Rolex - Example of a luxury Watch you can pawn at Pawnbrokers of Rodeo Drive

Top 10 Most Expensive Rolex Watches In The World as of 2021

We often hear questions like “What is the most expensive Rolex watch?”, ” Why Rolex is Expensive?”, and “How much is the most expensive Rolex watch?”. Indeed, if you’re looking for a watch that perfectly matches your style, stands the test of time and provides that extra touch of classic appeal, then you’ve likely considered the Rolex. One of the world’s premier watchmaker brands, there’s a reason that these luxury time-pieces carry such a hefty price tag. The ultimate in indulgence, a Rolex isn’t just a purchase; it’s an investment.

However, when it comes to the most expensive Rolex watches in the world, it’s not the average piece you can pick up in a store. To go big, you need to go to auction. Especially when it comes to those one-of-a-kind models or unique examples of precisely what Rolex can do. Read on to discover ten of the world’s most expensive Rolexes and their prices at auction.

1. James Bond’s 1973 Rolex Submariner

When it comes to expensive taste in watches, there are few men with taste as good as James Bond. While the character himself may be fictional, this 1973 Submariner was tailor-made for one movie particular – the eight film in the series, 1973’s Live and Let Die starring Roger Moore. In comparison to the usual Rolex, Bond’s included some additional career-specific features, including a sharp bezel to cut rope. Though the magnetic field is not a feature on the real watch, it still served to provide plenty of entertainment to movie-goers. These specific details explain why this Rolex is expensive, or better said one of the most expensive Rolex watches ever sold.

Designed in pure silver with gold accent pieces for added effect, this watch is as classic as they come and perfectly matches to 70s Rolex aesthetic, adding that integral final part to any tuxedo look you might choose. Sold in 2015 for $365,000, this piece of movie history is sure to be just as enjoyable for its new owners as it was for Bond fans, especially considering its unique history and famous past owner.

Known as a ref. 5513 Submariner, this customized model offers the glamour of the superspy world with all the luxury of a Rolex model. In addition to the distinctive bezel, the end link also contains a tiny hole, allowing for practical effects with wire and further adding to the timepiece’s charm. But for those looking for a real-life piece of Bond’s wardrobe, the movement-free inside may be a disappointment. While signed internally by Moore himself, only a weight is featured – meaning this Submariner is unable to tell the time at all…not a great feature to one of the most expensive Rolex watches ever sold on auction.

2. Steve McQueen 1967 Rolex Submariner

Another Submariner on our “What’s the Most Expensive Rolex Watch Ever Sold” list, proving just how popular this specific model of Rolex is to the right and famous. One of Hollywood’s brightest stars, Steve McQueen’s 1967 Submariner was chosen to match his aesthetic and style and was no stranger to his many fashion editorials and premiere appearances. Clean, classic and always in style; just like McQueen himself.

Featuring a more muted colour palette that worked perfectly for one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors, McQueen’s Rolex is as reliable as it is appealing to look at. With a navy bezel, black face and white accents, all on a silver base, there’s little not to love about this simplistic design. It says it all. Selling at auction for $234,000, its high price was entirely based on its past owner and his ongoing legacy as one of Hollywood’s greats, explaining therefore why some Rolex watches can be so expensive.

This ref. 5513 Submariner has plenty going for it without the added celebrity angle, but as part of McQueen’s wider estate – and the bidding frenzy that began – it wasn’t any real surprise that this particular Submariner fetched such an exceptional price. During his career, McQueen also gifted an older version of this watch to his stuntman, which is the only Submariner in history featuring his name engraved directly onto the back. For collectors, obtaining both is the holy grail of timepieces. And for good reason, too.

3. Dr Rajendra Prasad’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual in Gold

Unique in appearance and with an impressive history that will appeal to any collector, this gold Rolex dates back to 1950, where it was gifted to India’s first president, Dr Rajendra Prasad, on the first day of his constitution. The design of the watch was personalised for the man himself, including an 18k pink gold map of India, in addition to an engraving of the date he became president. Following his death, the watch was lost or stolen before reappearing at auction in 2011, 47 years later, when it established itself as one of the most expensive Rolexes in the World ever sold on auction, as of 2021.

While by today’s standards this particular Rolex is quite different from its modern-day equivalents, it’s the rich and important history behind this timepiece that makes it so valuable, hence why this Rolex watch is so expensive. Created to mark the first-ever Republic Day in India’s history, two versions of this unique watch were commissioned. One for the President, and one for the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. While little is known about the second watch, the sale of Dr Prasad’s watch has been barred by the Indian government thanks to its worth and significance.

A true example of the robust nature of the Rolex, this decades-old time-piece continues to be just a striking as the day it was created, thanks to its vibrant gold finish and distinct design elements. With such a unique piece of history, it’s no surprise that the watch went for a staggering $440,000 at auction, continuing its legacy as one of the most expensive Rolexes in history. However, to this day it seems the family of Dr Prasad are still hoping to reclaim the lost time-piece, despite its increasing worth.

4. Paul Newman Ferrari Red Rolex Daytona

If you’ve even considered collecting or familiarising yourself with the world of Rolexes, then you’re likely already heard of Paul Newman’s penchant for some of the most prolific and expensive Rolex watches in the world. Known for a wide range of different personas, from his work as an actor to a film director, and even his time as a race car driver, Paul Newman’s history is part of what makes this Ferrari Red Rolex so appealing and why this Rolex watch is so expensive. The watch was a gift to the star directly from Rolex, with only eight of these limited Rolexes still existing today.

Prominently featured in Newman’s 1969 movie ‘Winning’, this specific colourway and make of Rolex is considered amongst the rarest in the world, exactly the kind of the reason that makes this Rolex so expensive. Experts believe that only 8-22 examples now remain, of which most won’t be in the same pristine, collector’s condition as Newman’s model. With studded jewels, a robust design and unmistakable appearance, it’s no surprise that this watch made a name for itself outside of movies as well as on-screen.

