Rolex is a name synonymous with luxury, but that reputation didn’t make it any less surprising when the brand’s Bao Dai wristwatch sold for US$5 million (HK$39 million). The recent sale cemented the rare Rolex’s position as the most expensive watch ever sold, and for good reason: it had a royal owner. Emperor Bao Dai, whose name means “keeper of greatness”, was the last emperor of Vietnam. In 1954, during talks in Switzerland with world leaders to negotiate with the Viet Minh over Vietnam’s future, Emperor Bao Dai broke away from the meeting and popped into a Rolex shop.
He wasn’t willing to accept any old watch from the showroom, though. Instead, he asked staff members to fetch the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made. A clerk was dispatched from Rolex’s workshops on the outskirts of Geneva, bringing with him a rare timepiece: the Rolex reference 6062 in yellow gold. Only three models of this watch are known to exist, but the Bao Dai is the only one with diamond markers on the even hours. The watch is so sought after that it prompted an eight minute bidding war between 13 bidders at a recent Phillips auction. The lucky buyer probably doesn’t boast any royal blood, but he still gets to become a “keeper of greatness” in his own right.