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The Last Emperor of Vietnam's Watch Again Holds the Record For Most Expensive Watch

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There’s something to be said about a watch whose very existence put it at the top of the list for two legendary Rolex dealers.

There’s something to be said about a watch whose very existence put it at the top of the list for two legendary Rolex dealers. When asked by Rolex collectors and enthusiasts, “If you could only own one Rolex, what would it be?” Andrew Shear and Eric Ku could only offer one collective answer, the 36mm yellow gold “Bao Dai.”

What makes the "Bao Dai" so desirable that it was able to sell at auction for over $5million (yes, you read that right, it is not a typo) in May 2017.

Much like anything else in life, the amount a watch generates at auction is determined by supply and demand. This, paired with a unique history, positioned the reference 6062 Bao Dai Rolex watch to command an opening auction bid of $2.5million. Though it was anticipated that the watch would sell for far greater than $2.5million, it is safe to assume no one expected the watch to sell for a grand total of $5,060,427, making the Bao Dai, once again, the most expensive Rolex in the world.

What is the history behind this one-of-a-kind luxury watch and who is Bao Dai?

Rolex created the watch for the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, and it is the only one of its kind in the world. As the last member of the Nguyen Dynasty, Bao Dai ruled French Indochina from 1926 to 1945. At 12 years old, Bao Dai officially became emperor but did not actually take the throne until the age of 18 in the year 1932. During WWII, Bao Dai was forced to abdicate the throne by Ho Chi Minh, who exposed Dai’s connection to Japan. Ultimately Dai was granted a “supreme advisor” role by Ho for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. As the region entered into greater turmoil, Bao Dai retreated and found solace in Hong Kong and Europe until 1949, when he once again came into power in Vietnam as “head of the state.” By 1955, Bao Dai would be completely removed once again from the ever-evolving region and would spend the rest of his life abroad, primarily in France.

Before Bao Dai fully “retired” from rule, he acquired one exceptional, yellow gold Rolex from the retailer itself in Geneva. Boasting a black dial and diamond indexes, Bao Dai decidedly became the owner of the reference 6062 until his death at age 83 in 1997. Five years later in 2002, Bao Dai’s surviving relatives would offer the coveted Rolex watch for auction. Selling for $235,000, the watch set a record for the world’s most expensive watch. 15 years later, the watch is now valued at 21 times the original auction value in 2002.

Physically speaking, what about this watch makes collectors tick?

As with many collectibles, watch collectors seek items that fit a specific criteria in terms of condition from aging, rarity, and derivation. The Bao Dai reference 6062 Rolex fulfills all of the criteria to make it an outstanding addition to any watch collection. Not only has this vintage watch aged with more grace than a fine wine, but the fact that it has such a distinct history surrounding its existence combined with no other watch possessing its characteristics make this watch the king of them all.

With its black dial and diamond indexes carefully placed at each even hour, the Bao Dai reference 6062 Rolex is the only watch of its kind known to watch experts and collectors. In addition to its rarity, it possesses no noticeable flaws and the original black finish remains intact to this day. For a watch that is noted by Bao Dai’s colleagues and friends to have been worn regularly, it seemingly has come out the other side unscathed by the daily hustle and bustle which Bao Dai experienced on the French Riviera.

Many attribute the preservation of the 6062 to its waterproof case, complete with a caseback and screw-down crown. The oyster case, paired with the black dial, diamond indexes, and a yellow gold Jubilee bracelet is also of modest size, making it rather enjoyable for daily wear. However, with its ample price tag now sitting at a pretty $5,060,427, it is safe to assume its new owner will not be flashing the watch around too hastily.

Watches of this caliber command a hefty price tag but many will also wonder just how much a watch can really be worth. To answer this question, one must look beyond the exterior, even a gorgeous, carefully maintained one, and take into account the watch mechanisms themselves.

As noted previously, the flawless exterior of the Bao Dai watch contains a beautifully well-kept machine, one that only adds to its value. Rolex is known for their exquisitely crafted watches whose plethora of gears and wheels are tested time and time again to ensure accurate timing. The system of this mini machine created by Rolex in the 1950’s is no different and the fact that it is chronometer certified only increases the overall value of this luxurious timepiece.

While some may still maintain their argument that they themselves would never pay that much for a watch, one lucky and happy customer headed home from Geneva with a record-breaker when they purchased the world’s most expensive watch on May 13, 2017.

Did you enjoy this read? Try The Underlying Difference Between Mechanical and Quartz Watches

Since 1979, Bellevue Rare Coins has been a trusted, family-owned business serving the Greater Seattle Area with locations in Bellevue, Lynnwood, Issaquah, and West Seattle. Specializing in gold, silver, diamond, and jewelry purchasing, in addition to dealing in rare coins. We now offer a vast selection of fine, vintage and custom designed jewelry. Visit anyone of our four friendly locations for the best deals selling or buying.

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