Watch collectors from across the globe will get into a bidding war on November 8 for Rolex Deep Sea Special Number 1, a rarest of rare Rolex, at Christie's Rare Watches Auction in Geneva.
Developed as a prototype for perfecting the Rolex diving watch concept, the watch was attached to the hull of Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer Auguste Piccard's bathyscaphe Trieste for the inaugural deep-sea trial to a depth of 3,150 metres in the Mediterranean on September 30, 1953. Back then, the watch was just a prototype for Rolex's diving watch concept.
The watch then served as the basis on which Rolex developed the Deep Sea Special N°3 that was attached to the Trieste when it took an expedition to reach 1 km below sea level in the Mariana Trench on January 23, 1960. The Rolex Deep Sea Special N°3 is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
"For a holy grail watch such as this prototype Deep Sea Special Number 1 to become available is a dream come true in so many ways and for so many watch lovers, Rolex fans and connoisseurs around the world," said Rémi Guillemin, Head of Watches, Christie's Geneva.
According to a press release by Christie's, a total of seven prototypes of the Deep Sea Special were made between 1953 and 1960. From the lot, only three have been identified -- the Deep Sea Special N°1 with a 'low glass' (made from Plexiglas) that accompanied Trieste on its first deep-sea trial down to 3,150 metres (10,245 feet) off the island of Ponza in 1953; the Deep Sea Special N°3 with a 'high glass' (a taller and thicker crystal, also of Plexiglas, one of the invaluable learnings from N°1) that made the trip down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (10,916 meters, 35,814 feet) in 1960 and lastly the Deep Sea Special N°5, also a 'high glass' version.
Among these three rare watches, the Deep Sea Special N°5 was offered at auction by Christie's back in 2000, and the Deep Sea Special N°3, which was used for the expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, is out of reach as it sits (along with the Trieste) at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. So currently, the Deep Sea Special N°1 is the only watch available.
Christie's has not disclosed any pre-sale estimate for the watch, but it is likely to go for several million dollars.
The most expensive Rolex ever sold at an auction was in 2017, known as the Paul Newman watch. It was gifted to the actor by his wife. The watch was sold for $17.75 million.
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