Over the last few years, auction prices for classic Rolex references have spiraled out of orbit into the realm of super-rich fiction. And with every unique or ultra-rare model that breaks the previous record, the bar is raised for those that follow.
It’s a fascinating time to be a Rolex collector, and nigh impossible to predict what the future holds. But, for now, we’ve put together a list of the most expensive Rolex watches ever sold.
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona ($17.8 Million)
When Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona resurfaced in 2016 after a three-decade absence, it’s fair to say the vintage watch world lost its collective mind. The scale as to just how much that mind had been lost was revealed when the hammer dropped after just 12 minutes of furious bidding at Phillips’ inaugural New York auction in October 2019. An anonymous voice on the end of a phone gained ownership of the most important timepiece to be made public in a generation, and at $17.7 million, this white whale of the horological world became the most expensive Rolex ever sold.
Rolex Daytona Reference 6265 “Unicorn” ($5.9 Million)
The Rolex is a reference 6265 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona, and this particular timepiece is the only known example of the reference 6265 to have ever been manufactured in 18k white gold – making it a true ‘unicorn.’
The reference 6265 was first manufactured in 1970 and uses the same Oyster case and screw-down chronograph pushers as the reference 6263 – however the reference 6265 was fitted with a metal bezel rather than one made from acrylic. Vintage Rolex Daytona watches were traditionally manufactured in either stainless steel or 18k yellow gold, and while some 14k yellow gold examples were produced for the North American market, this white gold reference 6265 is truly unique, and is the only known example of its kind.
1969 Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6263 ($3,717,906)
When a vintage Rolex is given the nickname ‘The Legend,’ you know it’s not going to be cheap. Then when you consider this watch is one of just three ever made, and that it’s an example of what battle-hardened collectors describe as their grail watch, you realize a standard size check probably won’t be big enough to fit all the zeros on.
The ref. 6263, with screw-down pushers and the same Cal. 727 movement as Eric Clapton’s Albino – which now looks like something of a bargain – is topped with an exquisite lemon grené dial with contrasting black sub-dials, complete with their Newman-esque Art Deco font. In perfect condition and with an incredible rarity value, it’s easy to see why this legendary example achieved the price it did.