It’s well nigh impossible to pull of successful replica watches auction without Rolex – and of course Patek Philippe – and so it is that Phillips’ The Geneva Watch Auction: Five in mid May has more than a third of the catalogue made up of Rolex watches. They range from the affordable, run of the mill Oyster to the multi-million dollar ref. 6062 “Bao Dai”, and million-dollar Daytona ref. 6263 “Lemon Dial”.
But because it is Rolex, a brand distinguished by the incredible uniformity across its products interspersed with slight variation, some of the highlights are strikingly simple. That’s perhaps encapsulated best by lot 117, the ref. 6088 “Galaxy”, circa 1951 and worth almost US$400,000. Unusually, the Galaxy is neither complicated nor a rare sports model like the Daytona, or even one with a fancy backstory, instead it is an ordinary, time-only “Big Bubbleback” with a special dial.
Finished in glossy black lacquer with “gilt” print and right stars for hour markers, it is just one of four known black dials featuring star hour markers (silvered dials Rolex fake watches with star markers make up another four). Not only is it extremely rare, the star dial is also reminiscent of the desirable ref. 6062 “Stelline” triple calendar, which ranks even higher on the value spectrum.
Dial aside, the rest of the watch is ordinary, though it helps that at 36mm – the “Big Bubbleback” was one of the largest Rolex models at the time – the yellow gold case is relatively sizeable for the period, making it suited to modern tastes. And both the case and dial are in fine condition, with minimal signs of age.
This very copy watch sold at Christie’s in 2011 for SFr363,000, and now carries an estimate of SFr200,000 to SFr400,000. That value will confound sceptics, but the watch will likely live up to expectations, especially given a near identical watch sold for SFr425,000 at end 2015, illustrating the powerful forces that drive the market for vintage Rolex.
It’s noteworthy that a day later in Geneva Christie’s will offer a Oyster ref. 6098 with a silvered honeycomb dial featuring star markers with an estimate of SFr80,000 to SFr120,000, meaning two examples of just eight known will be sold over as many days.