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A Rolex ticks up from £200 to £45,000 in 50 years


Auctioneer Mark Stacey poses with a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona sold for £45,000 in Essex.
Auctioneer Mark Stacey with the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.

A family-run auction house in Essex, UK, has sold a rare Rolex watch in a sale that perfectly illustrates the skyrocketing value of pre-owned watches.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6263 was sold for £45,000 at Stacey’s Auctioneers in Rayleigh on May 23rd.

It was bought for £200 in 1975 in Epping, also in Essex, by a man who epitomises the phrase “one careful owner”. He barely wore the timepiece, and was able to offer it for sale in its original box and with all its paperwork intact.

Stacey’s had listed the item with an estimate of up to £30,000.

News got out though and the sale attracted 5 telephone bidders, one of whom – based in the UK – made the winning £45,000 bid.

The return on investment for the seller is extraordinary. The Bank of England Inflation calculator puts that original £200 purchase at around £1,500 in 2023 prices.

In raw monetary terms the watch rose in price by 22,400% in just 48 years. An average yearly rise of 467%, or £933.33.

For comparison, the gold standard for long-term investments is the US Standard & Poor 500 Index of leading shares. It has an average 10-year return of 12% between its inception in 1957 and today.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6263 was not originally a success for the world’s best-known watch maker.

The name reveals something of its troubled gestation: struggling for sales of its chronograph model, in 1963 Rolex renamed the watch the Cosmograph to hitch its star to the nascent NASA space programme.

Despite a smart redesign with a bigger, clearer face, they missed. Wally Schirra, one of the US Project Mercury astronauts, already used an Omega, and Rolex’s competitors were officially taken on board by NASA in 1965.

Immediately, Rolex rebranded again, adding the single world Daytona to the dial, forever linking the watch to one of the world’s most famous motor racing tracks.

Later, the brand was to become closely associated with racing-mad film star Paul Newman. A Newman-owned Daytona is the 3rd most valuable watch ever sold at auction, realising $17.7 million in 2017.

The face of Paul Newman’s $17.5 million Daytona.

The market in pre-owned luxury watches has been booming according to Boston Consulting Group. They report a 20% annual rise from August 2018 to January 2023 for top models by Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet.

Second-hand Rolexes do particularly well according to the analsysts. “On the secondhand market, these models typically fetch up to 200% of firsthand market prices,” they say of models including the Rolex Daytona.

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