2018 Review: Five Most Valuable Watches Sold at Auctions

There were too many exciting sales that took place in 2018. After revisiting some highlights in categories like whisky, automotive and diamonds, let us take a look at the watch market. Patek Philippe and Rolex dominated the top five positions for the most expensive watches auctioned in 2018.

1.  Rolex Daytona Ref.6265 “The Unicorn”

The most expensive wristwatch is still currently held by the Rolex Daytona that actually owned by the legendary Paul Newman, which sold for record-breaking US$17.75m in October 2017. Yet the appeal of Rolex Daytona didn’t die down. The most expensive watch sold at auctions in 2018 was also a Rolex Daytona.

A Rolex Daytona ref.6265 sold for CHF 5.9m in Geneva in May, realising the second highest price ever paid for a Rolex after the Paul Newman’s Rolex. It came from the collection of renowned watch collector John Goldberg.

For many years it was commonly accepted that Rolex only produced manual winding Cosmographs in stainless steel or yellow gold, and never in platinum, white or pink gold. Yet for one lucky customer, Rolex created a one-off unique masterpiece – a Cosmograph cased in white precious metal. The one and only manual-winding white gold Rolex chronograph fetched a whopping CHF 5.9m and became the top lot this year.

Auction house: Phillips Geneva
Sale: Daytona Ultimatum
Sale date: 12 May 2018
Price realised: CHF 5,937,500

2. Patek Philippe Ref.2499 Yellow Gold Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Wristwatch

The second highest watch was a Patek Philippe ref.2499 perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch that sold for CHF 3.915m in Geneva in November.

Manufactured between 1950 and 1985, the ref. 2499 was in a limited production that only 349 pieces were made. The Asprey piece was one of the first series and is thought to be the only one in that series with the Asprey signature.

It was sold for CHF 2.2m when it was offered at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2006 and set the then record for the highest price paid for a ref. 2499. It set the record again for a ref.2499 after it reappeared onto the market and sold for CHF 3.9m in Geneva in November.

Auction house: Sotheby’s Geneva
Sale: Important Watches
Sale date: 13 November 2018
Price realised: CHF 3,915,000

3. Patek Philippe Ref.2499 18K Gold Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Wristwatch, Retailed by Serpico Y Laino

The third most expensive watch fell to another ref.2499 that manufactured in 1952, which is also an 18K gold first series. The watch was sold for CHF 3.25m at Christie’s Geneva this autumn, exceeding its presale estimate of CHF1.5m-2.5m.

It was retailed by jeweller Leopoldo Serpico and goldsmith Vicente Laino and hence the name SERPICO Y LAINO, CARACAS can be found on the dial. This is the only ref.2499 known to exist that bears the Serpico y Laino marking.

Auction house: Christie’s Geneva
Sale: Rare watches
Sale date: 12 November 2018
Price realised: CHF 3,252,500

4. Rolex Daytona Ref.6240 “The Neanderthal”

In Phillips’ spring sale in Geneva, a Rolex Daytona ref.6240 “The Neanderthal” fetched CHF 3m. It features the black and white ‘pre-Paul Newman’ style dial, offering us a window into the time when Rolex experimented with various design codes.

First launched in 1965, ref.6240 was manufactured exclusively in stainless steel and featured an acrylic bezel that displayed the tachymeter. Produced for a few years only, reference 6240 eventually evolved to the well-known references 6263 and 6265.

Auction house: Phillips Geneva
Sale: Daytona Ultimatum
Sale date: 12 May 2018
Price realised: CHF 3,012,500

5. Patek Philipp Ref.2499 Pink Gold Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Wristwatch

Beside Geneva salerooms, Sotheby’s Hong Kong also sold a Patek Philippe pink gold ref.2499 for HK$23.5m (US$3m), a record price for the most valuable wristwatch sold at auction in Asia, as well as the world record for a pink gold ref.2499.

Made in 1971, the ref.2499 wristwatch third series was cased in pink gold and retailed by Tiffany & Co. There are only six examples known of the third series dressed in pink gold, and this example is considered to be one of the very best.

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Important Watches
Sale date: 2 October 2018
Price realised: HK$23,520,000