Christie’s will hold its Geneva Rare Watches Auction on November 12 and though there are a few heavy-hitters including a rare Serpico Y Laino signature Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 manufactured in 1952, for now we’ll look at seven Rolex watches that caught our attention. Here goes: 

Ref. 8382 Cloisonné enamel dial Neptune  

Rolex made very few watches with cloisonné enamel dials in the late 1940s and 50s. According to Christie’s, only three Rolex watches – this Ref. 8382, a Ref 6301 and a square Ref. 4645 - are known with a cloisonné enamel dial depicting Neptune, the Roman God of the sea. 

Rolex made these watches in the late 1940s and 50s

Legendary enamellist Nelly Richard produced this enamel dial on a solid gold plate at Stern Frères for Rolex. Still in excellent condition, this watch has also been documented in the archives of Stern Frères. Interestingly, Stern Frères also made the same dial for an 18K gold Omega Seamaster Chronometer in 1954.     

The dial was made by Stern Freres for Rolex

This Neptune cloisonné dial Rolex was first sold at the Auctions by Christie’s in 2011. More recently, it appeared at the Phillips’ The Geneva Watch Auction: Five in May 2017 where it was sold for CHF394,000 (it has a pre-sale estimate of CHF350,000–550,000 now). The gorgeous enamel dial and manual-winding Caliber 82’425 is encased in 37 mm 18K yellow gold. Many believe this is among the most important "time only" Rolex wristwatches of all. Estimate: $370,000–570,000

Ref. 4262 World Time 

Rolex world time watches are as rare as hen’s teeth. It is believed that only three including this fresh-to-the-market piece have been seen at public auctions. This should explain the allure of this circa 1940s pink gold pocket watch featuring Louis Cottier’s world time system, one of the most significant horological inventions of the last century.

Rolex made very few World Time watches

Geneva watchmaker Louis Cottier invented the world time or Heure Universelle mechanism in 1931. This system was famously used by brands like Patek Philippe (in the Ref. 605, 1415 and 2523), Vacheron Constantin (Ref. 3372), Agassiz and Rolex (present ref. 4262). Interestingly, Rolex did not put a world time watch into regular production, so only a few examples remain.

Louis Cottier invented this world time mechanism

These Rolex world time watches are fitted with an Aegler S.A. 18 jewel chronometer movement with a patented escapement protecting cap, modified on the dial plate side to accommodate the world time system. A unique blemish on this watch is a documented spelling error on the world city dial, the city of Istanbul is spelt as “IstaMbul” – it is believed that Rolex had asked the dial maker to correct this in future batches. Estimate: $89,000-130,000

Ref. 6238 ‘Pre-Daytona’

Rolex produced the Ref. 6238 between 1960 and 1968 and was the last chronograph reference before the introduction of the first Daytona Ref. 6239 in 1963. Unimaginatively referred to as the ‘Pre-Daytona’ by collectors, Ref. 6238 sports a monochromatic dial and a non-graduated bezel and can pass off as a dressy chronograph.

Rolex Ref. 6238 was made only in the 1960s

Approximately 3,600 examples were made, cased in stainless steel, 14K and 18K gold and was powered by a Valjoux 72 movement. The present example is from 1963 and has a 36 mm stainless steel case with a silvered dial featuring a layout similar to its successor, the Daytona Ref. 6239. The caliber 72B corresponds with the serial number featured on the case, which itself bears all the attributes of some of its future iterations. Estimate: $19,000-$29,000

Ref. 6263 Daytona ‘Paul Newman’

What’s an auction these days without a Paul Newman Daytona or two. This rare Ref. 6263 Paul Newman is fitted with a Mk1 Panda dial, considered to be among the rarest in the realm of Paul Newman Daytonas.

The coveted Rolex Ref. 6263 Paul Newman Daytona

Mk1 Panda dials were originally intended for the reference 6240 and can spotted on early examples of Ref. 6263 and 6265. On Mk I dials, font type for the “R” of Rolex is wider and fatter, the “G” in COSMOGRAPH has a serif and shorter inward return and the “H” is more pronouncedly asymmetric.

This is a Mk1 dial much prized among collectors

The stainless steel 37.5 mm case by C.R. Spillmann S.A. features the rare Mk 1 pushers, another prized attribute because these were quickly superseded by the 24-P301 version. The watch was serviced by Bucherer in June 2018 and was bought by the original owner in Geneva in the late 1960s and is being offered for sale for the first time. Estimate: $320,000-$520,000

Submariner Ref. 16800 Comex Issue 

There is a special place in the vintage Rolex universe for the COMEX issue Submariner. COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertise) was a French professional diving operation that collaborated with Rolex in the early 70s on tool watches its crew used for saturation diving.

The COMEX Submariner Ref. 16800

Over the years, these watches have undergone major technological innovations including the introduction of a gas release valve, a crucial feature on diver's watches. This particular COMEX Submariner ref. 16800 was consigned by the family of the original owner, a professional diver who worked for COMEX Aberdeen on oilrigs from 1975 till his death.

The engraving is a reference to COMEX issue number

A transitional Submariner, Ref. 16800, was in production between 1982 and 1986. It has a 40 mm stainless steel case. From circa 1983, it is fitted with a Rolex Oyster bracelet with a deployant clasp and comes with its sales tag and fitted presentation box. Estimate: $37,000-47,000

Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 “Double Red”

The Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 is an important timepiece in Rolex history. It was made for approximately 10 years from 1967 to 1977, and was the first watch designed for saturation diving. It was fitted with a patented gas escape valve and was depth-rated to 610 meters. The valve was first developed on the Submariner model and allowed helium and other gases to escape, enabling the watch to withstand compression. 

The Double Red signature is seen on the dial

Supposedly in excellent overall condition, this watch (circa 1968) has a 39 mm stainless steel case with an Oyster folded bracelet with a deployant clasp. It features the Mk II dial and features the red signature "SEA-DWELLER" and "SUBMARINER 2000". The ‘Double Red’ is a reference to this coveted signature (in red) on the dial.

The bracelet is period correct too

The font on the second red line is slightly smaller, and the coronet is distinctive on the version II dials because of the slightly distorted spikes and almost non-existent "O" of the coronet. The Oyster bracelet 9315 with endlinks is stamped 285 – period correct for this model – and is accompanied by brochure, box and display clip. Estimate: $37,000-67,000

Air King Ref. 5500 

Vintage Rolex watches with a connection to Middle East royalty continue to capture the imagination of collectors. This Rolex Air-King Ref. 5500 is on the auction block for the first time and has reportedly been preserved in excellent overall condition. The dial, originally black but now ‘tropicalized’ to an appealing dark brown, features the gilt signature of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the first Minister of Education for Kuwait. 

This Air-King reference is from 1962

According to Christie’s, only two other Rolex watches are known publically with the signature of Sheikh Al-Sabah on their dials: a steel Oysterdate Precision Ref 6094 and a steel Oyster Perpetual Ref. 1002. Both watches, like this Ref. 5500, are from 1962. 

The black dial has topicalized to a rich brown color now

The Sheikh presented this particular example to the grandfather of the former owner on August 9, 1964 at the second World Ohrid Swimming Marathon in Macedonia. The original recipient received this as a token of appreciation for his part in the organization of the event but also for acting as the official companion and translator. The watch has a 33 mm stainless steel case, a Rolex Oyster riveted bracelet with a deployant clasp and is powered by the self-winding Caliber 1530. Estimate: $16,000–31,000

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: A big thank you to Remy Julia, Head of Christie's Watches for the Middle East & India for presenting us this opportunity to view these watches during their stopover in Dubai earlier this month.