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Top 10 Most Expensive Rolex Watches Ever Sold Worldwide as of 2023
January 9, 2021
If you have ever wondered what are the top 10 most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold as of 2023, then you know that for many watch collectors and watch specialists, owning a Rolex is something to aspire to. Rolex watches are more than just timepieces, they are heirlooms, investments, and collector’s items. Unlike many other luxury goods, Rolex watches retain their value over time; many will even increase in value.
Synonymous with quality, luxury, and style, this go-to Swiss brand continues to find itself at the top of the list for the most expensive luxury brands of watches in 2023.
But even when it comes to Rolexes, not all timepieces are created equally as most watch collectors can testify. Rolexes take up some of the top spots for the most expensive watches in the world ever sold throughout history as of 2023.
But how expensive are Rolex watches? And what’s the most expensive Rolex watch in the world ever sold as of 2023?
Even the basic Rolex models are worth several thousand dollars. Vintage Rolex watches, rare makes, and those with famous owners can go for much more.
Let’s dive straight in!
The War in Ukraine and the Effect on the Luxury Watch Industry 2023
The Russo-Ukrainian war has been ongoing since 2014, but when Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, there were instant ramifications.
Sanctions on Russia were swift. Citizens in both countries, concerned for their businesses, immediately looked for ways to safeguard their money. Some people fled and sold their possessions to do so. The mass moving of citizens from Ukraine caused the largest refugee crisis since World War II.
Sanctions against Russia impact Russian industries and the companies that export to the country. Before COVID and the war in Ukraine, Russia accounted for up to 5% of all luxury spending. After Russia invaded Ukraine, many Swiss watchmakers halted the export of goods to Russia and remain unable to use the trade routes through the country to Asia.
With a halt in business and a smaller influx of cash into both countries, many Russian shoppers turned to luxury brands like Rolex. Investing in expensive jewelry is like investing in gold. It’s a brilliant practice to ensure the safety of your cash. After buying, even the most expensive Rolex watch in 2023 could see a 2-3x price increase on the secondary market.
There are other consequences of the war in Ukraine on the watch industry. Not only are citizens buying luxury items to protect their money from losing value, but Russia is a major supplier of diamonds and precious metals used to make high-end watches. This lack of materials is causing a major problem for the global diamond industry.
What does this all mean for the rarest Rolex watches? It means what we know as the most expensive Rolex in 2022 may become even more costly or hard to find. The demand is high, but due to inflation and rising production costs, production is not exactly matching the demand.
Most Expensive Rolex Watch 2023: Prices Higher Than Ever Before
What is Rolex’s costliest watch that’s actually worth the investment in 2023? Buyers accused Rolex of creating demand for their products by limiting production, but Rolex vehemently denies this claim.
Either way, there’s an undeniable shortage. Retailers have waiting lists for the most popular Rolex models.
Rolex retail prices went up 1-3% in 2023, but it did not affect demand. The best Rolex watches to invest in continue to be the most scarce and hardest to find. Here’s why.
People know that luxury watchmakers thrive on exclusivity. The scarcity of luxury watches drives prices. In 2023, however, they became even more scarce.
In a recent statement from Rolex, the watchmakers admit they can’t keep up with demand without sacrificing quality. Since they refuse to change the quality of the watches, there’s no plan to increase production beyond what it currently is. Instead of increasing production, they increased the price.
Materials and Inflation
Stainless-steel Rolex watches are the most popular and hardest to find. When those sell out, buyers opt for other materials like gold which then forces those to sell out as well. Stainless steel Rolex watches continue to be the most expensive Rolex watches in 2023.
Due to COVID, rising labor costs, and sanctions on trade, the price of materials rose in 2023. The higher cost of materials rolls over onto the buyer.
The Rise of Interest in Investing
The secondary market for used Rolex watches is higher than ever now. Rolex retailers saw a 2-3 x increase in prices in their markets because of increased demand. Why?
Many people believe the markup is due to people redirecting the funds they would otherwise use for travel before COVID. Others believe an uptick in interest in investing caused people to buy items that hold value well. Rolex watches are a perfect choice for this cause.
This time is unprecedented. The war in Ukraine, the COVID pandemic, and inflation have never-before-seen effects on pricing for luxury goods. No one can predict what the market will do, but history proves that Rolex watches are a sound investment.
