. 

Estimate CHF 80,000-140,000​

Patek Philippe World Time Wristwatch, Reference 2523/1

This pristine and revered 18K gold dual crown world time wristwatch was first retailed by Tiffany & Co. circa 1963. Only nine reference 2523/1 watches exist in all case metal and dial combinations and this present lot is the only one known with the prestigious Tiffany & Co. signature, making it a highly covetable and important timepiece indeed. 

Estimate: CHF 900,000-1,800,000

The Neptune 

This extremely rare breed of Rolex is crafted in yellow gold and features a cloisonné enamel dial that depicts the iconic image of Neptune, Roman god of the sea, riding his chariot through the waves. Dating back to approximately 1953, Rolex commissioned the esteemed dial maker Stern Frères to create the miniature masterpiece, which was meticulously painted by enamel artist Mrs. Nelly Richard. 

Due to the high cost in creating cloisonné enamel dials, Rolex commissioned very few designs and this miniature work is therefore extremely rare, as well as utterly enchanting. 

Estimate: CHF 300,000-600,000

Patek Philippe Reference 2499, Second Series 

This immaculate, gleaming gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch is unmistakably Patek, featuring signature moon phases and a Patek Philippe buckle. The iconic reference 2499 was the successor of reference 1518, the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch. 

This pioneering timepiece was introduced in 1951 and only 349 pieces were made over a period of 34 years, making it the most sought-after reference among Patek collectors. Only two exist with the Tiffany & Co. signature, a desirable subtly, and this wristwatch is the only one to feature baton indexes, making it a true one of a kind.  

Estimate: CHF 1,000,000-2,000,000