Instantly recognisable for their vibrant red face, set against black elements and finalised with a beautiful silver exterior, the Ferrari Red Rolex is impressive enough alone with its fascinating history. However, with Paul Newman’s name attached to this time-piece, this unique piece of the past sold for an astonishing $267,203 at auction. A great entry on our “What is the most Expensive Rolex Watch in the World” list

5. Eric Clapton’s 1971 Rolex Daytona

Known as one of the world’s greatest musical artists, the name ‘Eric Clapton’ is sure to add value to any time-piece. Known for his affinity for luxury wristwear – including several Rolexes – it’s no surprise that the musician was able to take his pick. This ‘Oyster Albino’ Daytona is one of a minimal run of four, further adding to its value and making the piece highly coveted by collectors worldwide, which is what makes this Rolex one of the most expensive watches in the world.

Clapton is a well-known collector of luxury items, from Ferraris to vintage watches, and his ref. 6263 Daytona is no exception to that rule. The ‘Albino’ name of this watch comes from the use of silver chronograph functions as opposed to the more typical black with white print, creating an all-around paler, but no less impressive, appearance. Clapton purchased the watch only a few years before its later sale, which makes it even more impressive that his name is associated with a watch that wasn’t created for him.

With a silver appearance and black accents, this watch is as slick as is it attractive, with a distinct 1970s feel to it. Created from stainless steel, Eric Clapton’s 1971 Rolex Daytona is worth far more than the sum of its parts. Though the time-piece has changed hands multiple times over the years, its most recent price at auction was a very impressive $1.4 million back in 2015. As one of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world, there are very few collectors who wouldn’t want to get their hands on this unique design.

6. Bao Dai Rolex

A completely unique, and utterly fascinating Rolex, the Bao Dai Rolex in unlike anything else. Previously owned by the last emperor of Vietnam, and known for its visually striking appearance, this Rolex has a fascinating history, and was initially sold at auction in 2002 for a far lower price than you’d expect for one of the most expensive Rolexes in the world; $235,000.

Defined as a ref. 6062 Rolex, this fascinating timepiece is coveted not only because of its history but because of its unique features. Very few Rolexes have included that moon-phase and triple calendar references, further adding to the rarity of this specific piece. It may surprise collectors to know that the watch wasn’t created for the Vietnam Emporer, but was instead featured at Baselworld fair then purchased at a later date as the most valuable – and exclusive – timepiece the brand had to offer.

With a striking black dial, diamond indexes and a yellow gold finish, including a moon phase and calendar, it soon turned out that over $250,000 for this Rolex was an excellent deal; with collectors the world over soon gaining interest in the truly one-of-a-kind watch. In 2017, the watch sold for twenty times its original auction value, at an astounding $5.1 million, proving that a profit can certainly be made when it comes to collection the world’s most expensive Rolex watches.

7. Paul Newman’s Personalised Rolex Daytona

When it comes to the most expensive Rolexes in the world, Paul Newman’s name is a regular occurrence. In comparison to his Ferrari Red Rolex, however, this unique time-piece tops the charts by a large margin. One of the most sought-after and expensive Rolexes in the world, this beautiful watch was originally a gift from Newman to his wife, Joanne. Personalised with ‘drive carefully me’ and purchased originally in New York, this rare time-piece is a popular favourite not just for its design, but for its unique history too.

The Daytona is a well-loved favourite for many collectors and celebrities, and this particular piece is no exception. In 1984, the famous watch was gifted by Newman to the boyfriend of his daughter. It was then worn every day all the way through to the early ’90s, without him ever knowing the value and significance behind the timepiece. With the watch then breaking auction records in under 12 minutes, it would have been a very pleasant surprise to discover that he was wearing one of the most expensive Rolexes ever produced.

With a more contemporary leather strap and a combination of creams, browns and silvers, this Rolex could be considered understated in comparison to some of the other watches on this list. However, the ultra-rare design, combined with the engraved message, resulted in a mind-blowing auction price of $17.8 million for this fascinating historical piece.

8. The 1971 ‘Unicorn’ Rolex Daytona

When it comes to the types of Rolex available, the Daytona seems to always come out on top. From Paul Newman’s priceless models to the beautiful and luxurious Unicorn, these watches always seem to fetch an excellent price on our list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world. Named for its almost mythical design and impressive construction, the Unicorn originates in the 1970s and is one of the rarest variations of the Daytona on offer.

The ref. 6265 Rolex Daytona is manually wound, adding to its vintage charm, and is one of several Daytona Rolexes to top the charts in terms of value – though in this case, it’s down to its unique nature rather than its famous past. Up until its sale, the timepiece was owned by famous watch collector John Goldberger as part of his wider collection. In a particularly selfless move, it was sold to benefit charity Children in Action, further adding to the value surrounding this particular piece, and explaining partially why this Rolex is so expensive.

Created in an elegant 18k white gold, and utilising quality metal instead of acrylic in its design, the Unicorn is unique and one-of-a-kind, making it highly sought-after for its attractive appearance and style. As you’d expect for such an incredible time-piece, the Unicorn fetches an excellent price at auction, with its latest sale in 2018 costing $5.9 million. It’s marginally more expensive than the Bao Dai Rolex, making it the second most expensive Rolex in the world ever to be auctioned.

9. Paul Newman 1969 Cosmograph Daytona

Paul Newman’s excellent taste in watches doesn’t end with his personalised watch for his beloved wife. The Cosmograph Daytona is yet another example of excellence in design from Newman’s extensive time-piece collection. Created in 1969, this legendary time-piece included screw-down pushers as well as an Art Deco style design, making it a piece that’s more highly coveted than practically any other watch in existence.

The Cosmograph itself holds a unique and interesting history – much like the Submariner or Yacht-Master, this particular model was built to make it to the moon. The space chronograph model, as it were. But once those plans fell awry, the Cosmograph became a part of the wider, and wildly popular, Daytona range. This unique history, plus the added benefit of a little celebrity sparkle, was exactly what was needed to raise the value and profile of this unique watch.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the elegant time-piece is still in like-new condition fifty years after its creation, further adding to its value on our list of most expensive Rolexes in the world. Thanks to the robust and functional design, this Rolex will still function like new for its new owner, should they choose to wear it rather than store it away. As with Newman’s other watches, the Cosmograph Daytona auctions off for an outstanding amount at auction, selling in 2017 for $3.7 million.

