05 April, 2018

Biggest Watch Sales at Auction in 2017

Read time 9-10 mins

Last year was a record year for watches. The highlight of the year belonged to Rolex. The story starts with how a watch bought by Paul Newman's wife as a gift to the talented racer engraved with an endearing message had become the most expensive watch bought at auction. 

Patek is no stranger to commanding high prices and also feature in this list along with George Daniels who rounds up last year's most expensive watches bought at auctions.

As always we have also included an honourable mention which involves Jackie Kennedy and Kim Kardashian West. Join us as we take a look at a year to remember for watch auctions.

1) Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona - £13.5m

Paul Newman was a man of many talents. He was an actor, director, activist to name a few. One of those talents was also racing.

When Newman's racing career started to gain serious momentum, his wife, Joanne Woodward bought a Rolex Daytona in 1968. She had the watch engraved with "Drive Carefully" and gave it to Newman who would wear the watch every day for 15 years.

The Chronograph became known as the 'The Paul Newman Watch' and became iconic. The Paul Newman Watch was in production from 1963-1970.

Newman's first professional race came at the 1972 Thompson International Speedway. His racing career experienced the highs of reaching the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans and the winning his vehicle class in the 24 Hours of Daytona race in 1995. 

Newman's daughter, Nell, jointly put the watch up for auction and when it scored £13.5m ($17.75m) in an auction, donations were made to the Nell Newman Foundation and Newman's Own Foundation.

With Steve McQueen's Submariner heading into an auction, are we going to see another record breaker? Check out our article 'Steve McQueen's Submariner up for Auction'  here.

2) Patek Philippe 5028T - £4.75m

This Patek went under the hammer at The Only Watch auction which is held in Geneva every two years. The 2017 edition of the auction was made up of 50 lots of which were donated by luxury watchmakers who often create one-off timepieces. 

The purpose of this auction is to raise money for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is a rare genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle degeneration leading to weakness.

The auction raised around £8m (CHF 10.7m) for this noble cause and this Patek 5028T stole the show when it reached £4.75m.

3) Rolex 6062 "Bao Dai" - £3.85m

This Rolex 6062 belonged to Bao Dai who was the 13th and final emperor of Vietnam from 1926-45. The end of his rule also culminated in the fall of the Nguyen Dynasty. 

This Rolex is quite unique as it was made specifically for the emperor and was a triple calendar moon phase featuring diamond hour markers. The watch was finished in yellow gold and a black dial which fused to make a visually striking watch.

What's even more remarkable about the watch is how much it has extrapolated in value. In 2002, the watch sold for only $235,000! and just 15 years later, it was 21 times over. 

4) George Daniels Space Traveller Pocket Watch - £3.19m

One of the highlights of the year was this pocket watch made by Dr George Daniels who was a British horologist. His influence on watchmaking by hand from his workshop in the Isle of Man made him revered. 

His space traveller pocket watch was made in 1982 and features two-time readings. One for solar time and the other for sidereal. If you're an amateur astronomer like us then here's the difference between solar and sidereal time.

  • Solar time - This is what we are most familiar with as it refers to the sun and its current position in the sky. So, a solar day is the average time it takes for the sun to return to its original position which is 24 hours.
  • Sidereal time - Refers to stars and their positions in the sky. So, a sidereal day is the time it takes for a particular star to return to its original position, which is slightly shorter than a solar day, as it takes 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds.

The estimate was only £1.8m but the intricacy of the watched enabled it to smash through its estimate when it reached a £3.196m at auction in London.

5) Rolex 6263 "the Legend" - £2.86m

This Rolex was in the same auction as Paul Newman's record-breaking Daytona. 

Becoming a record breaker of its own (Most expensive Cosmograph), this auction had raised the bar for vintage Rolex pieces of which are becoming an attractive asset to have as their values are continuing to rise. 

In pristine Gold, the watch's visual appeal is evident and this enabled the iconic piece to hammer for what it did.

What a year for the famous luxury watchmaker. If you want to read more about Rolex then check out our article Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Rolex.

Honourable Mention - Jackie Kennedy's Cartier Tank Watch £298,500

Cartier has become fine jewellery makers and their pursuit of aesthetic perfection spilt over into watches. 

One of their most famous pieces is the Cartier tank watch. First introduced to us over a century ago, it quickly became sought after by the rich and famous. 

The First Lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy wore a Cartier tank and it was auctioned off last year and it tripled its estimate to reach £298,500 ($379,500). It was later the revealed that the winning bidder was Kim Kardashian.

If you would like to find out how Cartier became a fine watchmaker then take a look at our article Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Cartier.

Final Words

With Paul Newman's Daytona going 17 times over its $1m estimate, are we ever going to see anything else come close?

The King of Cool, Steve McQueen looks to be in a good position with his Submariner going into an auction in October. You can read more about this in our article  'Steve McQueen's Submariner up for Auction'.

William George & Co. hope you enjoyed our countdown and if you enjoyed it as much as we did then hit the share button and start a conversation.

As part of our most expensive auctions of 2017, which Aston Martin became the most expensive car bought at auction last year? Also, what happened to the Ferrari which reached nearly $10m in an auction? Check out our article by hitting the button below.

The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017
The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017
The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017
The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017
The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017
The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017
The Most Expensive Watches Sold in Auction - 2017