Rolex is a world-famous household name for luxury watches. Founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred David, the premier Swiss watchmaker is one of the top 100 most influential brands in the world to date.
More than a century later, Rolex is now a landmark brand of highest quality and timeless timepiece ever known to man. It has become a priceless family heirloom that can be passed on from generation to generation.
This reputable Swiss watch is intricately made from the finest materials. For example, a Rolex timepiece boasts the beautiful 904L steel, an extremely expensive type of metal because it is difficult to produce. The world’s leading watchmaker also makes its gold in its very own foundry.
Every element of the company’s luxurious timepiece is assembled with the closest attention to detail. From the watch’s movement pieces to bracelets, they are crafted in-house to most stringent company standards.
In fact, the world-renowned watchmaker takes not less than a year to make a single Rolex watch. The company’s artisans work on one timepiece at a time. They are using state-of-the-art technology that has remained a top secret since its inception in the early 1900s.
Rolex watches, however, come at a hefty, mind-numbing price. The rarities of some of its classical creations make them the most coveted wristwatches in the world. Only the world’s crazy-rich entrepreneurs, big celebrities, politicians, monarchs, and businessmen can afford to buy them.
To feed your curiosity, Men’s Gear takes the time to look at the top 13 most expensive Rolex watches in the world. The prices of these dream watches range from nearly half a million dollars to a whopping $17.8 million.
Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona — $17.8 Million
At no. 1 spot for the world’s most expensive and the rarest Rolex watch to date is Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. In October 2017, this vintage timepiece was sold for a phenomenal $17.8 million to an anonymous phone bidder at Phillips auction in New York.
The 1968 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is pretty special for Newman. His wife Joanne Woodward bought it from Tiffany & Co. in New York and gave it to him as a present. The watch’s case back is engraved with “Drive Carefully Me.”
Newman wore the1968 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona each passing day for 15 long years. This classic timepiece is synonymous to the actor and car race driver in that it is frequently called the Paul Newman watch.
In 1984, he passed it down to his daughter’s then-boyfriend, James Cox. Cox remained friends with her even after their breakup. It was then put up for an auction, which saw 700 attendees from 43 countries. Some of the proceeds were awarded to the Newman’s Own Foundation and the Nell Newman Foundation.
Rolex Bao Dai — $5.1 Million
The second most expensive Rolex watch ever sold in the world once belonged to a monarch. This historical, precious timepiece was owned by Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam. As the 13th ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty, he was named Bao Dai, meaning, “Keeper of Greatness.”
Launched in the 1950s, the legendary Rolex Bao Dai also sports a dial that has the triple calendar and moon phase indicator. This wristwatch that is made of 18-karat yellow gold is just as ultra-rare as the other timepieces featured in this list.
It is one of the only three models that has a black dial. Apart from that, it is the only watch to have diamond markers on even hours 2, 4, 8, 10, and 12 — except 6.
Back in 2002, Rolex Bao Dai was sold for $235,000 at the Phillips Auction House. But 15 years later, this royal-owned watch sold 21 times over when a bidder successfully made a bid of $5.1 million at an auction in Geneva in May 2017.
3. Paul Newman’s 1969 Rolex Daytona The Legend— $4.18 Million
Paul Newman’s 1969 Rolex Daytona is now the new third most expensive Rolex wristwatch ever sold at auction. In May 2017, this Daytona timepiece was sold for $4,182,023, setting a world record for a Rolex Daytona watch. It was previously sold for $1,089,186 in November 2013 at the Rolex Daytona “Lesson One” Auction.
Launched in 1969, the Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona reference 6263 is nicknamed “The Legend”. It is an ultra-rare 18-carat yellow gold timepiece that features a “lemon” grené dial. The case diameter measures 37.5 mm.
Moreover, the 1969 Rolex Daytona 6263 boasts an exotic white dial that is now called the Paul Newman dial. It also has push-down chronograph buttons, acrylic bezel, and sub-registers in black.