10. 1942 Rolex Antimagnetique

The oldest and one of the most expensive  Rolex watches on this list, the Rolex Antimagnetique has origins back in 1942, making the time-piece now over 77 years old. Finely-crafted to gift to racing drivers, the popularity of Rolexes increased from this time due to their rarity and attractive style. With 12 watches in total, each with a wide diameter of 44mm, they are the largest Rolexes ever produced.

While a stark difference to what we consider Rolexes to be today, the Antimagnetique was very much on-trend for the time. Created from stainless steel, these watches were never actually released to the general public – only increasing their worth and making them more coveted collector’s items. With several of the watches now making their way from within families as heirlooms to auction rooms around the world, it’s likely that these unique chronographs will continue to spark bidding wars for as long as they’re still in one piece.

With several different variants of the famous wristwatch available, these watches are increasingly sought-after by collectors. In 2016, one of the 12 sold at auction for an incredible $2.4 million, doubling its previous sale only a couple of years prior. At this rate, the Antimagnetique range will only continue to skyrocket in value as they become rarer and more challenging to maintain.

If you’re a fan of Rolexes, or if you love the feel of a valuable watch on your wrist, then auctions might be the way to go. With more and more sought-after Rolexes being found at auction every year, there’s never been a better time to pick up that variant you’ve been coveting, or that design you’ve fallen in love with.

If you are looking to sell your watch in the LA or Beverly Hills area, then we will buy your watch from you today! For more specific information on each of over 43 brands of fine watches we buy or loan against please visit some of the pages of the individual brands: Harry WinstonHublotIWCJaeger Le CoultreOmegaPiagetRoger DubuisNardinA Lange & SohnePreziusoAudemarsPiguetBamfordBlancpainBreguetBreitlingBvlgariCartierFranck MullerPaneraiPatek PhilippeRichard MilleRolex, or Vacheron Constantin to name just a few of the many brands we buy or loan against.

Rolex- Example of a Luxury Watch you can pawn at Pawnbrokers of Rodeo Drive

The History of Rolex – from the beginnings to 2021

In the world of high-end watches, there are many worthy brands to choose from. Watch collectors and lovers will wax lyrical about their favourite makers – but ultimately there is one which has done something incredible.

One brand has made the leap from being revered in watch-circles, to being globally known as a style, design, and mechanical marvel. Over the course of a century, that brand has continually grown in popularity through innovation, while retaining their classical elegant appearance.

That brand is, of course, Rolex, and this is their journey.

What is Rolex?

The origins of Rolex

Rolex enjoys a history and legacy which layers through each and every piece produced. Every decade since the firm was established at the turn of the 20th century has been noted by a momentous Rolex milestone and a classic construct in the field of horology.

The Rolex story begins well over 100 years ago. With a modest amount of money, Hans Wildorf and his future brother-in-law Alfred Davis founded a watchmaking company in London in 1905.

The son of a Bavarian ironmonger, Wildorf had been orphaned at the age of 12 and left in the care of his aunt and uncle. Wildorf’s inheritance disappeared when he was young as a result of some unrecorded criminal scam. The experiences only served to drive him on with vigour.

Wilsdorf’s mother was a descendent of the Maisel Bavarian brewing dynasty but instead of continuing in one of the family businesses, after he completed his education the young Hans secured a position in a pearl distribution firm. The oyster would become significant just a few years later.

Acquiring a grounding in jewellery and world trade, Wilsdorf then moved on to watch exporter Cuno Kortee in the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds. He would relocate to London in 1903 at the age of 22.

Two years later and Wilsdorf began producing wristwatches of his own alongside business partner Alfred James Davis. The partnership would be strengthened when Davis married Wilsdorf’s younger sister in 1906.

Aside from that, little is recorded in the history books about Davis except that his knowledge of finance neatly complemented Wilsdorf’s eye for watchmaking and enterprising vision.

From origins to oysters

On the back of early successes, in 1908 the pair registered the brand Rolex and after World War I moved the company’s base to Geneva.

Rolex quickly set the standard for wristwatches – at the time considered a female adornment – amidst the masculine preference for the pocket watch.

Wilsdorf boldly predicted that the wristwatch would become the standard accessory for timekeeping among gentlemen, sportsmen, pilots, explorers and divers. He was, of course, correct.

In 1910 Rolex was awarded the world’s first wristwatch chronometer rating by the School of Horology in Bienne and the first “Class A Certificate of Precision” from the Kew Observatory in England.

In 1925 Rolex trademarked the famous crown and coronet crest and a year later the iconic waterproof and dustproof Oyster was launched.

The “greatest triumph in watchmaking” followed in 1927 when the glamorous Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing a Rolex timepiece. Rolex still uses Gleitze’s name in their publicity today.

It is the biggest single watch brand famous throughout the world. In 1905, Hand Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis laid the foundation of this brand that is now in the heart of every watch lover. Initially, the duo was the importer of Hermann Aegler’s Swiss movement. Later on, Wilsdorf started his own business with his partner, and they became the most successful watch brand in the world. The most iconic Rolex pieces are the Submariner, Daytona, GMT-Master, and Lady Datejust. The most surprising fact is that Rolex manufactures 2,000 watches just in a day.

From humble beginnings

Rolex is now a multi-billion dollar company, making multiple hundreds of thousands of watches a year which are sold and revered in every corner of the world. But an icon is never born an icon, it’s the result of hard work and humble beginnings – Rolex is no different.

Hans Wildorf founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the company which would later become Rolex S.A with his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, in 1905. Despite Rolex being renowned in Swiss watch-making, Wilsdorf himself was German-born and the shop was established in London, England.

The company’s long connection with Switzerland first began through Wilsdorf and Davis importing Swiss watch movements from Hermann Aegler. These movements would be implanted into cases made locally, and the resulting watch could be sold to local jewellers – many of whom were able to customise them by engraving their own names within the dial.

Wilsdorf had a vision that encompassed much more than making a little profit – he wanted to transform the wristwatch itself. At the time, wristwatches were little more than mostly re-purposed pocket watches. They were bulky, tempramental, and unreliable.

