Rolex Milestones – 38 Important Rolex Watches at Phillips…

by Ross Povey - Nov 24 2016

Mono thematic sales aren’t new, but they always attract a lot of attention as they tend to curate the finest examples of the chosen brand or artist. Phillips has had two very successful themed sales since their re-launch in association with Bacs and Russo. The first was the Rolex focused ‘Glamourous Day Date’ sale and the second a multibrand chronograph sale – ‘Start Stop Reset’. The third is smaller in terms of lot numbers but no less beautiful for it – great things come in small packages. Rolex Milestones – 38 Watches That Shaped History will be epic, for a number of reasons…

The A Team

Aurel Bacs and his team have truly shaken up the auction scene with their world record setting sales that are sometimes akin to watching high profile sporting events. Aurel assembled a world-class team including International Specialist –Director Paul Maudsley who, along with Kate Lacey, runs the London operation. Paul is a great friend of Bulang & Sons and it was fun to have a quick catch up with him about this special vintage Rolex sale when I popped into Phillips last month to see the watches and spoke to him earlier this week.

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Mr Paul Maudsley at Phillips HQ in London

The watches for this sale have been individually selected by one of the leading collectors and scholars of the vintage Rolex world, Mr John Goldberger. The 38 pieces represent the pure dna and development of the brand and we expect that the sale will witness unprecedented interest and bidding; especially in the fast growing Hong Kong watch scene.

RP – Hi Paul. So what was the significance of the number 38 when selecting the watches?

PM – We chose 38 Rolex on the aesthetics of the number and the fact that 38 is one of the luckiest numbers, often referred to as ‘triple prosperity’.

RP – What was the motivation for choosing Hong Kong for the sale?

PM – Hong Kong, and the Asia market in particular, is very important to Phillips. Having our 3rd Watch auction here we decided to host a separate thematic sale. We have already had a theme sale with Rolex Day-Dates and also our Epic Steel Chronographs sale, so we chose not just one type of Rolex model, but opening it up to what we called Milestones: watches by Rolex that stand out in its historical time line. From a rare Prince model to an Oman Sea-Dweller, we have tried to feature all significant examples.

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Ref 6202 Turn-O-Graph dating to 1953. The earliest of the rotating bezel ‘tool watches’ and the pre-Submariner. (estimate USD 15,000-30,000)

RP – Aurel won’t be running this sale as Sam will on the rostrum. Will you take up the gavel any time soon?

PM – Sam conducted parts of our last sale here in Hong Kong and is always excited to be back on the rostrum. I did auctioneer at the start of my career but only briefly, as I was very fortunate to have some of the best auctioneers who undertook my watch auctions. This still stands to this day, and I’m happy to conduct telephone bids for my clients instead. You never know though, I may be back with gavel in hand soon!

RP – It is clearly an amazing collection of watches. If you had to pick though, which would be your favourite and why?

PM – My personal favourite would be the Ref 8171 in steel. To me the watch is very important in Rolex history as it leaves an un-answered question, where would Rolex be now and what watches would they be making if it wasn’t for the Submariner and their tool watches. Having only made two calendar watches with moon phase, this and the Ref 6062 which we also feature in the sale, Rolex pretty much stopped production in around 1953 of these watches when the launch of the Submariner really took off. So I wonder how many other models like this they could have potentially made?

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Paul’s Pick – the incredible ‘Padellone’ ref 8171. The 38mm case is impressive and in incredible condition (estimate USD 350,00-7000,00)

It wouldn’t be a Phillips auction without a special catalogue and the Milestones catalogue does not disappoint. Put together by Pucci Papaleo, using the exquisite photographs by Fabio Santinelli, it is a genuine work of art and like the watches therein will undoubtedly become a collector’s item in its own right. If you haven’t ordered one yet, I urge you to do so!

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The wrapping – like Christmas came early!

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The opening lot – reference 6350. Who doesn’t love a honeycomb dial? (estimate USD 12,500-25,000)

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Red depth – Double reference 6536/6538 (estimate USD 60,000-120,000)

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The Winner – A presentation watch for the winner of the 24hrs of Daytona race in 1995. (estimate USD 50,000-1000,000)

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Bubble back reference 3372. I have a particular love for these old Oysters and this is a beautifully original example (estimate USD 10,000-20,000)

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A grail for Bernhard – the reference 6265 with ‘cappuccino’ tropical registers. Pure class! (estimate USD 60,000-120,000)