A possibly unique platinum Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with a lapis lazuli dial was the star attraction at Sotheby’s watch auction in Hong Kong today.
The watch, Reference 16516, sold for HK$ 25.37 million (US$ 3.27 million) including fees. That’s three to six times Sotheby’s HK$ 4 million to $ 8 million estimate for the watch.
Sotheby’s billed the watch as “historically important and possibly unique.” It was manufactured circa 1999 at the end of the period when Rolex used Zenith El Primero movements in Daytonas. (Rolex replaced the Zenith movement with its own in-house automatic chronograph caliber in 2000.)
Less than two years ago, in October 2018, Sotheby’s auctioned off a similar platinum Daytona to this one for HK$ 6.84 million/US$ 3.0. That one had a dial made of black mother-of-pearl.
Both watches have the same 16516 reference number. They are believed to be part of a very small number of platinum watches Rolex produced in 1999. The caseback of the lapis lazuli-dial watch sold today bears an inscription dated “XII 1998.”
What makes the watches so rare are their case and dial materials.
Platinum-case Cosmograph Daytonas are virtually unheard of, according to Sotheby’s. In its description of the watch auctioned in 2018, Sotheby’s wrote, “While Rolex produced automatic Daytonas only in stainless steel, yellow gold, white gold, and steel and gold for many years, it has now been confirmed that one very lucky customer was given a unique masterpiece in 1999 and it is rumoured that the late Patrick Heiniger, the famous CEO of Rolex, himself wore a platinum automatic Daytona.”
The watch sold today is fresh to the market and is “the only known platinum Daytona with a lapis lazuli hardstone dial,” Sotheby’s says. Its cal. 4030 automatic movement has 31 jewels. The case has a diameter of 40mm, a screw-down caseback, and bears the number A171132.