It was Wilsdorf’s goal to make a wristwatch that was everything the current wristwatches weren’t. He wanted to offer customers something truly reliable, an accurate timepiece that could be comfortably worn. This is why he began importing the superior quality Swiss movements.

The birth of an icon

1908 would be the birth of the word “Rolex”, the year the name was trademarked. But, what’s in a name? Well, in the case of Rolex, quite a lot – it was a name that was hard thought and had to satisfy several strict criteria.

Wilsdorf had a view of a global watch brand, and so he wanted his watch to be very easy to pronounce in any language. The name Rolex itself is famously attributed to his belief that it was onomatopoeic – he thought it was similar to the sound of a watch being wound. The name also had to be short, so as to easily fit on the face of a compact wristwatch.

La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland would become the sight of a new office from which Wilsdorf and Davis would sell their new brand of “Rolex” watches. The company would not become known as Rolex until later years.

Wilsdorf had a passion for making accurate timepieces, and the company quickly became known for the accuracy of their movements and the reliability of their watches. Rolex became the first watchmaker to earn chronometer wristwatch certification, in 1910.

A “Class A Precision Certificate” was awarded to a Rolex watch in 1914 by the Kew Observatory. This was notable because a regular wristwatch was being awarded a precision certification usually reserved for marine chronometers – which are of course held to a higher standard of accuracy.

Following this, the company name would begin to change. Firstly to Rolex Watch Co. Ltd in 1919, and then Montres Rolex S.A. a year later – this would later be shortened to Rolex S.A. The move to Geneva came in 1919 when a combination of heavy import costs for the precious metals used in the watch cases, and post-war luxury import levies forced Wilsdorf out of England.

The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation currently runs the company, and has done so since 1960 when Hans Wilsdorf died. The foundation itself was established after his wife’s death in 1944, and in which Wilsdorf would entrust his Rolex shares.

How Rolex watches are made

Rolex remains unique and unparalleled in the world of horology. A large part of that is due to how the brand manufactures its watches.

Rolex uses a grade of stainless steel that no other watchmaker does. The 904L grade steel is expensive and requires immense skill to finely manipulate but it polishes extremely well and is very hard wearing.

All Rolex parts are manufactured in-house and the company even has its own gold foundry. All movements are hand assembled and tested. An extensive team of gemologists only accept the finest precious stones for inclusion in Rolex pieces.

It takes a year to make each Rolex watch. All markers are set by hand and the expert human eye is considered far superior to machinery at assembling parts with care, skill and precision.

Notable wearers and sponsorships

Rolex has become a global icon of watch-making not only through their exquisite quality and accurate time-keeping, but as a result of their popularity with a large number of celebrities and cultural icons. Rolex have also been known to sponsor a large number of high profile sporting events.

Famous wearers of their watches include Hollywood A-list celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Robert Downey Jnr. They were also popular with cultural icons such as Steve McQueen and Paul Newman – Newman’s specially designed Daytona became the most expensive watch ever sold in 2017, when it made $17.75 million at auction.

Rolex also found favour with many other historical icons. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Llama have all been photographed wearing, or expressed their appreciation for, Rolex watches. Marilyn Monroe gifted a Rolex Day-Date to John. F. Kennedy before her famous “Happy Birthday, Mr President” performance.

Rolex Oysters were worn by Tenzing Norgay, along with other Hut Expedition members, when they famously ascended Mount Everest in 1953. Rolex is also an official timekeeper in multiple tennis tournaments, such as Wimbledon, the Grand Slams, as well as the US, French and Australian Open.

Rolex serves as the official timekeeper for multiple golf events, including the Open Championship, U.S Open, as well as the European and PGA tour. As exhibited with their famous Daytona model, Rolex serves as title sponsor for the 24 Hours of Daytona, and since 2013 has been the official timekeeper of FIA Formula 1.

Rolex today

All of this storied history, cultural importance, and time-keeping excellence has led to Rolex still being at the top of many people’s list when they consider a truly premium watch. An impressive feat for a company established well over a century ago – however, Rolex appears to be going from strength to strength.

Rolex still makes its home in Geneva, from which they operate a multi-billion dollar company selling high-class watches to customers the world over. Rolex are famously guarded about certain statistics regarding their business, but it has been estimated they currently make in excess of 800,000 watches a year.

Purchasing a Rolex is, at its heart, purchasing a fine-quality timepiece. But, it’s about more than that. When you buy a Rolex, you buy something truly special. If you choose your model well, you have an investment-grade watch that will always be desirable.

How are Rolexes evaluated?

If you currently own a Rolex, or you simply want to know the process needed to correctly and completely evaluate a Rolex to understand its value, then using a professional evaluation service is your ideal choice. With trained expertise, a professional will be able to accurately confirm the type, make and specific model of your Rolex, in addition to completing a full valuation process.

These steps are typically included as part of an evaluation:

Box and papers

While some Rolexes will not come with their original box and papers, it’s a great advantage if you do have access to these items. An evaluator can use the paperwork provided in order to check the specifications of your watch, as well as to authenticate it. A Rolex box itself is worth between £150-300, so this can slightly increase the value of your Rolex if you’re able to provide it for evaluation with the original box intact.

Serial number and model

All Rolexes include a model and serial number upon their construction, usually located between the lugs of the case between 12 and 6 o’clock. In order to identify this, the evaluator will be required to remove the bracelet from the body of the watch. It’s generally not recommended you do this yourself, as you may cause damage to the timepiece in the process. This serial number provides information on the exact model of your Rolex, which can be used to identify its current value.

Physical condition

A thorough inspection of the physical condition of your Rolex is an important part of the process. This includes identifying corrosion, scratches and other damage. Dedications and engravings may lower the value of a Rolex also, especially for less unique pieces that are more widely available. The buckle, strap and face of your Rolex will be carefully identified for any and all damage, which is then fully recorded as part of the process.