Top 4 Most Expensive Rolex Watches in the World Sold During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2019-2021)
The luxury jewelry and watches market was hit by a 25% decrease in 2019 and 2020, with the beginning of the pandemic and Covid-19. It was one of the largest luxury personal goods markets that were affected. Younger generations are more interested in thrift and reused goods, making the luxury market less in demand than in previous years.
However, in 2021 – 2022, the luxury watch market began to surge again in collector’s social circles, with investors looking for opportunities to sell luxury goods online. Rolex is one of those luxury companies, and their luxury, expensive watches are more desired than ever, primarily due to their rarity and quality.
How expensive are Rolex watches during the pandemic?
Let’s take a look at the four most expensive Rolex watches from our list of the top Rolex watches ever produced that sold in 2019 through 2021, during the COVID pandemic.
Rolex Daytona (Paul Newman)
This special edition of Rolex’s Daytona watch in the shade of red is especially rare and expensive, especially since Paul Newman, a renowned celebrity, has owned it.
It comes in as one of the costliest Rolex watches on our list. The ref. 6263 watch owned by Paul Newman has recently been auctioned off, in 2020, for $5.48 million to an anonymous bidder.
The Daytona is also the third-most valuable watch sold by Rolex in the history of their watch sales and auctions, as of 2023.
This relatively expensive watch regularly goes for around $80,000, but this edition was auctioned at a higher price due to its ownership and customized engraving, written from Paul Newman himself to his daughter, telling her to “drive carefully.”
Finally, it is worth noting that these Daytona watches are no longer in circulation, and only around 22 were made, making them one of the most valuable Rolex watches in the World as of in 2023.
This watch is now available at a museum in Los Angeles for viewing.
Ref. 4113, a watch nicknamed “Split-Seconds,” is one of the world’s most expensive Rolex watches ever sold as of 2023. It was auctioned off in 2020 for $2.6 million.
So, what makes this one of the rarest Rolex watches on the market?
The proof lies in its production. In the early 1940s, Rolex made only twelve Split-Seconds series 4113 watches, and they didn’t make it to market. Since then, they’ve been passed down through elite circles, auctions, and collections.
Firstly, its size comes in at 4 4 (what does this mean?). It’s an incredible rarity – only 12 were made, ‘while just 8 have surfaced, mostly from the original families.’
For a Rolex, it features an unusually thin bezel and wears like a modern watch although all 12 were produced in 1942. But what really sets this apart from the rest and makes it really special is the extra button that appears out of the crown – the 4113 is the only split-second chronograph ever to be built by Rolex.
Since these Rolex watches have never been sold to the public, they now sell for an insanely high price. Another worthy entrance on our 2023 list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold at auction.
The watch features a light brown leather bracelet and four specialized rose gold dials. The watch’s face features three clocks, which show the time, date, and seconds.
The leather’s unique stitching and rugged appearance make this watch one of the rarest Rolex watches that exists today, which is why it makes it onto our top 10 most expensive 2023 Rolex watches list ever sold worldwide.
Rolex Submariner 1962 Rare Edition
Although not the costliest Rolex on our list as of 2023, this 1962 Submariner watch was auctioned off in 2021 for 200,000 British Pounds.
Nicknamed the “369 Submariner,” the watch features the numbers “3, 6, and 9” instead of the regular formatting for the clock face.
The watch’s band is made of stainless steel and is marketed as a man’s watch. It has a black Swiss dial and Mercedes clock hands made of steel as well.
This rare, expensive, and iconic Rolex watch can even surpass $1 million in auctions, and over ten of these specialty versions have sold for that price in recent years at auctions all around the world.
Rolex GMT-Master (Marlon Brando)
In 2019, Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT Master sold for a whopping $2 million, making it one of the top 10 most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold in 2019-2022.
This watch is one of the most valuable Rolex watches because its owner was the actor in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
That’s right, folks, the actor himself wore this watch in the film, and the new lucky owner gets to keep it in his collection. Although not as costly as the Daytona watch owned by Paul Newman, this luxury, expensive and rare Rolex deserves more recognition.
The actor’s initial and last name is even carved into the metal on the back, making this another customized and vintage Rolex watch in the world at the time of this writing in 2023. The watch itself is made of gorgeous stainless steel with a black leather bracelet.
Conclusion: What’s the Most Expensive Rolex Watch as of 2019 – 2023?
