Pick of the Lots: Catawiki’s Vintage Rolex Watch Auction

Catawiki was established as a web-based platform in 2008, providing collectors a digital space within which they could manage their collections. Then in 2011, the company switched gears and started hosting weekly auctions that were superbly received by the platform’s community. Here a variety of collectables, including art, antiques, classic cars, watches, jewelry, fashion, comics and stamps, are auctioned off by collectors, for collectors. And as these objects of curiosity are offered by people who collect themselves, the items on offer typically all come with interesting anecdotes that make for their lifetime of being.

Presently, Catawiki clocks millions of buyers and sellers from around the world, and is believed to be the most-visited curated marketplace in Europe, offering over 65,000 objects for auction each week. The platform’s mission henceforth has been to provide an exciting and seamless experience for both the buyer and seller.

Needless to say, that the reason why we’re speaking about Catawiki on Revolution today, is because one of their key arms is their watches department. A further reason to highlight the Catawiki Watch Department this week is because the team behind the effort, kicked off a special Vintage Rolex Watch Auction that’s worth having a look at.

With that said, here are some of the top lots on offer and available for bidding.

Explorer Red Depth Rating – “NO RESERVE PRICE” – Ref. 6610

Rolex - Explorer Red Depth Rating - "NO RESERVE PRICE" - Ref. 6610

The story of the Rolex Explorer starts in 1953, when New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali Sherpa climber, became the first successful pair in the world to have reached the summit of Mt. Everest. On the wrists of these pioneers was the Rolex reference 6098 big bubbleback watches. While not yet officially called the Explorer, here is where the legend begins and leads to early references such as the 6298, 6098, 6150, 6350 and, reference of focus for today, the 6610.

In the mid 1950s Rolex introduced their new movement, the caliber 1030. This new movement was Rolex’s first complete in-house built and designed movement and was chronometer rated. This next generation movement required a new generation Explorer and so the Wilsdorf Empire gave birth to the reference 6610 in approximately 1956. The newly launched caliber 1030 was a lot slimmer than its ‘bubbleback’ predecessors and so a new case design was produced that was still well proportioned at 36mm with a 20mm lug width. The slimmer movement meant that a flatter caseback could be fitted to the watch and it was this shape that became the standard for many years to come.

Rolex - Explorer Red Depth Rating - "NO RESERVE PRICE" - Ref. 6610

The 6610 also fully embraced the standard Explorer aesthetic. The dials had the inverted triangle at twelve o’clock and the 3-6-9 numerals and now Mercedes pattern hands were always present. All the dials were gilt too. The term gilt can be misused and so to be clear, when discussing vintage Rolex dials the gilt refers to the glossy black dials with the text in a gold (gilt) colour. The text is not actually printed on the gloss, but is actually relief print and the gilt text is the brass base plate of the dial showing through; a production method known as galvanic process. The dial then had a lacquer applied to protect it. There are some very rare 6610 that had an additional line of text that was printed onto the top of the dial in either red or silver; a depth rating (50m = 165 ft). This was a way for Rolex to demonstrate the capabilities of the watch for all sports and methods of exploration.

The present lot on offer is a 1956 instance of the reference 6610 with the additional depth rate text in red printed on the top of the dial. Expert’s estimate stands at € 30,000 – € 35,000.

Lot details: catawiki.com

Dato-Compax “Jean-Claude Killy” Serpico y Laino – Ref. 5036/85

Rolex - Dato-Compax "Jean-Claude Killy" Serpico y Laino - Ref. 5036/85

In principle, the name Jean-Claude Killy is said when referring to Rolex’s references 4768, 4767, 5036, 6036 and 6236. The 4768 is however often left out of this lineup as it was the only one to not have a water-resistant Oyster case. All of these featured a combination of two superb functions: complete calendar and chronograph with a 30-minute and 12-hour totalizer. And it remains to this day, one of the most complicated Rolex watches, ever made in series. The first of the references was presented in the 1940s and with progressive successions, the watch was put to rest in the 1960s with the 6236 being the last of its kind.

But why the name Jean-Claude Killy? There’s no Rolex advertisement or some epic movie to speak of with this one. Here the reference is simply in connection with a French Olympic skiing champion, by the name of Jean-Claude Killy who rose to stardom having won three events at the 1968 Winter Olympics. According to collectors’ lore (there are plenty of them), Killy apparently owned a reference 6236. And that’s really all it took for his name to be appended to the watch.

Now, the 5036 is sort of the middle child in the family and it’s a reference that is said to have been in production for a rather brief 1948 to 1951. Therein, by connotation of period of production, it’s safe to assume that there weren’t too many 5036s made in the first place. As such, coming across one is quite a special matter.

