Rolex has just broke a sales records at the Geneva Watch auction. Their “Bao Dai” watch has sold for an astonishing $5,060,427. It had already established a sales record in 2002, but it now obtains new heights.
This record setting Rolex (Ref#: 6062) is equipped with a triple calendar Moonphase and made out of 18k yellow gold. We’re talking about a 36mm case very similar to what a standard Datejust tends to be. Now, what gives this particular timepiece the uniqueness that helped propel it to the record breaking sum it obtained at auction, is its former owner “Bao Dai”, the final emperor of Vietnam, who lived most of his life in exile, in France. Bao Dai, which means “keeper of greatness”, ended up being the last member of the Nguyen Dynasty, a family that ruled the nation for 13 generations.
At the time Vietnam didn’t even exist as we know it today. What Bao Dai ruled over was known as Annam, which was part of French Indochina and encompassed about two-thirds of what is Vietnam today. He was even officially made emperor in 1926 at the age of 12, although he wouldn’t actually take up the throne until 1932, when he turned 18.
It’s during this period of time that Bao Dai developed his ties to France, since most of his childhood was spent in France where he attended school and received his education, until his 18th birthday when he moved back to Annam to rule as emperor, in 1932. But, years later in the 1940’s Japan would invade French Indochina during the World War II and they would end up persuading Bao Dai to declare independence.
Afterwards, even before World War II came to an end, the Japanese surrendered, at which time the leader of the nationalist Viet Minh coalition managed to convince Bao Dai to abdicate his throne, due to his former ties to Japan. He was promised the role of “supreme advisor” to Ho’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam. But, that wouldn’t last long as the region began a chapter of internal conflict and Bao Dai would end up living most of those years in either Hong Kong or Europe.
And it’s around this point in time that the record setting Rolex will come in to scene. It was during the spring of 1954 that Bao Dai would be attending the Geneva Convention to discuss pending issues regarding the conflicts of the Korean War, as well as ponder further actions in Indochina. The Geneva Accord they decided on would establish two separate Vietnamese states, but a referendum to establish a republic and remove Bao Dai was passed in 1955.
But, while this Geneva Accord was being negotiated Bao Dai happened to step out for some shopping. So as his Geneva haggling was leading towards splitting his country in two, he ventured outside the Hotel des Bergues and across the street to Chronometrie Philippe Beguin, a renown Rolex dealer. Once there his request was very clear: “he wanted the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made”. After which he was presented with several exquisite timepieces that failed to convince him, until the retailer called Rolex and they were able to source the yellow gold with black dial and diamond indexes, reference 6062 that all these years later has set a new sales record at auction.
This Rolex is one of only three black dial models known to exist, but it’s the only one to include diamond markers at the even hours. So, time is exhibited on a black dial with a mix of 18k yellow gold applied hour index markers and the aforementioned diamonds. A minute rail-road track ring circles around the dial, with a 31-day calendar circling on the dial near the bezel. In the topper mid half we find two aperture windows for the weekday and month, while a sub-seconds dial with a Moonphase in its midst is seen above the 6 o’clock position. The two central 18k yellow gold hands point out the current time, while a third steel hand indicates the current day, on the calendar ring.
Bao Dai would never return to Vietnam, where his monarchy was abolished by a rigged referendum. He died in 1997, at the age of 83, after spending most of his life in Paris indulging in a hedonistic lifestyle. Now that Geneva purchased Rolex he gifted himself, has wound up as a major inheritance piece. His surviving relatives cosigned it for auction and managed to create headlines and break established records, by scoring $235,000 in 2002; and now 15 years later it has topped that sum and then some, establishing the new record with $5,060,427.