Any Rolex watch is valuable, but some are more so than others. You’ll surely find more value in rare vintage Rolex watches than in regular or new models. However, a new Rolex model can be an excellent investment in 2023 and beyond, if you have the capital to allocate to this expensive yet rewarding endeavor.
Rolex has only continued to rise in popularity, as is the trend with Swiss watchmakers such as Patek Philippe, Cartier, and Rolex. Their earnings have followed the same trend.
Some of the most expensive Rolex watches to “watch” out for right now are the Explorer vintage series and rare Daytona watches. The Rolex highest prices in auctions tend to be of these editions.
To conclude, what is the most expensive Rolex watch in the world ever sold as of 2019 – 2022, during the COVID period?
In 2019, 2020, and 2021 the Rolex costliest watch has continued to be the Daytona “Big Red,” owned by Paul Newman, which was auctioned in 2017, and again in 2020.
We don’t see any others surpassing this one in price any time soon.
The Most Expensive Rolexes in the World EVER SOLD before COVID-19
Whether customised on a movie set or purchased by a famous actor, each watch in this list has been produced by the king of watchmakers at one point in the company’s incredible history.
Here our team presents the ten most expensive Rolex watches in the world, sold by the company to date (2023), based on their sale price or valuation.
You may also be interested in our articles on the Top 10 most expensive Patek Phillipe watches ever sold , Top 10 Most Expensive Watches ever sold, and Top 10 Brands of Fine Watches you Should Invest in
10. 1967 Rolex Submarine (Steve McQueen)
An elegant silver finish, attractive black face, and distinctive 60s Rolex appearance might provide this 1967 Rolex Submarine is all the hallmarks of a high-quality timepiece, and is one of the most expensive Rolex watches in the World as of 2023.
But the value of this unique watch doesn’t come from its specific model. Instead, Rolex’s famous past owner, none other than Steve McQueen, is the reason for the high cost of this one-of-a-kind vintage collector’s item.
Selling for an impressive $234 000 at auction back in 2009, this watch was more than worthy of the tenth spot on our list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold as of 2023.
The watch is referenced as 5512 and continues to be one of the most highly sought-after timepieces in the world to date.
9. Rolex Daytona in Ferrari Red (Paul Newman)
To continue with the theme of celebrity-owned collector’s items, the Rolex Daytona is a unique Ferrari Red, owned by famous actor Paul Newman, taking the spot at number 9.
Inspired by the bright red and deep black theme of the classic Ferrari, this manually wound timepiece features 17 individual jewels and has an incredibly distinctive appearance. Immediately recognizable, there’s a reason why this unique piece of watch history would appear on the list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold as of 2023.
Selling for an incredible $267 203 at auction in 2014, the Paul Newman-owned Daytona proved itself to be one of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world. The watch is referenced as 6565, and it’s thought that only 22 versions of this incredibly rare Rolex exist to this day, further adding to the appeal of its specialized design.
Photo credit: pinterest.com
8. Rolex Pearlmaster in Platinum Diamond
Diamonds have always been considered the ultimate in luxury – and the Rolex Pearlmaster in Platinum Diamond is no exception to that rule, representing one of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world, ever sold as of 2023.
This beautiful timepiece is entirely limited-edition, and even its dial is utterly unique, created from meteorite diamond.
As if that weren’t enough, the bezel itself also comes adorned with 42 diamonds in a baguette shape, perfectly spaced. Elegant, attractive, and immediately eye-catching, the incredible opulence of this timepiece makes it easy to see why it’s valued so highly.
Amongst the most modern watches ever sold on the list, the Pearlmaster launched in ultra-limited edition for an incredible $277 850.
As a contemporary piece more suited to retail, this unique timepiece can be found at luxury jewellers more commonly than at an auction. But nonetheless, it’s a genuinely showstopping addition to the list.
7. 1972 Rolex Submariner (James Bond)
It’s not just real-life heroes that add value to fantastic collector’s items. Fictional spy James Bond has also proven his worth when it comes to the luxurious timepiece, with the 1972 Rolex Submariner, in particular, attracting a great deal of attention.
Worn by popular Bond actor Sir Roger Moore, the watch was explicitly modified for movie purposes, including reshaping the bezel into a distinctive circular saw for use in Live and Let Die. While these modifications make the watch less suitable for telling the time, they further add to the unique appeal of this stylish timepiece.
