Rolex isn't a luxury watch company; it is the premier luxury watchmaker. There's a lot of talk about good watches, and indeed, there are plenty to choose from. However, the gold standard in the industry has been Rolex for decades. Of course, gold is the worldwide standard for value, hence the name. Combining the two only seems natural. What are the ten most expensive Rolex gold watches of all time? We did a deep dive to find them all. Notably, some outlandishly pricey Rolexes did not make this list because they are titanium or even steel.
10. Rolex GMT Master II Ice $485,350 (More Or Less)
According to the Robb Report, football star Cristiano Ronaldo wore this watch during the 14th Dubai International Sports Conference. The stunning 18k white gold and diamond watch varies in price based on the value of the diamonds, which changes with the markets. As a silver-hued watch, it is entirely white gold, and most of the unique design is covered in thirty karats of breathtaking diamonds.
9. 1950 Rolex Perpetual 'Sleeping Beauty' $1.14 million
The aptly nicknamed Sleeping Beauty watch got its unusual moniker from a 2013 sale. The original estimated price was just $250,000 – $350,000. Before that remarkable, record-breaking sale, it had been called the “Padellone,” but the eye-opening one-point-four million dollar sale earned this gold watch a new name.
8. Jack Nicklaus Rolex Day-Date $1.22 million
Gifted initially to legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus in 1967, the Jack Nicklaus yellow gold day-date Rolex took home a hefty one point twenty-two million dollars at an auction in 2019. The golfer, known as the "Golden Bear," shows up in many photos with this watch on his wrist as he hoists trophies. In fact, he wore it to twelve of the eighteen games where he won this Rolex when he won twelve of his eighteen professional major championship titles. Intriguingly, Nicklaus also said it was the first watch he ever owned, so it held a special place in his heart. Today the eighty-one-year-old golfer likely sports a different timepiece.
7. 1949 Rolex Oyster Perpetual $1.22 million
The 1949 Rolex Oyster Perpetual has the most ornate painted face of any watch on this list. The beautifully painted scene depicts a ship sailing a turbulent sea and a whale under a blanket of waves. Instead of the traditional numbers or simple dots, there are bars at twelve, three, six, and nine, and golden stars in between to mark the other eight hours. An anonymous buyer picked this piece up for one point two-two million dollars at a Christie's in Geneva.
6. 1958 Rolex GMT Master $3.5 million
The understated appeal of the 1958 GMT Master makes it both a statement piece and the sort of watch someone could wear daily. Bright yellow gold makes up the band, underside of the bezel, and numerals. However, an unusual shade of reddish-brown bakelite on top of the bezel really sets this watch apart. Meanwhile, the face is a rose gold that perfectly ties it together.
5. Cosmograph Daytona ‘The Legend’ $4.1million
The 1969 Paul Newman Oyster Cosmograph Daytona, known commonly as The Legend, is one of only three known to exist in this style. Moreover, of those three, only two, including The Legend, were made in yellow gold. This lovely watch sports a lemon grené dial and black subdials, giving the whole timepiece a unique feel. Equally noteworthy, though, is the fact that three Paul Newman Rolexes made the top ten.
4. The Bao Dai Rolex $5.1 million
The five square-cut diamonds on the face of the Bao Dai Rolex make this lovely watch instantly identifiable. For fifteen years, this was the most expensive Rolex in the world. However, within six months of once-again breaking its own record sales price, the watch that holds the current number one spot on our list took that title for more than three times the price. The regal history and owner of this watch make it truly special. According to Historical Watches, "Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, better known as “Bảo Đại” (translated as “Preserver of Greatness”), was the thirteenth and last Vietnamese emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, which ruled from 1802 to 1945."
3. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, ‘Big Red’ $5.5 million
Actor Paul Newman wore one watch daily for a quarter of a century. The watch, nicknamed Big Red, bears a unique inscription from his wife that reads, "Drive slowly, Joanne." This watch didn't burst into the top ten until it sold at auction last year for a startling five and a half million dollars. The watch was gifted to Newman's daughter Clea on his deathbed, and she later sold it to support his charities. Doubtless, he would be very proud.
2. The 1970 (or 1971) Rolex Daytona Unicorn $5.9 million
Most of the Daytona-style Rolexes of the early 1970s were made from steel. However, this particular model is made from white gold, which is where it got its name. In an era of silver-colored steel watches, this one is something special. Just as a mythical creature can be mistaken for an ordinary horse, this watch fits in among its similar-colored peers while secretly being unique.
1. Paul Newman’s 1968 Cosmograph Daytona $17.8 million
There is some confusion and mystery around this particular watch. Paul Newman, a prolific collector of Rolex, is said to have given it to his daughter's college boyfriend, James Cox, after which it disappeared from sight. Years later, it turned up, still on the wrist of James Cox, who agreed to auction it. However, given the similarity to The Legend, which is listed as a 1969 watch, this may, in fact, be the other yellow gold sibling in that series. We were unable to confirm whether the watches were actually from two different years as of this writing. However, the one that sold in 2017 for $17.8 million currently holds the world record for the most expensive Rolex ever.
Every one of these watches is a practical and useful work of art. Whether you prefer something minimalist, or an ornate, diamond-encrusted white-gold wonder, this list has them all. Choosing the right watch is like any other accessory. It can make your look by elevating an otherwise plain suit or break it by clashing and looking out of place. No matter your taste, all of these watches are the absolute creme of the crop. Would you wear a watch worth more than most people's homes and wealth combined? The owners of these ten most expensive gold Rolexes of all time have.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith