The Bao Dai Rolex once belonged to the last emperor of Vietnam, Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, or Bao Dai. Rolex produced a few examples of the yellow gold and black dial reference 6062. However, the watch worn by Bao Dai is entirely unique, right down to the exact orientation of the diamond hour markers. For this reason alone, it’s highly collectible, holding the title of the most expensive Rolex ever sold two separate times during its history before the Paul Newman Daytona dethroned it. It’s a stunning watch with an even more fascinating history.
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What is the Rolex 6062?
Before we dive into it, what is the Rolex 6062? Rolex released the 6062 at Basel World 1950. At the time, it was the first triple calendar moon phase watch with a waterproof case, preceded only by ref. 8171, which did not have a waterproof case. The only other Rolex to receive the striking moon phase complication would be the modern Cellini. Reference 6062 came to market only a few years after the innovative Datejust featuring the world’s first automatically changing date display. The fact that Bao Dai’s Rolex had several other complications on its dial in addition to a date is a feat we would only expect from Rolex. For reference, the beloved Day-Date with two complications on the dial, the date and the day spelled out in full, would not come to market until 1956.
The Rolex 6062 has all the usual makings of a classic Rolex watch, a waterproof 36mm Oyster case, a Perpetual movement with automatic winding technology, a traditional 5-piece link Jubilee bracelet, and the iconic 5-point Rolex coronet proudly displayed on the dial. The case is outfitted with a smooth bezel and an older-style acrylic crystal. The caliber 655 is an in-house movement developed by Rolex, also known as the Super Balance cal. 9.75. It features the day and month in two windows just above the centrally mounted hands, a moon phase indicator above 6 o’clock, and a dedicated hand for the date, which points to a calendar track surrounding the dial in gold font.
Looking even closer at the dial, the OCC distinction, “Officially Certified Chronometer,” is printed inside the Moon Phase register. Rolex produced three black dial examples of the Rolex 6062, including Bao Dai’s watch.However, the diamonds on the other two watches are located at the odd hour markers, while the emperor’s Rolex features diamonds on the even hour markers and gold arrowhead markers on the odd hour markers. Interestingly, Rolex moved the coronet down, which usually takes the place of a 12-hour marker, to make room for the diamond. This dial layout is exclusive to Bao Dai’s Rolex, making it one of the most important watches ever produced by the Big Crown.
Who Was Bao Dai?
Bao Dai was the last Emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty, which ruled for over a century from 1802 until 1945. His empire included present-day central and northern Vietnam, also known as Annam and de jure monarch of Tonkin. Bao Dai reigned over the region from 1926 until 1945. During his time in power, he made significant changes in his country, ending outdated practices from his predecessors and reforming educational systems.
France colonized Vietnam in 1877, creating what was known as French Indochina. However, during Bao Dai’s reign and World War II, France lost control of the region to Japanese troops. Bao Dai remained Emperor of the region until the Vietminh resistance group leach by Ho Chi Minh drove Japanese forces from the area and claimed Vietnam’s independence in 1945. Bao Dai held various other titles during the next several years, always siding with the French until his retirement in 1955. The former emperor passed away in Paris, France, on August 1st, 1997.
Where Did Bao Dai Buy His Rolex 6062?
The story of how Bao Dai acquired his famous gold Rolex is almost as remarkable as the watch itself. During his rule, Bao Dai had a reputation for enjoying the finer things in life, earning him the nicknames “Playboy Emperor” and “Nightclub Emperor.” He was a man of great power, wealth, and taste, owning such luxuries as private yachts, rare cars, and even villas.
The emperor found himself in Switzerland in 1954, meeting with other world leaders to determine the fate of Vietnam. During a break in the negotiations, Bao Dai strolled across the street from the Hotel des Bergues right into the Rolex retailer Chronomètrie Philippe Beguin. Inside, he requested the finest, most expensive Rolex they had in stock. After turning down several other options, the legendary Rolex 6062, which would one day be named after the Emperor, was delivered from another workshop in the area. At last, they had found a watch fit for Bao Dai. He had come into ownership of one of the rarest Rolexes of all time during the conference, but his country had also been divided into two.
How Much is the Rolex 6062?
Bao Dai’s Rolex 6062 first made history when it sold at auction at Phillips for $235,000 in 2002 and again 15 years later in 2017 for $5,060,427. At the time, it was the most expensive Rolex ever sold, beaten only by the famed Paul Newman Daytona, which sold at auction for more than $17 million. Since the 2000s, several other examples of the yellow gold Rolex 6062 featuring white dials have sold for anywhere between $200k and nearly $1 million. A rose gold example with a “Stelline” dial with tiny star hour markers instead of diamonds sold for $950k.Most recently, a yellow gold example on leather and with a white dial sold at auction at Christie’s for just over $200k.
The Bao Dai Rolex hails from Royalty. When it comes to rare timepieces with provenance, reference 6062 is hard to beat. It’s so valuable, simply because of who its original was and because there are no other Rolex watches like it in existence.