After a weekend of auction record breakers followed by a Trumped-up, scandal-icious week, during Friday night’s installment of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Fallon’s monologue, among a generous helping of jokes on the Commander in Chief’s account, also included the mention of a particular vintage Rolex that broke records and became the most expensive Rolex ever to have been sold at an auction.

The watch in question was a particular ref. 6062 yellow gold triple calendar, formerly the property of the Last Emperor of Vietnam, which under the hammer with Phillips Watches on their first evening at the La Reserve Hotel in Geneva last Saturday, sold for an astronomical CHF5,066,000 (with buyer’s premium; approximately USD5,206,577).

Fallon’s jab on the record breaker starts (at about 1:14 minutes into the video) with him saying, “I saw that a vintage Rolex watch just sold at auction for a record 5 million dollars.” The crowd goes, “WOOOOOO”.

And the punchline: “When someone asked the winner what time it was, he still took his cellphone out to look.”

The Rolex 6062 Bao Dai

I suppose it is difficult for most to understand, what would compel a man — or woman for that matter (let’s not assume) — to spend 5 million on a watch from half a century ago. Even if it was formerly the property of some sort of royalty.

The answer to that question is often explained to the watch guys with one word: Provenance. Although, I’ve often struggled with understanding that word in itself.

When the watch was sold, The Hour Glass’s Michael Tay posted a shot of it on his wrist on Instagram and a follower of his asked him this question: “Why was it so special?”

A blunt question, but an honest one, which I imagine a lot of us have on our minds but dare not ask. Mr. Tay answered saying, “It’s got pretty much all the ingredients of a trophy asset and at the end, two very committed collectors who needed to have it hence the price. The rest of the bidders were just the supporting cast.”

I kinda want to buy Mr. Tay a cup of coffee some day and ask him what is that list of ingredients that go into making a trophy asset. But yes, the romanticism held by an objet de curiosité can compel a person to spend 5 million on a half-a-century old watch, when fueled by passionate commitment to obtain what he/she desires. Remember that people have gone to war over the cost of passion. What’s 5 million for an emperor’s watch?

There is, of course, another side to the story. One which speaks of the successes of Aurel Bacs and his team, who seem to be breaking record after auction record. With such objects of desire in question, Bacs and his team are quite clearly doing the work ahead of time to make sure that the people with the right passionate motivations are aware of what’s being put up at their coming auctions.

Don’t take my word for it. Don’t even take Phillips Watches’ record breakers as evidence of their success. Just look at the total sales figure from their Spring 2017 Geneva auction versus the numbers of the other major auction houses that weekend and may be you’ll come to understand the amount of ground work these guys must be putting in. This isn’t a revelation of my own, rather the single, most intelligent thought to have been summarized at the conclusion of Geneva auction weekend — out of all the chatter and noise — by who else, but Mr. Tay. Again, on his Instagram account. You can read that post here or at the end of this article. Just be careful to pick your jaw off the ground before you move off.

For now, back to Fallon’s Trump jokes and on to Hong Kong auction week 2017.

This has been a particularly interesting Geneva sale season and one that continues to affirm @phillipswatches position at the top of the horological auction pyramid. The performance of the major houses are largely dependent on the consignments they secure and the buyers they can motivate to contest the some 1,270 lots over a three day period. Those that put in the hard work in pre-marketing their timekeepers and generating interest from their clients will, more often than not, achieve success in their endeavours. And those that hadn't, well, the results speak for themselves. Leading the sales was @phillipsauction with a robust CHF 32.6 MM followed by @christieswatches a very respectable CHF 16.0 MM. @sothebys registered a mere CHF 3.4 MM, possibly one of the lowest sales totals achieved in recent recollection due to a strategic over-dependence on the hope of a single lot carrying the sale. Over the three days, there were some exceptional results attained such as the Rolex 6062 Bao Dai which fetched CHF 5.0 MM, the Rolex 6263 Paul Newman Daytona Lemon Dial for CHF 3.7 MM, the Patek 2497 formerly the property of the late Emperor Halle Selaisse for CHF 2.9 MM and the Steel Rolex 6062 for CHF 2.0 MM. Most disappointing though was the failure of the Patek Caliber 89 to attract a single bid. Not for the lack of bidders as there were at least 8 on the phone and two serious bidders in the room on the day. So why did the Caliber 89 fail to sell? Was it because the auctioneer opened too high at CHF 5.9 MM causing the bidders to sit on their hands watching for who would make the first move? Or was it because of the unrealistic expectations of the seller and the house in establishing a high reserve value. Whatever the case, it was truly a travesty that this exceedingly important watch was subjected to such incomprehensible indignity. If and when this watch does eventually find a buyer, I have only one wish. That the future owner is one who appreciates the true value, the spiritual value, of what this timekeeper represented at the time of its conception and introduction and the light of hope it shone onto the watchmaking universe #genevadays #rolex #patekphilippe

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