Internal evaluation

Alongside external checks, your evaluator will also check if your Rolex is in full working order internally. The ability to smoothly change time, as well as for the watch to keep time in general, can make a big difference if you’re planning on selling your Rolex. Internal evaluations also allow for the checking of replacement parts such as bezels and dials, which may have been repaired or changed over the years.

Rolex is, and always will be, synonymous with excellence.

Interesting facts about Rolex

Rolex uses the ‘clockmaker’s four’ on their roman numeral watches

A specific phenomenon that’s only known to watch and clockmakers, on timepieces that include Roman numerals on their dials, Rolex uses IIII instead of IV. While there is no readily available reason for this, the distinction has become so well-known that it’s a Rolex signature at this point.

The Oyster was the world’s first waterproof watch

Thanks to a specifically-designed case, where the crown, back and bezel are screwed on in a particular and patented way, Rolex was able to produce a fully waterproof watch back in 1926. While the first watch was only waterproof to 100m, the depths their models can endure has only improved since.

Rolex uses different stainless steel to other watchmakers

While the most common stainless steel used for watches is known as 316L, Rolex uses specific steel known as 904L. This steel is more expensive and more difficult to utilise in the manufacturing process, which makes sense for one of the world’s premier luxury brands. If you compare Rolex stainless steel to a stainless steel watch from another brand, the difference is unmistakable.

Rolex creates its own gold in-house

As one of the only watchmakers in the world to produce their own gold, Rolex can have bars in their foundry of Everose gold that is worth millions of pounds at any one time – meaning they have a need for an exceptionally high standard of security on their premises.

Day-Date Rolexes are translated into 26 languages

For models that include a day wheel as part of their design, Rolex produces 26 distinct languages – including English, Hebrew, Japanese, Greek, Chinese, Spanish and Turkish, among many others.

Rolex led innovations in automatic date and day changes

Both the Rolex Datejust and the Rolex Day-Date, in 1945 and 1956 respectively, were ahead of the game when it came to the automatic changeover of dates and days on their dials.

If you are looking to sell your watch in the LA or Beverly Hills area, then we will buy your watch from you today! For more specific information on each of over 43 brands of fine watches we buy or loan against please visit some of the pages of the individual brands: Harry WinstonHublotIWCJaeger Le CoultreOmegaPiagetRoger DubuisNardinA Lange & SohnePreziusoAudemarsPiguetBamfordBlancpainBreguetBreitlingBvlgariCartierFranck MullerPaneraiPatek PhilippeRichard MilleRolex, or Vacheron Constantin to name just a few of the many brands we buy or loan against.

Patek Philippe watch

Top 10 Most Expensive Patek Phillipe Watches Ever Sold on Auction as of 2021, and Their Prices

Photo by Chris Lutke on Unsplash

Curious about the most expensive Patek Phillipe watch ever sold and its price? Our team of watch experts introduces the top 10 most expensive Patek Philippe watches ever sold by Patek Phillipe and their prices at auction!

Patek Philippe has been responsible for designing some of the most popular, sophisticated, and expensive watches ever sold at auctions, commanding great acclaim across the globe for the fine craftsmanship and innovative technologies of every timepiece in their range. The company was founded back in 1839 by designers Antoni Patek and Francois Czapeck, though the name at that time was Patek, Czapeck & Co. They started out designing and selling some of the most expensive high-end Patek Philllipe pocket watches, and in 1845 Francois Czapeck moved on from the company. Antonie Patek soon met a new business partner by the name of Jean Adrien Philippe, and in 1951 the company’s name was changed to Patek Philippe & Co.

In 1868, history was made when Patek Philippe created the world’s very first wristwatch. This would go on to become the preferred type of timepiece, with pocket watches gradually losing popularity ever since. Today, the iconic Geneva-based company is responsible for bringing a number of groundbreaking innovations to the industry and retains its place at the top of the pile when it comes to the most expensive, luxury and popular watches manufactured worldwide. Numerous figures from the worlds of celebrities, dignitaries, and even royalty wear a Patek Philippe watch, and some of the designer’s most complex and intricate watches are also among the most expensive that have ever been sold at auction.

Below are the top 10 Patek Philippe watches ever sold at auction as of 2021, and their prices.

10. The 1936 Patek Philippe Pilot Watch

This timepiece first came into the world in 1936, and stood out primarily due to its revolutionary case size, which has a diameter of 55 millimeters. It is thought to be a prototype made on special request, and as such, there is only a single model known to exist. The casing is made from chrome and nickel, the dial a superb black lacquer, and the scales are carved from the finest ivory varnish. The combination of these luxurious features culminates in a piece that is a work of pure art, and the auction price of the piece has reflected this. It sells at auction for around $1.7 million and is a deserving member of our list of top 10 most expensive Patek Phillipe watches ever sold at auction.

9. The 1925 Patek Philippe Grogan Watch

There is one feature of this watch that is particularly unique: it is the only model to the Patek Philippe name that was designed specifically for left-handed people to wear. As such, the controls and keys are all fitted on the left-hand side of the watch, and the chronograph is custom designed. In terms of design, it features a more square face with defined corners and the casing is fashioned from gold. When auctioned by Christie’s in 2006, the 1925 Grogan fetched a $1.95 million price and earned its place as one of Patek Philippe’s most expensive watches ever sold on auction.

8. The 1944 Model 1591 Patek Philippe watch

In 1944, the world was introduced to Patek Philippe’s model 1591; a timepiece with a bold, functional stainless steel case. It features a perpetual calendar and boasts a water-resistant design that was really quite innovative for the 1940s. It is an incredibly rare piece, with only two of them known to exist in the world. Few were even aware of the existence of this model until it first came to auction in 1996. Astonishingly, it came to the auction house via India’s Maharajah, who had given it as a gift to his wedding planner. The second known Patek Phillipe Model 1591 was auctioned by Christie’s in a 2007 event, where it made history by becoming the most expensive watch with a stainless steel case ever to be auctioned. The price there for the Patek Philippe Model 1591 was a staggering $2.26 million.

