This weekend marks two highly anticipated watch auctions from Phillips—the Daytona Ultimatum Auction and the Geneva Watch Auction: Seven from May 12 to May 13 at Hotel La Reserve in Geneva. After its record-breaking sale of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona for $17.7 million last year, Phillips’ upcoming watch auctions are riding on great expectations. Only time will tell if its top three lots will rake in history making millions. According to Paul Boutros, head of watches in the Americas and senior vice president at Phillips, the Rolex “Unicorn,” Iron Man’s Urwerk, and Elvis Presley’s Omega are expected to be the auctions’ top sellers.
The white gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, dubbed the “Unicorn,” is thought to be the only one of its kind in the world and has a starting estimate of 3 million CHF (or about $3 million). The Rolex reference 6265 was made in Germany in 1970 at the request of a private client. A white gold Cosmograph Daytona is a rarity, as Rolex usually produces manually wound Daytonas in stainless steel or 18-karat yellow gold, with select 14-karat yellow-gold pieces sold in the American market. No one knew of the Rolex Unicorn’s existence until 10 years ago when it was discovered in prominent collector John Goldberger’s possession. He swore to never sell it, but this year Goldberger is parting with it so that proceeds will benefit the nonprofit charity Children Action, a U.K.-based foundation aiding neglected children and their families.
The Urwerk UR-110RG (estimated at 50,000 to 100,000 CHF or almost $50,000 to $100,000) has a similar feel good mission. The futuristic timepiece once belonged to Robert Downey Jr., who wore it while in character as Iron Man in the Marvel comics blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming. The actor, a known watch collector, has chosen to try to save the world in real life by auctioning off his Urwerk in order to donate the proceeds to Mausodany, a non-profit funding development projects for the disadvantaged in Haiti.
But the Urwerk UR-110RG isn’t famous just because of Robert Downey Jr. For watch collectors, the timepiece from the independent watchmaker is important because it presented a radical new way of telling time when it debuted seven years ago. It uses a rotating cube and orbiting satellite complications to tell the time instead of hands and markers. The modern marvel also boasts an automatic winding system regulated by dual turbines, a “control board” indicating day and night, a small seconds subdial, and an “oil change” indicator that alerts the wearer when it needs to be serviced.
While the 18-karat gold and diamond Omega caliber 510 sold through Tiffany & Co. (50,000 to 100,000 CHF or about $50,000 to $100,000) has far less mechanical bells and whistles, the timepiece was once owned by Elvis Presley. The timepiece is an important part of music history—it was gifted to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll for selling a milestone 75 million records in 1960. Presley set that record on Christmas Day of that year, but was presented with the watch in February of 1961 when he performed live for the first time in two years after returning from the Vietnam War. But the history of how this timepiece made it from Presley’s wrist to its present owner is the stuff of legends.
The Daytona Ultimatum auction on May 12 will begin at 4:00 P.M. CET and immediately following the Geneva Watch Auction: Seven will begin at 5:30 P.M. CET. The second session of the Geneva Watch Auction: Seven will begin at 6:00 P.M. CET on Sunday, May 13.