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The $1.145 Million Rolex

Luxury timepiece aficionados were shocked late last year when an extremely rare Rolex made in 1950 was sold for more than four times the estimated auction price and in doing so set a new world record. The sale at Christie’s New York on Dec. 17, catalogued a stainless steel Ref. 8171 Rolex and it sold for $1.145 million against a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 – $350,000 and was the subject of a fierce bidding war that spanned across four countries.

The Luxury timepiece, previously nicknamed the “Padellone” (“Big Frying Pan” in Italian), earned itself a new moniker—“Sleeping Beauty”—on account of the surprise result. One of the most complex Rolex watches ever made, its predominant feature is a triple date and moonphase display. Only 1,000 similar watches were ever made, but until the Christie’s sale the model wasn’t in the same league as the Ref. 4113, an oversized stainless steel split seconds chronograph made in 1942 that became the world’s most expensive Rolex ever when it sold at auction for $1.16 million  in Geneva last May.

The auction was “a most memorable grand finale to the most successful year of watch auctions ever orchestrated by any auction house in history,” notes Aurel Bacs, Christie’s’ International Head of Watches. “Savvy bidders from around the world gathered to compete fiercely for a beautifully curated, intelligently estimated, and well researched selection of high-quality collectors watches.” The sale brought in a total of $12,926,175, selling 91 percent by lot and 95 percent by value.