7. The 1957 Model 2499 Patek Philippe watch

The first series Patek Philippe Model 2499 is another diamond in the ruff, with only five known to have been produced. It is a rose gold marvel, bearing the signature Patek Philippe stamp and weighing in 18 karats. In 2007, during a special event at Christie’s, a Patek Phillipe 1957 Model 2499 became one of the most expensive watches ever to be sold at auction up to that time. The winning bidder parted with $2.28 million to become an owner of one of the rarest watches in the world, and definitely one of the highest priced Patek P{hillipe ever.

6. The 1953 Heures Universelles Model 2523 Patek Philippe watch

Patek Philippe’s Heures Universelles Model 2523 first hit the market in 1953 and it’s a real stunner. Its face is adorned with a vibrant design that does full justice to the grand name. You will be hard pressed to find a more meticulously-designed watch amongst the brand’s proud and extensive back-catalogue, with the enamel dial representative of a map of the entire of North America. The case of the Heures Universelles Model 2523 is made from 18 karat gold, and the piece has fetched as much as $2.9 million at auction. Another worthy entry on our list of top 10 most expensive Patek Phillipe watches ever sold at auction as of 2021.

5. The 1923 Officer Patek Philippe watch

The 1923 Officer is a peerless, one-of-a-kind timepiece that exudes classic sophistication and stylistic features, and one of Patek Phillipe’s highest price fetchers worldwide too. Its case is crafted from yellow gold with a weight of 18 karats, and its chronograph is distinctive and memorable. The piece incorporates an exterior chapter ring, which features calibration for 1/5th seconds, and two subsidiary dials: one at the ‘9’ position displaying continuous seconds, and a 60-minute register at the ‘3’ position.

The 1923 Officer is the only chronograph watch from Patek Philippe’s portfolio which includes a 60-minute counter, and it is also the only model they have which features a dial of white enamel adorned with black Breguet numerals. It is also the world’s earliest know split-seconds chronograph born as a wristwatch from any watchmaking company. The chronograph function is controlled via the button on the band for stop, start and reset, while the split-second hand function can be controlled with the winding crown. The Patek Philippe Museum was the subject of a fierce bidding war, and eventually ended up in the hands of the Patek Philippe Museum for a cool $2.965 million.

4. The 1927 Minute Repeating Wristwatch Patek Philippe watch

This enigmatically-shaped watch includes beautiful yellow gold and bears the coat of arms of the Graves family. Henry Graves had a close connection with Patek Philippe, and also owned their Super Complication piece, which carried a value of $11 million but wasn’t worn on the wrist. When auctioneers at Sotheby’s put the 1927 Minute Repeating timepiece up for sale, with a reserve price of $600,000, it actually ended up selling for a grand total of $2.99 million, making it another of the most expensive Patek Phillipe watches ever sold at auction as of 2021. One defining feature of the watch is that it was specially made for Henry Graves, and incorporated his personal “Esse Quam Videri” message, which means “To be, not to seem”.

3. The 1951 Ref 2499 Patek Philippe watch

The First Series of Ref 2499 Patek Philippe wristwatches is made from rose gold with a weight of 18 karats. Its many outstanding features include signature stamping, a moon phase dial and a perpetual calendar. A standard 1951 Ref 2499 First Series watch will cost at least $2.12 million at auction, but that’s not the piece we are interested in here, even though this is one of the most expensive Patek Phillipe models ever sold. In 2012 a very special platinum Ref 2499 was auctioned; one of only two that were constructed with this platinum casing. But what made it truly special was that it came from the private collection of music icon Eric Clapton, known for his long-term commitment to collecting Patek Philippe watches. His piece sold for $3,655,757. It is special characteristics like this, or sometimes seemingly minute distinctions, that can make all the difference when it comes to auction price. Collectors love scarcity, and unique features are extremely in-demand.

2. The 1939 Platinum World Time Patek Philippe watch

The platinum World Time wristwatch stands out as Patek Philippe’s absolute masterpiece in terms of design. There was only a single World Time model produced, which instantly sets it apart from most other watches out there. Meticulous, rigorous craftsmanship was poured into every element of the design, which incorporates a list of no less than 42 of the world’s most prominent cities and 24 time zones from all over the globe around the face in painstaking precision. It sold at the Antiqorum in 2002 for an impressive $4.03 million, one of Patek Phillipe’s highest price watch ever sold as of the time of this writing in 2021.

1. The 1943 Ref 1527 Patek Philippe watch

The most impressive Patek Philippe wristwatch ever to appear at auction also held the highest Patek Phillipe price tag. The 1943 Ref 1527 sold for an incredible $5.5 million in a record-breaking sale at a 2010 Christie’s auction in Geneva – the home of the company’s headquarters for its entire history. This Patek Phillipe became the most expensive wristwatch ever made, with only two pocket watches topping its remarkable price. The winning bid was made by a Swiss museum that wanted to exhibit the timepiece for its unique features and Patek Philippe’s close connections to Switzerland.

The vintage timepiece includes a chronograph, an elaborate moon phase display and a relentlessly iconic perpetual calendar. Add to this some deluxe features like minute markings, gold Arabic numbers, bi-metallic compensation balance, a date indicator and no less than 23 encrusted gemstones and it’s no wonder this beautiful work of art fetched such a high price at auction. The 37 millimeter dial is silver matte, and larger than the vast majority of dials on watches produced around the same era. Its case is yellow gold and weighs in at 18 karats. We have therefor reached the end of our journey, with this watch topping up our list of the top 10 most expensive Patek Phillipe watches ever sold on auction as of 2021.

And Yet, we have a Special mention….the Calibre 89

Patek Philippe’s most complicated, and most expensive pocket watch ever went on sale at Sotheby’s in Geneva a few years back, with an estimate of $6.4m – $9.9m. The Calibre 89 pocket watch was unveiled to the world in 1989 to mark the 150-year anniversary of the Swiss watchmaker; at the time it was the world’s most complicated watch, a record that held until 2005.

The Calibre 89 was able to hold the record thanks to its 33 complications – a complication being any feature beyond the displaying of hours and minutes. As well as traditional timekeeping functions, the timepiece also has calendar functions, chronograph functions, and chiming functions.