Sold at auction for a staggering $365 000 in 2015, this collector’s item is truly worth more than its weight in gold, hence making it on our 2022 list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold.
Referenced as 5513, the worth of this watch proves that Rolexes can be just as valued for their history as their functionality.
6. Gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual (Dr. Rajendra Prasad)
A one-of-a-kind and incredibly distinctive Rolex, the Gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a timepiece with a truly unique and astounding history.
Created from valuable pink gold, complete with an image of India on the dial, this elegant piece was a gift to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India. The watch also includes the date of the first constitution of India as part of its design. The past of the watch is veiled in mystery, with the watch itself appearing to have been stolen from Prasad’s family decades earlier.
While Sotheby’s has valued this unique timepiece at an astonishing $444 000, as of 2022 this expensive Rolex has never been sold. This is because the Indian government has worked to intervene in the sale of the watch, to return it to its rightful owners, Prasad’s family, it may remain in their hands from now on.
A worthy entry on our list of the most expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold as of 2023.
Photo credit: pinterest.com
5. Rolex GMT Master II Ice
Ostentatious is probably the best word to describe one of the most luxurious and expensive Rolex watches in the world ever sold as of 2023. Head-turning, incredibly luxurious, and dripping with diamonds, there’s nothing subtle about this incredible timepiece.
Created in 2014, this showstopping watch is constructed from the whitest of gold and is covered on every inch by dazzling diamonds, that are placed in extravagant designs and shapes.
When it comes to incredible luxury, there are few watches out there that quite match up to the GMT Master II Ice. One of the costliest Rolex models as of 2023, priced on the marketing at $485 350, the purchase of this unique piece is certainly not one to take lightly – but it’s bound to be a showstopper; however, you choose to display it.
4. Oyster Albino Cosmograph Daytona (Eric Clapton)
Another beautiful watch made incredibly popular by its famous owner. The Cosmograph Daytona in a unique Oyster Albino colourway is an elegant watch in its own right, manufactured back in 1971.
This particular watch was one of just four with distinctive silver chronograph totalizers, leading to the Albino colourway. With a classic black and silver design with unique features, it’s easy to see why this elegant watch could be worth so much even without its famous ancestry.
For Eric Clapton’s own Oyster Albino Cosmograph Daytona, the price at auction is $1.4 million. Last sold at auction in 2015, the value of this unique piece continues to grow year-on-year, which makes it one of the most expensive watches in the world as of 2023. Considered the holy grail of Rolexes, this watch falls under reference 6263.
Photo credit: phillips.com
3. Rolex Antimagnetique
The perfect example of a Rolex whose value has bloomed over time, the Rolex Antimagnetique represents the old world of watchmaking. Never released to the wider public, this highly select watch was created only 12 times.
Gifted exclusively to drivers and racing teams way back in 1942, we’ve never seen anything quite like this elegant example of old-world Rolexes since.
Selling at auction for an astonishing $2.5 million in 2016, collecting this beautiful watch certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. With only a dozen in existence, it seems likely the value of this unique watch will only increase over time, possibly making it the most expensive watch ever produced by Rolex in the process, at the time of this writing in 2023.
Photo credit:https: forbes.com
2. Gold Rolex (Bao Dai)
When it comes to royalty, Rolexes always fetch an incredible price. The one-of-a-kind Bao Dai Rolex is the perfect example of this. Created from 18-carat yellow gold, this timepiece was once owned by Bao Dai.
This famous figure was actually the final emperor that ruled over Vietnam. Featuring diamond markers and a black dial, the value of this watch is evident from its appearance alone – without even being aware of its incredible history.
Selling at auction for an eye-watering $5 million just a couple of years ago, this gold watch is the second-most expensive Rolex ever sold in the world as of 2023. This is, in part, thanks to its completely unique and luxurious design, and due to its fascinating and rich history.
1. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (Paul Newman)
This eye-catching and interesting-looking timepiece may look fairly standard to the untrained eye. But this specific Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, belonging to legendary actor Paul Newman, is the highest-value watch Rolex has ever sold worldwide as of 2023.
The style of the watch was so well-known for its use by Newman that it is often categorized as the ‘Paul Newman Watch’. While the watch itself was a purchase at the famous Tiffany’s store by the late actor’s wife, a personalized inscribed message, plus the fact that the actor wore the timepiece every day, hugely inflated its value.
