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7 Rolex Watches Sold At Record-Breaking Prices In Auction

7 Rolex Watches Sold At Record-Breaking Prices In Auction

When it comes to the ‘most’ hyped and coveted luxury watch brand, Rolex comfortably sits at the top of the list, having models hammered for the greatest amount of money in recent years. Surprisingly, many of the steel watches that now seem far-fetched to acquire once sold at an affordable price to the average buyer – but that’s a tale for another day.

Whether it’s a modern-day longing to experience the 20th-century adventure or wear a watch that reminds of the great feats of men and women who wore them or the craze to wear a watch owned by someone as widely popular as Paul Newman, or sometimes purely because of the unique moment in the history, whatever be the reason, particular Rolex watches fetch an exorbitant price when sold at auctions. And there’s not just one but several Rolex models that boast the title of being the most expensive.        

Brace yourself as we discuss the seven most ‘expensive’ Rolex watches ever sold in history! 

7 Most Expensive Rolex Watches Ever Sold 

  • Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona Ref. 6239

Selling Price: $17.8 million

Typically, any Rolex Daytona with an ‘exotic’ dial featuring contrasting sub-dials, Art-Deco detailing, outer contrasting seconds track, block indices and square-shaped 1-2 indices is known as a ‘Paul Newman’ variant. But when the much-admired actor and racer’s own reference, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239 gifted to him by his wife, came up for auction in 2017, the watch world went hysterical. This Daytona was a gift to commemorate Newman’s professional racing career and had an inscription on the back reading ‘DRIVE CAREFULLY ME’.

After just 12 minutes of bidding at the New York auction in October 2017, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona was sold for a whopping $17.8 million, making this white whale the most expensive Rolex ever sold in the horological world. Believe it or not, this Daytona variant was once discarded for lack of public interest in the 1960s.

  • Rolex ‘Unicorn’ Cosmograph Daytona, Ref. 6265

Selling Price: $6.5 million

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6265 is the only known example of the Ref. 6265 manufactured in 18ct white gold, making it a true ‘Unicorn’. Vintage Rolex Daytona watches were made in either stainless steel or solid 18ct yellow gold, and this white gold reference is truly unique. The watch is absolutely gorgeous to look at with a metal bezel rather than an acrylic one. It is thought that a German retailer had specifically ordered this watch, likely for a passionate collector.

In May 2018, famed collector John Goldberger donated this incredibly rare watch to Philips auction house, which sold it for $6.5 million, instantly becoming the second most expensive Rolex watch ever sold.

  • Rolex ‘The Legend’ Cosmograph Daytona, Ref. 6263

Selling Price: $3.7 million

When a Rolex is given the nickname ‘The Legend,’ you know it won’t be cheap. Another weirdly rare watch, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6263, is one of just three Daytona watches ever made in 18ct yellow gold. It has a stunning lemon grené dial featuring a contrasting black sub-dial, a black bezel, and a black outer seconds track. Additionally, it has screw-down pushers.

This highly sought-after vintage Rolex watch was hammered for over $3.7 million at the Philips auction held in May 2017.

  • Rolex ‘Bao Dai’, Ref. 6062

Selling Price: $5.1 million

In 1954, while attending a convention in Geneva, Bao Dai, the final emperor of Vietnam and the then-head of state, went to a Rolex boutique and requested ‘the rarest and most precious’ Rolex ever made. He was presented the Ref. 6062 in yellow gold with a black dial featuring triple-calendar phase and diamond indices. There were two other Ref. 6062 watches with diamond dials, but the Bao Dai featured a special dial with five diamonds, further adding to its exclusivity.

After Bao Dai’s death, the watch remained unworn in a safe for over 30 years before it surfaced in an auction in 2002. In 2017, it resurfaced at the Philips Geneva watch auction, where the price soared to an unimaginable $5.1 million.


This remarkable Rolex reflects extraordinary history and the highest order of luxury and collectability.

  • Rolex ‘The Neanderthal’ Cosmograph Daytona, Ref. 6240

Selling Price: $3.01 million

Looking at the dial of the Rolex Daytona Ref. 6240, you might find hallmarks of the ‘Paul Newman’, like the exotic font and indices of Newman Daytona, but it’s not quite so. In fact, you may call it a sort of pre-Paul Newman from 1966. Although the oversized sub-dials of this watch present an exotic-dial look, the Rolex wordmark and the Rolex coronet make the watch’s face appear otherwise. The nickname ‘Neanderthal’ was chosen because the watch was featured in Pucci Papaleo’s legendary “Ultimate Rolex Daytona” book.

The Daytona Ref. 6240 was the first Daytona to come with a water-resistant Oyster case and screw-down pushers, making this an important piece in the Daytona catalogue. In May 2018, this rare Rolex Daytona was sold for $3.01 million at the Philips Daytona Ultimatum sale.

  • Rolex ‘Antimagnetique’, Ref. 4113

Selling Price: $2.6million

The Rolex Ref. 4113 ‘Antimagnetique’ is the most expensive Rolex ever sold at an auction, not once but twice. It holds a special place in Rolex’s history as the lone split-second chronograph that was never put for sale to the public. Rolex created only 12 pieces of this oversized 44mm model, all in steel. They were given as gifts to the famous racing teams and their drivers.

In 2016, the Rolex ‘Antimagnetique’ Ref. 4113 was sold at a Philips auction in Geneva for an impressive $2.5 million. The Crown’s close ties to the world of motorsports go back to the 30s, and several of these big, bulky watches have made their way to the families of the original recipients through auction.

Now that only one of eight such coveted Rolex models is known to exist, the only split-second chronograph can well command any price, setting more records in the future.


  • Rolex ‘Zenith’ Daytona, Ref. 16516

Selling Price: $3.14 million

A platinum-cased Daytona is itself a special piece. And what do you call the one with a turquoise dial and an automatic Zenith movement? It may be priceless, or, to be exact, $3.14 million. In 1999, Rolex’s then-head, Patrick Heiniger, commissioned five platinum Daytonas, one of which is Ref. 16516. This particular iteration with a striking turquoise dial is incredibly rare and completely unique. The other platinum variants had coral, mother-of-pearl, and lapis lazuli dials. 

The watch was sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in 2022.


As we conclude our journey through these record-breaking auctions, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the allure of Rolex transcends mere functionality as the watches stand as global symbols of luxury, status and innovation. The astronomical prices collectors pay for certain Rolex watches provide valuable insight into the brand’s lasting appeal and the passion of enthusiasts willing to acquire a once-in-a-lifetime asset. 

Whether it’s the exquisite craftsmanship, the impeccable design, or the storied heritage, these watches continue to command unprecedented prices, cementing their status as coveted treasures for generations to come.

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