By and large, Rolex has established itself as a benchmark in the field of fine watchmaking by remaining true to its iconic design, while at the same time
replica Rolex Day-Date watches constantly improving it. Over the years, Rolex watches have always been incremental rather than revolutionary, and this approach has been very rewarding for the brand. For this reason, when an unusual Rolex wristwatch comes up for auction, it always attracts attention and collectors’ money. In this article, we take a look at three vintage Rolex watches of unusual style and design that fetch high prices at auction.
A fascinating vintage Rolex Greenwich model is on the list of the eighth lot in the sale, the Ref. 6542, a model that departs from the standard model in many details.
The Ref. 6542 is the earliest model in the Rolex Greenwich Collection, dating from the mid-1950s and designed for Pan Am pilots to track dual time zone information. The earliest Greenwich model Ref. 6542 had a stainless steel case with a Bakelite bezel (in 1959, Rolex replaced the fragile Bakelite bezel with a more durable aluminum bezel). So the configuration of the 18-karat yellow gold case and the aluminum brown bezel already makes this unique timepiece stand out. But what is truly unusual is the placement of the crown on the left side of the case. It was the first antique Rolex GMT Ref. 6542 Left-handed in yellow gold to go to public auction, according to Fine Arts. In the end, the watch fetched CHF 200,000.
Rolex watches can generally be divided into two categories: sports watches (also known as “professional watches”) and classic watches. The difference between these two types of watches can be seen in the design of the dial. Most sports models have “Mercedes-style” hands and luminescent hour markers, while classic watches generally have “straight” hands and different types of hour markers.
However, in November 2017, Christie’s Precious Watches auction featured an exceptional Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803 vintage watch. This presidential watch in white gold is equipped with a custom-made “sports dial” and is adorned with luminescent “Mercedes-style” hands and luminescent round and bar-shaped hour markers. Rolex produced this watch in 1969 at the request of a private client; an identical one was later produced for the royal family of Klarlund, the largest authorized Rolex retailer in Scandinavia. As a result, only two are known to have survived. Christie’s sold this extremely rare vintage Rolex Day of the Week Ref. 1803 for CHF 275,000.
In May 2017, Christie’s auctioned a Rolex Submariner Model 1680 white gold prototype watch in its “Rolex Afternoon” feature, perhaps the most unusual vintage Rolex watch to hit the auction market in the last few decades. It is estimated that Rolex produced only three of these prototypes in the early 1970s, and fans of the Submariner’s design will immediately recognise the difference from the regular model.
Firstly, it has a white gold case (Rolex only offered the Submariner 1680 in steel or yellow gold); secondly, the case is decorated with a guilloché bezel, which is not fully covered by the pitted outer bezel; and thirdly, it is fitted with a presidential chain, as is often the case with day-of-the-week calendar watches, whose central link is decorated with a bark-like texture. In the end, this strange-looking Rolex fetched 631,500 francs, a record for a Submariner.