At present, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona reference 6263 is one of the most in-demand pieces from the Swiss watchmaker. It was not quite a hit, though, when it was first introduced in the market. Thanks to Paul, people began to notice this Daytona watch.
1958 Rolex GMT Master — $3.5 Million
The 1958 GMT Master is used to be the most expensive Rolex watch ever sold in the world at an auction. Now, it falls to the fourth spot as another Paul Newman watch made the ground-breaking world record in 2017.
This magnificent timepiece sold for $3.5 million at the Phillips auction house in Geneva. Prior to the auction, this model did not make much when it had gone under the hammer for the first time.
The Rolex GMT Master is touted as one of the legendary travel watches. It is as also rare as the other Rolex watches as it is made with 18-karat gold, stainless steel case.
Its most unique feature, though, is its Bakelite cognac-brown bezel. For 60 years, this watch collector’s item has been well-preserved in its original condition.
What is more to love about this immortal timepiece is it is a great tool watch. It became a popular wrist accessory for Pan-Am pilots, as well as US Air Force Pilots, and NASA astronauts like Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert, who sported a Rolex GMT Master.
1942 Rolex Antimagnetique Split-Seconds Chronograph — $2.45 Million
Occupying the fifth spot as the most expensive Rolex watch in the world is the Rolex Antimagnetique Reference 4113 Split-Seconds Chronograph.
This antiquated timepiece was sold for $2.45 million at the unique Start-Stop-Reset of Phillips’ stainless steel chronograph auction. It once held the record of the most expensive Rolex watch to be sold for only two months.
The 1942 Rolex 44 mm manually wound Split-Seconds Chronograph is a one-of-a-kind Rolex watch. It features hands that have two-sweep seconds mechanism, which was first introduced in pocket watches in the late 1800s.
This old Rolex watch comes in a stainless steel case instead of precious metal. The model’s rarity is attributed to the fact that Rolex had only made 12 of these in the 1940s. Eight of these are reported to be still around until now.
This 1942 Rolex timepiece is specially designed for race car drivers. Using the split-seconds chronograph, they were able to time their laps.
It comes in nickel finish and the dial in a matte silver finish. It also sports a blue telemeter, outer minute markings, and 17 jewels. The Arabic and baton numerals come in pink gold.
In 2011, Rolex reference 4113 nabbed the record of the most expensive Rolex watch when it was sold for $1.16 million.
Eric Clapton’s 1971 Rolex Oyster Albino Cosmograph Daytona — $1.4 Million
At no. 6 is a Rolex watch named after a rock ‘n roll legend, which adds to the timepiece’s timeless appeal. It once belonged to the iconic rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter Eric Clapton who purchased the piece in the late 90s.
This timepiece is now one of the rarest and most desired men’s accessories in the world. The Rolex Reference 6263 Cosmograph Daytona is nicknamed the Oyster Albino because of its monochrome silver colored background and subsidiary dials.
Eric Clapton’s 1971 Cosmograph Daytona was previously sold in a Sotheby’s auction in 2008. The highest bidder only paid $505,000 for the timepiece.
Then, it was sold twice as much in 2015 at a Phillips auction in Geneva for a whopping $1.4 million. Thus, the previous owner made an eye-popping profit of more than $500 million dollars from the sale.
Interestingly, Eric Clapton’s watch was just the third most expensive watch sold at the auction on that day. The brand Patek Phillipe beat it as the latter nailed a much higher price.
Watch connoisseurs know that this reference watch has the typical black chronograph totalizers with white printing. But what is to love about this Eric Clapton’s Rolex Oyster Albino watch is the silver-colored chronograph totalizers that match its silver-colored dial.
This unique detail of Eric Clapton’s 1971 Cosmograph Daytona can only be seen in three other reference 6263s ever made by Rolex. This rarity is perhaps what makes this special watch one of the most sought-after timepieces by vintage watch collectors.
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Oyster Sotto — $1.95 Million
The Paul Newman Rolex Daytona reference 6239, known as Oyster Sotto, also broke auction records. This rare and immensely expensive timepiece was sold for a remarkable $1.95 million at Phillips’ stainless steel chronograph auction in May 2016.
