In total, the top 5 most expensive watches sold at auction have brought in $114 million dollars! Why so much money for a watch? Well, it depends on many factors such as rarity, historical significance, and of course where the watch came from.
5. Rolex Daytona Ref 6265 “The Unicorn” – $5.9 million
The 1971 Rolex Daytona ref 6265 sold for 5,937,500 Swiss Francs at the Daytona Ultimatum sale hosted by Phillips in Geneva, Switzerland on the 12th of May, 2018. This is now the second most expensive Rolex watch sold at auction. It is also the only manually wound vintage white gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ever produced and is nicknamed “The Unicorn” as only one exists in the world. The vast majority of Daytonas from the 70s were made in steel.
Sold by watch collector John Goldberger who donated all of the proceeds from the auction to the Children Action charity.
4 – Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Stainless steel – $11 million
The Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 sold on the 8th of November, 2016 at Phillips in Geneva, Switzerland for 11,002,000 Swiss Francs, making it the fourth most expensive watch sold at auction. At the time, this also made it the most expensive wristwatch in the world. When it first sold, the stainless steel ref. 1518 retailed for $ 2,265. How’s that for a good investment!
This super rare Patek Philippe timepiece introduced in 1941, was the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph produced in a series. The fact that the series was only 281 pieces and that only four models were made in steel makes it that much more coveted. Even the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, which has the world’s most complete Patek collection, doesn’t have one.
3 – Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona – $17.8 million
The third most expensive watch actually held the title “Most expensive watch ever sold at auction” for 2 years. It sold in the space of 12 minutes on the 26th of October 2017 at Phillips auction house in New York.
Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Daytona was a gift from his wife, the actress Joanne Woodward, who bought it for $200 at a Tiffany & Co store in New York, not far from where Phillips auction house is today. She had it engraved with “Drive carefully, Me” in reference to Newman’s racing career.
He wore the watch every day for 15 years and in 1983 gave the watch to James Cox, his daughter Nell’s college boyfriend. They remained on good terms after their split and put the watch up for auction jointly. A significant portion of the proceeds went to the Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.
2 – Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication – $24 million
The Patek Philippe Supercomplication sold for 23,237,000 Swiss Francs at a Sotheby’s auction on the 12th of November 2014, at the time earning it the title of “World’s most expensive timepiece sold at auction”. This pocket watch was named after the banker, Henry Graves Jr, who commissioned the watch to outdo a fellow American watch collecter, James Ward Packard. Graves paid $15’000 for the timepiece in 1925 but it took three years to design and five years to produce so it was delivered to its owner in 1933.
With 24 horological complications, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication was the world’s most complicated timepiece until 1989, bested by none other than Patek Philippe themselves. The 24 complications include a minute repeater, a grande and petite sonnerie, split seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar, sunrise/sunset, moon phases, equation of time, mean and sidereal time, alarm, and a celestial chart for the night time sky of New York City. All the more impressive considering that the timepiece was built entirely by hand with all calculations needed for the complications done on paper.
1 – Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime in steel – $31 million
And at last the answer to the question “What is the most expensive watch ever sold?”. Well, The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime in steel which sold for 31,000,00 Swiss Francs at the Only Watch charity auction in Geneva, Switzerland on November 9th, 2019. This was not a historical piece but was made especially for the Only Watch charity auction with all proceeds going towards research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This is still today the world record for a watch sold at auction. The Grandmaster Chime was first introduced in 2014 in a limited series of seven pieces in engraved rose gold to mark the brand’s 175th anniversary at a cost of $2.5 million. An amazing result for a very worthy cause!
List of the 5 most expensive watches sold at auction
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime in Steel, $31,000,000, 9th of November 2019, Only Watch auction, Geneva Switzerland.
Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, $24,000,000, 12th of November 2014, Sotheby’s auction, Geneva, Switzerland.
Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman”, $17,800,000, 26th of October 2017, Phillips auction, New York City.
Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in stainless steel, $11,000,000, 8th of November 2016, Phillips auction, Geneva, Switzerland.
Rolex Daytona Ref 6265 “The Unicorn”, $5,937,500, 12th of May 2018, Phillips auction, Geneva, Switzerland.
Susanne Samuelsson is from Sweden but has lived in Switzerland for most of her life. She has spent the last 20 years working for luxury watch publications in sales and marketing. She has worked for Europa Star, Revolution, Elite Traveler,Quintessentially and The Rake. She loves wearing men’s timepieces and since she started The Watch Pages has a list as long as your arm of new watches she would love to buy!