Rare Rolexes at Monaco Legend Group This OctoberBy Ross Povey
Ask any seasoned Rolex collector to name their top three important vintage Rolex dealers and inevitably the name Davide Parmegiani will come up. Having been one of the world’s leading scholars and purveyors of fine and rare Rolex watches (amongst other marques) for in excess of 30 years, you can pretty much bet that the majority of important Rolex pieces have been through his hands…at least once. So it is no surprise that Monaco Legend Group, run by Davide Parmegiani and business partner Claude Cohen, always offers some superb Rolex pieces in its auctions. This October is no exception with some historically important and rare vintage Rolex from classic sports watches to elegant Oysters. Let’s take a closer look…
The Rolex Explorer story is well documented and has its roots in the successful ascent of Everest by the Hilary and Norgay team in 1953. That team were given reference 6098 Ovettone watches by Rolex for the expedition, fitted with what we now know as ‘Everest Dials’, without the word EXPLOERER on, and are seen as the pre-Explorer watches. The Ovettone (Italian for big egg) is a large 36mm Oyster with deep rounded case back and have long been coveted by Italian collectors. I have loved these watches for many years and they have seen a huge rise in popularity over recent times. The following year a team of Italian Explorers undertook the enormous challenge of tackling K2, the tallest point of the Karakoram range on the border of China and Pakistan. K2 is the second highest peak on the planet, being 237 metres lower than the highest, the infamous Mount Everest. K2 is considered more challenging than Everest, however, with to date only 300 having reached the summit compared to the 3000 who have conquered Everest.
In 1954 the Italian team that successfully made the ascent to the summit of K2 included the then 32 year old Ugo Angelino. The watch that all explorers were talking about was the Rolex and so this expedition was also equipped with Oysters from the brand. The watch given to Ugo Angelino was a reference 6350 with black gilt dial featured the moniker Explorer in the upper half of said dial. Launched following the Everest ascent of 1953, the reference 6350 is considered the first true Explorer and was the first model to feature the name on the dial. Nearly 70 years later, it is still a very important line in the Rolex sports watch catalogue and, like all Rolex sports watches. It is steeped in professional use.
The headline lot of a run of nine Explorers in the Monaco Legend Group sale on the 17th October is the actual watch that was used by and gifted to Ugo Angelino. The steel Ovettone is accompanied by its original paperwork and was consigned by Angelino’s son. The case back bears the inscription, “RICORDO SPEDIZIONE AL KARAKORUM K2 194 UGO ANGELINO” and remains in outstanding condition. The gilt, chapter ring dial has an applied coronet and has the word EXPLORER beneath the word Rolex Oyster Perpetual. This is a special watch and an important chapter in the story of a Rolex icon.
Talking about well-respected and gentlemanly Italian watch aficiandos, one of the foremost is Auro Montanari or John Goldberger as he is known as a writer. One of Auro’s foremost publications is 100 Superlative Rolex watches, which features Lot 285, a very rare and special Rolex so-called Pre-Daytona. In 1960 Rolex released the reference 6238 a reference that ran until 1967 and overlapped with the introduction of the Daytona in 1963. The most striking difference between the two watches was that Rolex moved the tachymeter scale from the dial and onto the bezel with reference 6239.
The watch that belonged to Mr Montanari is a 6238 in yellow gold. A rare and desirable watch in itself, there have only ever been two known examples with black gilt dials with one being in 14kt yellow gold and the lot offered by Monaco Legend Group being in 18kt yellow gold. This makes the watch most likely unique and a very important vintage Rolex chronograph; maybe the most important discovery for many years. As you might hope with such a grail piece, the case is in beautiful condition, as is the yellow gold Oyster rivet bracelet. The star of the show, however, is the dial. Early Rolex sports watches feature, what collectors refer to as, gilt dials. These dials feature a glossy finish and the text, minute markers and chronograph registers are a gold colour – hence the term gilt. The colour is actually the brass dial base showing through, as the dials were printed in relief.
Going back to the Ovettone watches that I was talking about earlier, there are a trio of such watched that cannot be overlooked. The first is a reference 6098, the same reference as the Everest Pre-Explorers only this time the dial goes much higher than Everest…it reaches the stars! Lot 270 has a case is in yellow gold and remains in beautiful condition. As with most vintage Rolex watches however, the most important element of the watch is the dial. And what a dial! The white dial has a honeycomb texture which makes it highly sought after by collectors. Add on top of this, applied star hour markers and this watch is truly out of this world!
The Datejust has been a constant in the Rolex catalogue since its launch in 1945. The Datejust was actually the first automatic wrist watch with a date complication and has been a perennial favourite with collectors for years. Not all Datejusts, however, are equal such as Lots 268 and 272. Lot 268 is a yellow gold example from 1951 with original yellow gold Jubilee bracelet and stunning black gilt dial. The rare gilt dial is made even more special by the addition of brilliant cut diamonds at the even hours on the dial. Lot 272 is being sold in as-new condition with its original box and hang tags. The yellow gold case houses a white dial with red “DATEJUST” text and roulette date wheel, where the even dates are in red to add an extra pop to the face.
Chronos and Complications
No serious vintage Rolex sale would omit a Paul Newman dial Daytona. One of the most collectible iterations of the Newman is the 6263 so-called Panda with its signature white dial with dial sub dials and black plastic insert tachymeter bezel. Lot 276 is a Mk1 example that has come from the family of the original family. With these watches it’s all about the details and this one ticks all the boxes. A Mk1 dial in a 2.8 million serial case, Mk1 pushers and a nice condition dial.
Rolex only two Oyster cased complications, the triple calendar moonphase and the triple calendar chronograph. The latter is known by collectors as the ‘Jean Claude Killy’ or ‘Killy’ for short, as the Olympic skier wore a steel example. Lot 194 is a late 1940s triple calendar chronograph reference 4767 in stainless steel with a stunning two-tone dial. The blue calendar on the circumference of the dial is complimented by the blued steel hands and the dial has arabic even number and applied odd number hour markers. Seen as the ultimate trophy for vintage Rolex collectors, this is a special watch!
The Monaco Legend Group Exclusive Timepieces sale will take place on 17th October 2021 at the Hotel Hermitage in Monaco. For more information click here.
There will also be a special ‘Cartier 88’ sale featuring rare and exclusive Cartier pieces on 16th October 2021 at the Hotel Hermitage in Monaco. For more information click here.