This Reference 6239 Daytona watch does not require much of an introduction. It is plausibly one of the most coveted Rolex wristwatches of all time.
Over the years, this sporty edition has become a grail watch. Watch collectors from around the world want it, making it insanely popular on the auction block. Well, that is because it is Rolex’s first Paul Newman timepiece to ever have a screw-pusher with a three-color dial set in black.
Rolex basically designed the Cosmograph Daytona watches for the world of motorsports. The esteemed watchmaker debuted this exotic dial, now called the Paul Newman dial, for the line in the late 60s. The exotic dial was a flop, at first.
That changed, however, when famous actor Newman transitioned to race car driving in the early 70s. He was photographed wearing the Oyster Sotto — twice. So, everyone can pretty much guess what happened next.
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona has hallmark designs that set it apart from a standard classic Daytona. The piece must be one of six reference numbers 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264, or 6265.
Moreover, this sporty version has several distinct details such as the markers with square-shaped ends, the Art Deco font of the numerals, and the 15, 30, 45, and 60 numerals on the 9 o’clock sub-dial instead of the 20, 40, 60 numeral configuration.
1949 Rolex Oyster Perpetual — $1.22 Million
Sitting on the eighth spot on our list of most expensive Rolex watch in the world is the Oyster Perpetual. Manufactured in 1949, this Swiss-made luxury watch is one of the oldest models to survive through time.
This age-old timepiece was put under the hammer in a Christie’s special auction for luxury wristwatches in Geneva in 2014. It was sold for a record-breaking $1,220,632 million, an amount that is a lot higher than its original estimate.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is said to be one of the quintessential pieces ever made by the Swiss watchmaker since 1905. It is an incredibly stellar, grandiose, and ultra-rare timepiece to exist today.
Famous Geneva artist Marguerite Koch had designed this special watch. The dial, made beautifully of cloisonné enamel, displays a whale and ship sailing through a sea of huge waves.
1950 Rolex Sleeping Beauty — $1.14 Million
At no. 9 is more than a million-dollar worth watch that is popularly known to horologists and gemmologists from across the globe right now — the 1950 Rolex Sleeping Beauty. What makes it a rarity is that the Swiss watch giant had only made 100 pieces of this model nearly 69 years ago. That is why it is hard to find one of these in the present times.
This antique timepiece costs approximately $250,000 to $350,000. However, it was sold four times its value at the Christie’s auction in New York in 2013.
The auction saw an intense competition among four countries that made surprising huge bids for this piece. This is when the 1950 Rolex was nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty.”
Previously, the 1950 Rolex Sleeping Beauty was fondly called “Pandellone” due to the timepiece’s complex features. This Italian word means big frying pan.
This particular stainless steel watch model has a display that has both the triple date and the moon phase, making it one of the most complicated watches Rolex has produced in history.
Rolex Reference 6062 Gold — $895,000
Launched at Basel fair back in 1952, reference 6062 is one of the rarest Rolex timepieces in the world. Now, it is considered a collector’s most desired item.
The stainless steel 6062 is one of just the three Rolex references that features a moon phase. The other two are reference 8171 and the brand-new Cellini Moon-Phase, which debuted at Baselworld in 2018.
What’s more, Rolex reference 6062 is one of only two vintage Rolex models to feature a combination of a calendar and moon phases in an Oyster case, the Rolex Reference 6062 came in color choices of stainless steel and Yellow Gold
It is also available in Pink Gold — the rarest of the three by far. The Pink Gold variant receives the moniker “Stelline”, meaning starlet in Italian, because of its enchanting dial design.
When it came out about 69 years ago, Rolex reference 6062 became the world’s first automatic wristwatch with a triple calendar and a moon phase. It also has a water-resistant case, making it the first dress watch one can still wear while going for a swim.
Knowing that the Datejust only debuted in 1945, reference 6062 was Rolex’s most high-tech watch at the time. This timepiece made it to the top 4 watches sold in the 2015 auction in Geneva.