A feature-rich timepiece

Some of the most notable features on the clock face of the most expensive Patek Phillipe pocket watch ever sold at auction include a day of the month indicator, in an arc underneath the numbers on the top half of the face. Just below this, two windows inlaid into the watch face tell the user the year, as well as whether or not it is a leap year. Lower down on the watch, two windows indicate the day of the week, and the month.

Three smaller dials on the south, west, and east sides of the watch face displaying more data for the user. The south dial has a seconds hand, while also doubling up to show moon phases. The west dial has an elapsed time indicator (ETI), that runs up to twelve hours, while the east dial has an ETI that runs up to 30 minutes.

Flip the watch over, and you’ll find many more features, including a zodiadc signs guide, a celestial chart, a sunrise and sunset indicator, as well as many more. That a watch is able to execute so many functions simultaneously is a testament to Patek Philippe’s horological engineering. Definitely one of the most popular Patek Philippe watches, as indicated by the high price paid by collectors.

A rare opportunity to pick up a historic watch

This was the first time the Calibre 89 has been up for sale since 2009, when it sold at auction for $5m. Items like this don’t crop up at auction very often, so if you’re interested in them, you have to take the opportunity when it arises. As already discussed, the Calibre 89 looked set to smash its previous sale price, with the low-end estimate at $6.4m.

The current record for the most expensive pocket watch ever sold on auction is $24m, another Patek Philippe, in fact. The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, built in 1933, sold at Sotheby’s for the world record fee in 2014. Interestingly, the watch was the most complicated watch in the world for over 50 years, until its 24 complications were bested by none other than the Calibre 89, with 33.

With an estimate much lower than $24m, it’s hard – but not impossible – to see the Patek Phillipe Calibre 89 pocket watch breaking the world record for the highest-priced watch ever sold on auction. However, stranger things have happened. In the auction environment, two or more determined bidders can drive prices into the stratosphere. It might sound like a cliché to say ‘anything can happen but in the world of auctions, there’s a certain truth to that statement.

In a digital age where smartphones reign supreme, it’s encouraging that people are still willing to pay good money for the precision engineering of a deluxe clockwork timepiece. Whether the value comes from a tried-and-tested way of telling time or the beauty of wearing a work of art on the wrist, watch buyers are prepared to invest serious amounts of money in the most luxurious watches. Patek Philippe watches are some of the most in-demand as collector’s items, and the pieces listed here are at the very top-end of the scale in terms of what people have been willing to spend their money on at auction.

A bit on the history of Patek Phillipe watches…


Patek Philippe watch

Photo by Chris Lutke on Unsplash

Anyone who has ever had the honour of owning a hand finished and highly individual Patek Philippe timepiece will know what a marvel of design creativity and watchmaking genius it is, and why Patek Phillipe consistently produces the most popular and most expensive watches sold worldwide.

They are aspirational items; watches favored by the highest echelons of society and members of royal families for generations. Demand for new Patek Philippe watches is so high that some of the Genevan manufacturer’s most-sought-after items are only available on application, and you join a waiting list that could last years. The process also requires evidence of your credentials as a collector.

How did Patek Philippe become such as illustrious brand, and what’s the story behind the company’s globally renowned expertise?

Defining the indefinable

Among the many reasons that distinctive and distinguished Patek Philippe watches earn such devotion, and why it is on of the most expensive brand of watches ever sold at auction, is they are not ostentatiously “high end”. Their genius is often in their understated simplicity of design, to complement the intricacies of their watchmaking craftsmanship.

The words that spring to mind include elegant, unpretentious, and confidently genius.

One of the ways that the Patek Philippe company underpins and protects this high value and strong brand loyalty is by not over-producing its ageless timepieces. Only a limited number of watches are crafted each year. In the company’s prestigious 180 year history, less than a million timepieces have carried that distinctive logo.

This has all served to increase the passion to own a Patek Philippe, as demand outstrips supply, further explaining why Patek Phillipe watches are so expensive.

The care and precision that goes into each watch is also another factor that makes the company’s output less prolific than other brands. It is believed that Patek Philippe invests at least nine months of production time in each item that carries its moniker. Some of its more complex timepieces are the result of around two years of professional design, construction, and quality checking.

The movements in a Patek Philippe watch are always created by hand, with infinite attention to detail. Each case is usually created in-house from solid gold or platinum.

Many of the skills used today are the same as those employed in the earliest days of the company’s history. Though engineering expertise is important to Patek Philippe, it believes that superlative handcrafting is far more important than the ability of modern technology to “save time”.

It is this incredible expertise in watchmaking that ultimately sets Patek Phillipe apart as one of the most popular watch brand between collectors and celebrities. It’s the little details that provide evidence that each piece is a “labour of love”, including flawlessly polished hands, faceted batons and intricate multifaceted movements.

The origins of this watchmaking artistry

Patek Philippe is a rare company, in that it has been forging its craft continuously since 1839 and has guarded its fortunes against the interests of bigger conglomerates and brands. It is the last, big independent Swiss watchmaker.

Patek Philippe has been owned by the Stern family for four generations.

Even as recently as May 2019, the current Chairman, Thierry Stern, was vocal in his assertion that Patek Philippe is “not for sale”. Instead, he vowed to guide the iconic brand forwards until his own children – or some other worthy successor – can take the helm.

The announcement was prompted by rumors that Patek Philippe was the subject of a buyout of between $8 billion to $10 billion.


The Patek heritage

This fiercely independent and private owned watch manufacturer began life in the hands of Antoine Norbert de Patek. Patek was born in Poland in 1812 and fought in the Polish-Russian War, ultimately receiving his home country’s highest military honour for his heroism. When the uprising was repelled, Patek settling in France. He later moved again to live in Geneva, Switzerland.

Patek began developing his interest in the intricacies and creativity of Swiss watchmaking. He also soaked up inspiration and new skills from the work of Geneva’s outstanding plethora of jewellers and engravers. In May 1839, in partnership with fellow immigrants and family members, this fascinating man launched Patek, Czapek & Cie – Fabricants à Genève.

Though Patek’s initial partnership and company names were eventually replaced, more than once, this in no way indicates a rocky start to the company’s early years. The watches produced conferred Patek Phillipe immediate popularity. This growth was underpinned by success at the French Industrial Exposition of 1844, where Patek earned a Gold Medal for his patented mechanism for winding a movement, and positioning hands, without the use of a separate key.