Selling at auction for an astounding sum of $17.8 million in 2017, Rolex will struggle to match that target when it comes to the production of new watches in the future. The world’s most expensive Rolex watch ever sold as of 2023 is as unique as it is incredible.
Collection Rolexes can be incredibly rewarding, even if your budget is more limited than the million-dollar costs of some of the world’s most expensive timepieces. Auctions are an excellent resource for finding the best collector’s items and are more than worth the time investment to chase that perfect piece.
Whatever you think of Rolex’s most expensive watches, you can’t deny that there’s something a little enchanting about every single one.
Rare Rolex ‘Blueberry’ GMT Master
The Rolex watch brand is one that commands respect on a global scale. It is evocative of distinct quality, the dials ticking with a timelessness that seemingly would never run out, the chassis one that would survive a lifetime. It is why it is widely regarded as one of the most luxurious watches ever sold.
But how true is this? Certainly the watch-maker – registered in London in 1905 and shortly relocating its HQ in Switzerland around 1908 – uses unrivaled forging, research, and manufacturing techniques.
So does this mean their watches stand the test of time?
Indeed Rolex’s manufacturing process supports this watchmaker’s reputation as something of universally recognized brilliance.
Taking Swiss discreetness to ‘a new level’ the watchmaker rarely lets anyone into their top-secret headquarters. The attention to detail and level that the processes are all incorporated within their HQ is incredible, and this begins with the in-house foundry that they use to cast all the gold for Rolex watches.
If a Human Can Do the Job Well, Let That Be So
To add to this they have their own research team, they use specialized steel simply as it looks better, and they have their own science lab to name a couple. Before every Rolex watch is released into the public domain or marketplace a dedicated specialist hand assembles and tests all Rolex movements.
At Rolex, the ethos seems to be very pragmatic – if a human can do the job just as well then let that be so. So does this justify Rolex’s reputation and expensive price?
With rumors that certain Rolex models take months to make this esteemed watchmaker has reached this position of excellence and a solid reputation for a reason. So as new models are perpetually created, models that are deemed rare or of some interest – especially historically – can hold value particularly well.
Indeed, in 2023, Rolex consistently produces some of the most expensive watches in the world ever sold at auctions. Their first revolution:
“Its trademark Rolex Oyster watch case which was the first waterproof case to come to market in 1926. I would say that the term Rolex Oyster is a perfect metaphor to describe the Rolex Corporation of today, in the sense that Rolex as a company is also like a watertight Oyster in many ways.” Rolex Exploring a wonderful world
The Blueberry Bezel and Its Rarity
Some of the rarest Rolex’s carry a hefty price tag simply due to their aesthetics, scarcity, period, and authentic Rolex trademark. This is certainly true for one of the rarest Rolex in existence, The Blueberry Edition of the Rolex GMT Master Series.
One of the reasons for the Rolex Blueberry’s rarity is that the watch was initially designed for the Eastern market.
Another interesting aspect of this timepiece’s design is that the face that is quite unlike any other Rolex. This is because blueberries are often and easily customized. There is an increasing number of different types of bezels available. You can have anything from Pepsi bezels, and coke bezels to root beer bezels, however, finding a good example of blueberry is extremely uncommon.
The Hermes Paul Newman
Next is the Hermes Paul Newman, this watch fits into a category distinct amongst Rolex watches, that is watches that are Daytonas and those that are not.
The amazing 4113 split is not a Daytona, this watch is. Sitting between the early pump pusher/ steel bezel 6239 and the later screw pusher / black bezel 6263 gives this watch an edge in its quirkiness.
This Paul Newman Daytona, in super condition with a solid 18k Gold case is the only known one in existence. Complete with a caseback stamp (French import stamps and Rolex France markings) and confirmation from Hermes that they sold this watch makes this one of the most desirable Paul Newman’s out there, and certainly one of the most expensive watches in the world ever sold commercially as of 2023.
The Zerographe Reference 3346
According to all records, this is the rarest Rolex of them all. So rare that Rolex literature has no mention of its origins.
The watch holds a reference of 3346, and a production date of 1937. There are only four known examples and none that are in this condition. Christie’s estimates that no more than 12 of these were made.
But why is it so important? The Zenographe was the first Rolex to house an in-house chronograph movement. It was also the first Rolex to have a rotating bezel – two major defining factors for the modern Rolex.
To quickly sum up the 5 most expensive Rolex watches in the world, you can also watch our short video below:
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