“Small detail, my mistake — you have to turn it on,” said Aurel Bacs as he turned on his microphone, after having forgotten to do so, once he took the auctioneer’s podium. He greeted the room and announced that John Goldberger was, in fact, in attendance, however, the other great Rolex scholar who had made the night’s collection possible, Pucci Papaleo, was not in the room because the man’s got a fear of flying.

38 milestone Rolex watches were up for auction tonight with Phillips Watches as part of their two-day Hong Kong Watch Auction: Three spectacular.

The pieces amassed by Sam Hines and his team were unquestionably top notch and really did hit every rung of vintage Rolex collecting interest that one can imagine. What was a little odd about the evening, though, were the bids. No records were set or broken tonight. Okay no, there was one record: highest price for a Rolex at auction in Asia.  And that was that. Very uncharacteristic of a Phillips Watches auction affair. Never the less here are the top 5 performers.

1. Lot 823: Ref 8171 Rolex stainless steel triple calendar wristwatch with moonphase

The highest score of the evening went to lot 823 at HK$7,880,000 (after buyer’s premium). This is also the one that rings in as the record for the highest price for a Rolex at auction in Asia. The watch did sell for significantly higher than its estimate, however, I’d be quick to hold my tongue before saying that Phillips Watches has all the luck with rare steel watches because number two on the list does throw a spanner in that theory.

2. Lot 835: Ref. 6263 RCO Paul Newman Daytona

Remember how, just earlier in May 2016, Phillips Watches set the record for the highest ever paid for a Paul Newman Daytona (a stainless steel ref. 6263 RCO dial sold for CHF1,985,000)? Well tonight, an RCO hammered for HK$5,840,000 (after buyer’s premium), which when converted on Google equates to about, CHF 765,000. This one sold for close to HK$4 million under its high-estimate.

But great news for the buyer who managed to snag a piece of the highest kind of Paul Newman Daytona lore at what can be unabashedly called — a steal.

3. Lot 824: Ref. 4645 18k yellow gold Rolex with cloisonné enamel dial depicting Neptune

Mind you now that this one’s quite possibly a unique timepiece — one of its kind. Beyond rarity, though, it is also quite a brilliant piece of maître d’art that we hardly ever come across even in the world of vintage Rolex. So with all of that riding on this one, how the timepiece hammered for HK$5,840,000 is a bit of a head scratcher. Again, under the high-estimate by a little over HK$2 million.

4. Lot 816: Ref. 6202 Rolex yellow gold triple calendar wristwatch with star-set numerals and moonphase; or simply the ‘Stelline’

Next on the list is the triple calendar that received more than its fair share of interest — just judging from all the Instagram wristshots of the watch. And why not? With a particularly interesting dial and the pristine yellow gold Jubilee bracelet to boot, it’s not hard to fall for this one.

Whoever ended up with the piece from 1952 did this one justice at HK$5,120,000, which is a good HK$300,000 above its high-estimate.

5. Lot 833: Rolex Paul Newman Ref. 6263 (inside case back stamped 6239)

This 6263 paired with the earlier RCO, are oddly reminiscent of the same pair that we saw at the May 2016 Start-Stop-Reset: 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronographs sale. But rest assured both pairs are different and can be definitively differentiated by examining their case numbers.

The particular quality that make these panda dialed 6263s especially appealing is the browning that occurs on the minute track. Quite hard to miss.  This one hammered for HK$4,880,000, which again fell under estimates by a good HK$720,000.

With that said, the first night of the Phillips Watches auction is well and done. Tomorrow yet more watches await Aurel Bacs’ gavel — such as the duet of Phillipe Dufours, Eric Clapton’s Patek Philippe calendar chronographs, some Nautilus, a healthy dose of vintage Panerais and lastly a bevy of more vintage Rolex pieces.

View the hammered prices of all watches from the evening at www.phillips.com

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