Rolex GMT Master II Ice — $547,000
At no. 11 spot is Rolex GMT Master II Ice, pegged at a shiny retail price of $547,000. Introduced by the leading Swiss watchmaker in 2014, this elegantly designed timepiece is the ultimate luxury watch for the world’s elite.
To date, The GMT Master II Ice is Rolex’s most expensive watch sold straight from the company. It is quite so since the prices of the other most expensive Rolex watches were raised at auctions.
No names of popular personalities are being attached to this piece. Rather, it sparkles on its own as the bracelet is entirely covered with real diamonds. The dial encrusts a set of diamonds set out in a wavy design.
The 40 mm case and the lugs are lavishly decorated with a total of 79 perfectly made round diamonds. The watch’s bezel is encrusted with baguette cut diamonds. The 18-karat white gold bracelet is also covered in diamonds.
This extraordinaire timepiece has stylish hour markers and hands. But the watch’s hands have a black lining to set them apart from what is in the background.
Rolex GMT Master II Ice is an automatic watch, so it functions on its own. It is also equipped with its signature Oysterlock clasp that utterly secures the watch on the wrist. This timepiece is water-resistant up to 100 meters.
Rolex blends extravagant luxury with ground-breaking technological innovation in creating the Rolex GMT Master II Ice to absolute perfection.
James Bond 1972 Rolex Submariner — $450,000
The no. 12 most expensive Rolex watch in the world is James Bond 1972 Submariner. This beautifully created timepiece debuted on the big screen when Roger Moore’s James Bond film, Live and Let Die hit the theaters in 1973.
The timepiece seemed to add to the sex appeal of the world’s most famous fictional spy. But as it seems, it is not just as any prop for the movie.
This special Rolex watch, which was made in 1972, was specifically designed for the Bond movie. It was modified to have an attractive circular saw shape. The bezel is sharp enough to cut a rope while its magnetic field generator can unzip Bond girl Miss Caruso’s dress.
The James Bond 1972 Submariner’s case back has Roger Moore’s signature that is a symbol of the piece’s authenticity. Overall, this insanely pricey watch sports a sleek finish. This special Rolex watch edition was sold at $450,000 at an auction in Geneva on Nov. 8, 2015.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s Gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual — $440,000
The 13th most expensive Rolex watch in the world in our list is the Gold Oyster Perpetual that was once owned by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India, hence the name. Aside from its jaw-dropping estimated value of $444,000, this elegant timepiece also has a rich story that comes with it and how it came into being.
Rolex had custom made the Gold Oyster Perpetual for Dr. Prasad in 1950 to commemorate India’s first Republic Day. Some say that this special wristwatch was given to the president as an inauguration gift.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s Gold Oyster Perpetual is completely made of 18-karat pink gold. The watch’s custom dial in black and blue features a map of undivided India. It also displays January 26, 1950, India’s first constitutional day, etched across it.
In 2011, this exorbitant priced Rolex watch was supposed to be put up for the Sotheby’s auction for important timepieces that belonged to well-known leaders from around the world after World War 1. However, the Indian government stepped in on Prasad family’s stead.
Apparently, the historical watch was reportedly stolen in 1964 and made its way back to Geneva, Switzerland 47 years later. Sotheby’s had to postpone the auction while the authorities do their investigation on the theft case.
In addition, there are two more Rolex timepieces worth mentioning here. First is Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner, which costs about $234,000. This invaluable watch debuted in the year 1967. The fans of the iconic actor saw him wearing this piece named after him in the 1971 movie, Le Mans.
The other one is the Rolex Platinum Pearlmaster 18956 that has a price of $276,000. This Rolex watch is ultra-rare in contrast to the brand’s image of understated elegance.
The Platinum Pearlmaster 18956 wristwatch is bedazzled with real diamonds encrusted lavishly in its platinum case and bracelet. The watch has a total of 71 baguette diamonds and inner bezel engraving.
So, there you have the list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world. As it appears, Rolex is simply synonymous to extravagant luxury that only a privileged few can afford in a lifetime.