This success was just one of the ways early Patek watches were cast firmly into the limelight, as Antoine Norbert de Patek was as astute at marketing as he was at watchmaking. He traveled extensively to promote his innovative and handcrafted products, eventually passing away in 1877 at the age of 65.

The Philippe heritage

Jean Adrien Philippe, born in 1815 in France, was also a gifted and visionary watchmaker and maintained Patek Phillipe’s reputation as a manufacturer of the most popular and expensive pocket watches ever sold at the time. While living in Paris, he invented his own winding mechanism, one that enabled pocket watch owners to use a crown instead of a key.

Patek and Philippe crossed paths in Paris, at the previously mentioned French Industrial Exposition of 1844. As a result of their instant mutual respect, the gifted French watchmaker became technical director of Patek’s growing enterprise in 1845.

He was tasked with improving manufacturing methods to develop new models with additional distinctive features. This gave him the opportunity to further perfect his keyless winding mechanism, and to add more patents to the team’s list of watch process innovations. Philippe literally conceptualized the systems that are used to create movement in watches to this day.

The coupling of Patek and Philippe proved to be a “match made in heaven” in terms of superlative watchmaking. Now, the resulting handcrafted products benefited from Philippe’s mechanical genius, as well as Patek’s understanding of decoration, enameling and jewellery.

From visionary founders, to passionate entrepreneurs

Time passed, and the founders, Patek and Philippe, were gone. The venture changed identities again in 1901 from Patek Philippe & Cie to the lengthy joint stock company “Ancienne Manufacture d’horlogerie Patek, Philippe & Cie, Société Anonyme”.

However, the company was fortunate to be in the hands of a new shareholding board of directors who were determined to protect both its future and its integrity.

Then came the Wall Street Crash and the economic hardships of the 1930s. The prestigious watchmakers reached a new watershed moment in its history. The shareholders agreed that a buyer was needed to assure its future.

The directors began talks with one of the company’s leading suppliers, dial manufacturers, Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Frères, which was owned by brothers Charles and Jean Stern. An already mutually beneficial working relationship eventually evolved into the Stern family owning the Patek Philippe company outright, from 1932 until the present day.

This new regime was responsible for the watch known as Ref. 96. The reason this is worth noting is that this product was the prototype for the Calatrava collection, which many argue is the purest line of watches in existence.

The newly reborn company also patented the Gyromax balance, another revolutionary watch mechanism that earned global interest, among other award-winning innovations and industry “firsts”.

Under the Stern family ownership, Patek Philippe also began applying its legendary innovation and vision to other business areas too. This included using the skills of its electronics team to become market leaders in railway and airport information systems.

New engineering focus, for brand betterment

The art of prestigious watchmaking remained the core of Patek Philippe.

One of the company’s most fertile periods of growth and innovation came in the 1970s. This is when engineering prowess was further developed, without compromising any of Patek Philippe’s artisan and sharply honed processes.

Building the firm’s engineering abilities served to protect manufacturing standards, and to ensure that the company’s components, watch servicing and repairs were of an unfailingly high calibre. It also supported a “new breed” of much sought after Patek Philippe watches that will continue to remain the most expensive watches in the world as of 2021.

It was during the 1970s that Philippe Stern – a keen sportsman – became determined to create a watch that met the needs of his generation of discerning buyers. From this came the classic “Nautilus Ref 3700/1A” in 1976, sold with the branding “One of the world’s most expensive watches is made of steel”.

The 1970s also saw the launch of the globally renowned ultra-thin Patek Philippe Caliber 240, which included a patented automatic winder.

The innovations continued. In 1989, the 150th anniversary of Patek Philippe was marked by the launch of the Calibre 89, which at the time was the most complex and intricate watch in existence (a record held for 26 years). These watches rarely come up for auction, but a yellow-gold Calibre 89 watch sold for over $5 million in 2009.

This was not a record, however, as a Patek Philippe Ref.1518 fetched $11 million in 2016.

There is more on the history and ethos of the company on its own website and interesting information on Patek Philippe heritage and innovation on Wikipedia.

What is the value of a Patek Philippe watch?

The above examples illustrate an irrefutable fact. Both new and vintage Patek Philippe watches command prices that outstrip other iconic companies in this sector.

This is particularly true of items that stand out for additional reasons, in terms of rarity or commemorative appeal.

According to Christie’s, re-sale of Patek Philippe’s 175th-anniversary collection reached “extraordinary prices” the instant it became available. The iconic company’s 5131 Cloisonné Enamel doubled its retail value at auction within days of its original sale, making it one of the most expensive Patek Phillipe watches in recent history.

This is a watch brand that grows in value very quickly, and substantially. For example, in November 2018, Christie’s illustrated this phenomenon, saying: “An original Nautilus from the 1970s, which originally retailed for less than $3,000, now trades for more than $50,000.”

The high investment potential of a Patek Philippe’s watch is clearly another reason why owners are generally extremely reluctant to sell a timepiece crafted by this prestigious company.

Authenticity and archives

To protect the brand and to enable owners or potential owners to research each individual timepiece, Patek Philippe has an unrivaled system for authentication.

Every watch made by the company has a distinctive feature – almost like a unique fingerprint – that enables it to be individually listed in the company archives. These archive entries are date stamped and ‘searchable’.

If you wish to explore the value of your Patek Philippe watch and potentially secure loan funding from your timeless timepiece, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Pawnbrokers of Rodeo Drive.

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If you are looking to sell your watch in the LA or Beverly Hills area, then we will buy your watch from you today! For more specific information on each of over 43 brands of fine watches we buy or loan against please visit some of the pages of the individual brands: Harry WinstonHublotIWCJaeger Le CoultreOmegaPiagetRoger DubuisNardinA Lange & SohnePreziusoAudemarsPiguetBamfordBlancpainBreguetBreitlingBvlgariCartierFranck MullerPaneraiPatek PhilippeRichard MilleRolex, or Vacheron Constantin to name just a few of the many brands we buy or loan against.