There is no doubt that Rolex is one of the world’s most famous and prestigious watch brands. From exceptional design to superb craftsmanship and incorporation of the latest innovations, Rolex watches have it all. Although these products are pretty expensive, it’s not always surprising to see someone rocking one – people usually find a way to acquire one or a collection. However, some Rolex watches outright cost an arm and a leg; only the wealthiest in the community can afford them. Here, we look at some of the most expensive Rolex watches ever sold at an auction.

1. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona ($17.8 million)

For the longest time, the Rolex Daytona “Unicorn” was considered the most expensive Rolex watch ever auctioned. However, in 2017, Paul Newman moved from being one of the most bankable movie stars to selling the most expensive Rolex watches. The 1968 Rolex Daytona sold for $15.5 million, but if you include the buyer’s premium of 12.5%, the selling price moves to $17,752,500.

Following the October 2017 sale, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona became the second most expensive wristwatch (overall) and the third most expensive watch ever sold at an auction.

2. Rolex Daytona “Unicorn” ($5.9 million)

As aforementioned, the Rolex Daytona (Ref 6265) held the record for being the most expensive Rolex for a long time. Unlike most Daytonas that were made using stainless steel, the Unicorn is made out of 18k white gold. It was produced in the 70s and is the only vintage made of white gold.

In 2018, the Daytona Unicorn was sold for $5.9 million at an auction, with all the funds obtained from this auction being channeled to Children’s Action. Even though Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona tripled its price, the “unicorn” is still quite pricey if you deep it.

3. Rolex “Bao Dai” ($5.1 million)

The Rolex “Bao Dai” was named after its original owner, Nguyen Phuc Vin Thuy, the Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam. He was renamed Bao Dai when he was 12, soon after ascending to the throne. Rolex “Bao Dai” was manufactured in 1952 but became the Emperor’s property in 1854.

In 2002, the Rolex Bao Dai was auctioned for $235,000. Fifteen years later, it was sold in a Philips auction for $5.1 million. The current owner of the watch chose anonymity.

4. Rolex’ “The Legend” Cosmograph Daytona ($3.7 million)

Interestingly, this Rolex Daytona is called “The Legend” because it was hidden by collectors for so long that people thought it didn’t exist. This rareness, plus the classic sub-dial design of this yellow-gold Daytona, skyrocketed its auction price and earned it the moniker. When it was put for sale in 2018, the watch was sold for $3.7 million.

5. Neanderthal Daytona ($3.01 million)

The Neanderthal is a pre-Newman Rolex Daytona manufactured in 1966. Unlike most Rolexes on this list, the Neanderthal Daytona isn’t associated with any famous person or activity – its unique selling point is its dial configuration. Although the watch was produced as part of an experiment and had a similar sub-design as the Paul Newman, it doesn’t embrace the Daytona or Oyster dials.

6. Rolex Antimagnetique ($2.5 million)

Given it’s the only lone split-second watch Rolex has ever made, it’s unsurprising that the Rolex Antimagnetique is one of the most expensive Rolexes ever sold at an auction. Additionally, only 12 pieces of the model were made, most of which were gifted to famous racers. One of the vintages manufactured in 1942 sold for $2.5 million at the Phillips auction in Geneva in 2016.

7. Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT Master ($1.952 million)

The Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT Master was popularized by Marlon Brando, the actor who played Colonel Kurtz in the Apocalypse movie released in 1979. Not only did Marlon wear the watch while filming what most people consider one of the greatest films ever made, but he also modified it by adding a leather strap and removing the bezel. The watch was sold for $1.952 million at a Phillips auction in 2019.

8. Rolex Daytona “The Arabian Knight” ($1.931 million)

As the name suggests, the Rolex Daytona ref 6263, popularly known as “The Arabian Knight,” was specifically made for a Middle Eastern royal family member. Sold for $1.931 million at a Phillips Ultimatum Sale, the watch features a dial with numerals printed in Arabic-Indic. It also has a Sigma symbol at 6 o’clock.

9. Eric Clapton’s Rolex Daytona Oyster “Albino” ($1.4 million)

One of the biggest selling points of Eric Clapton’s Rolex Dayton Oyster, commonly known as the “Albino”, is its silver dials and sub-dials. Owned by Eric Clapton, a famous English Singer and Guitarist, the Rolex Daytona Oster attracted a price of $1.4 million from a Phillips auction in 2015. That price was fair, considering Rolex only made four of these watches and its association with Eric Clapton. The original Daytona Oyster was created in 1971.

10. Jack Nicklaus Day-Date ($1.22 million)

In 1967, Rolex made an 18-carat yellow gold Day-Date for a famous golfer and the brand’s ambassador, Jack Nicklaus. He wore the watch for many years across multiple world events, including during 12 championship competitions. In 2019, Jack Nicklaus auctioned it for $1.22 million, with all the proceeds channeled to his charity program.

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Last Update: April 17, 2024