Watches & Jewelry

Rare Rolex No Match for Celebrity Provenance Rolex Watches

Celebrity beat out provenance for a Rolex given to a British Army Lieutenant. The watch was the highlight of a Fellows jewelry auction on March 21; complete with original photographs of the officer and a staged scene that looked like an antique roll-top desk ready to write a letter home from WWII. It has been no secret that Rolex and fine watches have been rising handily in price and this one sold right on the high end of its estimate. The POW watch was an interesting standout among other famous and high-end watches and it’s no secret Rolex watch prices have gone up even before the latest inflation news and before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This rare Rolex watch belonged to a British Army lieutenant Charles Maurice Anthony (Tony) Whitaker, of the Worcestershire Regiment. He was captured inland during the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940 whilst holding a bridge for men retreating to the beaches. Tony was missing for a year, presumed dead by his family. It was at Oflag VII-B, a camp for officers in Bavaria, where Tony received the Rolex. Rolex and Hans Wilsdorf sent these watches to officers as a morale boost, who paid for them later on returning to Great Britain. It is believed that British soldiers had to request a watch by letter.

The soldier’s Rolex was a 9ct yellow gold Oyster Perpetual wristwatch 30mm. The watch sold for 4,593.60 GBP which is $6,082.15 USD on March 21 in Birmingham, England. The actual sale price was 3,600.00 GBP before buyer’s premium which falls right on the nose of the original estimate which was 2,800 GBP to 3,600 GBP, roughly $3,584.00 USD to $4,608.00 USD at the time of publication. The estimate as of March 22 would now be $3,711.44 to $4,771.85 USD.

POW Rolex

The watch did not achieve celebrity price when compared to Sir Michael Caine’s Rolex. The 18K gold quartz calendar bracelet watch Oyster quartz Day-Date, Ref 1901819000, Circa 1979 sold for 125,250 GBP including buyers premium on March 2, 2022. After conversion the price for Sir Michael Caine’s Rolex came out to $160,320.00 USD.

Fellows is a fine jewelry auctioneer established in 1876 with auction rooms in Birmingham (U.K.). The watch auction took place at Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter on Monday 21st March. Rolex provenance for every collector was available to own, and here are some other sales from the event.

Collectors Dashboard has been tracking other auctions of watches owned by celebrities so far in 2022 and these are the prices paid for celebrity watches in 2022:

  • Honus Wagner 1939 Baseball Hall of Fame Grand Opening Induction “Gruen Curvex” Wristwatch sold for $58,800.00 by Heritage Auctions on February 26, 2022 after 17 bids.
  • Arnold Palmer’s 1970 18K Gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date did not sell at the SCP auction on February 5, 2022 because the $20,000.00 reserve was not met.

Even in 2021 there were plenty of famous watches or watches owned by celebrities that went up for auction. There was a $9.5 million Patek Philippe wristwatch owned by Egyptian royalty, a billionaire’s famous watch collection in California, and there was even Al Capone’s Patek Philippe pocket watch that sold.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. This means certain rare watches are attracting the same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds. Many collectibles now cost thousands of dollars (or much more). While a POW Rolex did not achieve a high-end price at auction.

Here are the other watches from the 256 lots we covered complete with original estimates:

  • Lot 198. TAG HEUER – a collection of five Monaco 50th Editions wrist watches in a presentation case. Number 24 of 50. Estimate £30,000 – £50,000 which updated to March 22 is $39,767.80 USD to $66,279.68 USD. The watch did not sell or was removed from the auction.
  • Lot 145. ROLEX – an 18ct white gold Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona chronograph bracelet watch, 39mm. Estimate £16,000 – £22,000 which updated to March 22 is $21,209.49 USD to $29,163.00 USD. The watch sold for 33,176.00 GBP which is $43,985.16 USD.
  • Lot 165. ROLEX – a stainless steel Oyster Perpetual Daytona Cosmograph chronograph bracelet watch, 39mm. Estimate £15,000 – £20,000 which updated to March 22 is $19,883.90 USD to $26,511.87 USD. The watch sold for 29,348.00 GBP which is $38,903.52 USD.
  • Lot 108. OMEGA – a limited edition bi-metal Marine 1932 Museum Collection Co-Axial wrist watch, 33mm. Estimate £12,000 – £18,000 which updated to March 22 was $15,907.12 USD to $23,860.68 USD. The watch did not sell or was removed from the auction.