For the instance that is on offer at Catawiki, what’s particularly heartwarming is that this specific piece comes “fully restored and serviced by Official Rolex “Atelier de Restauration” in Geneve”. Which immediately removes any and all doubts of its authenticity and present condition. Further to this, the dial on this example is double signed by retailer Serpico y Laino, which was the leading luxury watch retailer in Venezuela for close to four decades until its closure in 1966. No doubt a big plus, given the demand that double signed Rolexes are seeing in present season.

Last thing to mention is that Killy’s movement is a modified hand wound, Valjoux 72, the very same movement that powered the Daytona until it was fitted with the automatic Zenith El-Primero movement calibre 4030, in 1988.

The present lot on offer is piece from 1950, in pink gold, and of course, comes complete with the Official Rolex “Atelier de Restauration” documents and presentation box. Expert’s estimate € 325,000 – € 360,000.

Lot details: catawiki.com

Cosmograph Daytona “Paul Newman” – Ref. 6239

Rolex - Cosmograph Daytona "Paul Newman" - Ref. 6239

If there is one watch in all of vintage, modern and contemporary that requires no introduction, that watch would have to be the exotic dial Daytona, better known the world over as the Paul Newman. We won’t too much into why the famed Hollywood actor’s name is appended to the watch here, but in case the subject matter is new to you, you can have a thorough read, here.

The watch and dial that make up for this lore were made in several references, starting with the pump-pusher versions, the 6239, 6241, 6262 and 6264. Then there were the screw pusher variety, the references 6262 and 6264. What’s important beyond its Hollywood moniker, is that when it was first launched, the collecting community recounts that the exotic dial was quite unnecessary at the point of sale no one wanted one. In the 90s, when collectors slowly started to get wind of the rarity of the exotic dial Daytona, an example could be bought for a very decent but reasonable sum of money, for a vintage Rolex. That is until the 2000s, when a clear uptake in demand created a visceral exponential rise in how much people were willing to pay for an example. By the 2010s, these watches were clocking million dollar winning bids at major auction houses.

Rolex - Cosmograph Daytona "Paul Newman" - Ref. 6239
Rolex - Cosmograph Daytona "Paul Newman" - Ref. 6239

What is of concern, is that in the midst of this meteoric rise in prices, many opportunistic sellers and resellers, were conjuring up exotic dial Daytons of their own imagination and peddling them off as yet another uncovered, hidden rarity with price tags to match. Read more, here and here.

But if you so desire to own a piece of this horological history, then best it be a watch you purchase from a reputable auction house, the likes of Catawiki. Best of all, for the instance on offer here, this particular ref. 6239 comes fully serviced and authenticated (because Rolex doesn’t service what it can’t authenticate) by Rolex, Geneva. Expert’s estimate € 620,000 – € 685,000.

Lot details: catawiki.com

Triple Calendar Moonphase “Padellone” – Ref. 8171

Rolex - Triple Calendar Moonphase "Padellone" - Ref. 8171

“Padellone”, which translates to “large frying pan” in Italian, might not be the most glamours of nicknames bestowed on a watch by the collecting community, but the 8171 is very much one of the most desirable Rolex references to ever exist. The 38mm timepiece is known to have a sibling, the 6062, which is slightly smaller and differentiated by its Oyster case. Both the 8171 and 6062 were the only Rolex watches, of the time to feature a moonphase complication. Until the 2017 introduction of the Cellini Moonphase. And given that the two references were only produced for a short period of time in the early 1950s, we can be sure to assume that they command large sums at public auctions, given their rarity. The ref. 8171 and 6062 were available in yellow gold, pink gold, and stainless steel.

Rolex - Triple Calendar Moonphase "Padellone" - Ref. 8171
Rolex - Triple Calendar Moonphase "Padellone" - Ref. 8171

The present lot on offer is a 18K yellow gold instance and is powered by the automatic Cal. A295 movement, with complete calendar and moonphase indication. Expert’s estimate € 280,000 – € 310,000.

Lot details: catawiki.com

GMT-Master PGC “Underlined Dial” – Ref. 1675

Rolex - GMT-Master PGC "Underlined Dial" - Ref. 1675

Gilt, maxi, underline dial ref. 1675 — fewer words in the vocabulary sphere of vintage Rolex, hold as much sex appealas the afore mentioned string. In 1959 Rolex launched their second series of the GMT-Master, a reference that would run until approximately 1980, the reference 1675. This new reference featured the new 1530 series movement, in the case of the GMT-Master caliber 1565. The most striking feature of the updated watch was the presence of crown guards. The case had been enlarged by 2mm and was now 40mm (excluding the crown guards) and was again available in both stainless steel (1675/0) and 18ct yellow gold (1675/8).

Now, the instance on offer here with Catawiki holds true to exactly the combination of words we started off with: gilt, maxi, underline dial ref. 1675. A highly desirable combination of qualities on a highly desirable second-generation reference of a timepiece that has gone on to set the standards by which all GMT watches are benchmarked from.

Lot details: catawiki.com

Expert’s estimate € 32,000 – € 36,000

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