auction house

Phillips | The Bao Dai Rolex sold for € 4,600,000

A world-famous, diamond-encrusted Rolex 6062 was commissioned directly by the last Emperor of Vietnam, known as the Bao Dai (or Keeper of Greatness), in 1954 Geneva.


Spring of 1954, Geneva. Following the Indochina war, the world powers meet in Switzerland to negotiate with the Viet Minh on the future of Vietnam. During a recess, a man steps out of the Hotel des Bergues, where informal negotiations were taking place, to get some fresh air. He doesn’t know it yet, but his country will soon be split in two and he will be known as the Last Emperor of Vietnam.

The Emperor’s request is a simple one: He wants the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made.

He decides to take a stroll but his footsteps take him only across the street to Chronomètrie Philippe Beguin, a famed Rolex retailer. The Emperor’s request to the staff is a simple one. He wants the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made. Before the numerous refusals of the different models presented to him, Rolex is called to the rescue and a clerk is rapidly dispatched from the Rolex workshops in the outskirts of Geneva, bringing with him a rare timepiece: the Rolex reference 6062 in yellow gold, with a black dial and diamond indexes.

A timepiece that will forever be associated with the Last Emperor of Vietnam, even taking his name: Bao Dai.

Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy was the 13th and last emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty. It was not until he ascended the throne in 1925 at age 12 that he was granted the title of Bao Dai — Keeper of Greatness. Bao Dai championed reforms in the judicial and educational systems, and tried to end the more outdated trappings of Vietnamese royalty. He ended the ancient Mandarin custom that once required aides to touch their foreheads to the ground when addressing the Emperor.

Not only a man of wealth, Bao Dai was also a man of taste. He commissioned the greatest artisans of the time to create superb unique creations fit for an Emperor, may it be a villa, private yacht or car. (He notably owned a famed Ferrari 375 MM Spyder rebodied by Scaglietti to a blue/silver Tour de France.) He wanted the best, and had the eye and finesse to recognize it.

This elusive Rolex 6062, cased in yellow gold, is one of only three black dial models known to be set with diamond markers. While two examples feature six diamond markers for odd hour numbers, this particular lot from The Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE displays five diamond numerals for even numbers and a different dial layout, making this piece truly unique. It is interesting to note that due to the diamond numeral at 12 o’clock, the Rolex crown was moved down, consequently making it impossible to have the “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” above the day and month apertures. The “Officially Certified Chronometer” wording was also removed from the center of the dial and placed below the moonphase indication.

This timepiece is not only extremely desirable due to its imperial provenance, but is also a condensate of Rolex‘s genetic code: the iconic Oyster case, a Rolex “perpetual” in-house movement and of course the ultimate rarity of a full calendar complication featuring a moonphase display. The reference 6062 embodies what Rolex stands for without a shred of compromise.

The “Bao Dai” first appeared on the market in 2002, consigned by the family of the Emperor, where it was already sold by Phillips for a record breaking CHF 370’000, making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold at the time. We are delighted to offer this Rolex milestone 15 years later, from the collection of the second owner. The watch is still in spectacular, untouched and unrestored condition.

Its imperial provenance, rarity and superb condition make the “Bao Dai” one of the most valuable timepieces ever produced regardless of the brand.


THE GENEVA WATCH AUCTION: FIVE 

GENEVA AUCTIONS 13 – 14 MAY 2017

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