HomepageDaily ChatA Record-Breaking Rolex Confirms Sotheby’s as Market Leader for Watch Auctions this Season
July 31, 2020

A Record-Breaking Rolex Confirms Sotheby’s as Market Leader for Watch Auctions this Season

An Ultra-Rare Daytona JPS Ref. 6264 in 18-carat gold soars to £1.2m ($1.5m) in a London single-lot online sale

- Record for a watch sold in an online auction –

- Record for a Daytona JPS -

- Record for a wristwatch auctioned in the UK –

London, 31st July 2020 – Today, Sotheby’s once again broke its own record for a watch sold in an online auction - for the third time since April. An ultra-rare Rolex Daytona JPS reference 6264 in 18-carat gold - one of just a handful known to exist - soared to £1,215,000 ($1,545,723) in a London single-lot online sale. The 1969 ‘John Player Special’ - named after the legendary 1970s Formula 1 livery, because of its black and gold “Paul Newman” dial - also set an auction record for a wristwatch sold in the UK, a record for a Daytona JPS and one of the highest prices ever paid for a Daytona. In accordance with its iconic status on the vintage market, the watch, which had never appeared at auction before, received 17 bids from 5 bidders. Together, they drove the final price well above pre-sale expectations (est. £320,000-650,000 / US$ 400,000-800,000).

This sale rounds off a season of online successes and innovations, placing Sotheby’s as market leader, ahead of the competition in the watch category this year. Since the beginning of 2020, the company's watch auctions have brought a combined total of $48 million.

These results were driven by numerous records for modern and vintage wristwatches, historic benchmarks for antique pieces and the strong performance of new auction formats, including the fast and dynamic ‘Watches Weekly’ sales launched in April, which have since attracted a large number of young and new participants from around the world.

Sam Hines 

Sam Hines, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Watches, said: “Time hasn’t stopped for us this season. It has been a transformative few months. In the past couple of weeks, we have auctioned two of the most valuable Daytonas ever sold, and together with collectors, we are rewriting the rule book of watch auctions. The record-breaking sale of this Daytona JPS summarises in many ways the takeaways of this pivotal season: the eagerness of collectors to embrace new ways to transact with us, their resolute confidence to buy and sell high-value lots online and, of course, the unabated appetite for freshness, quality and rarity. It has been thrilling for us to steer this transformation and we look forward to continuing to shape the market with collectors and sharing our passion with them in the second part of the year.”

Daryn Schnipper. Photo credit: A Collected Man

Daryn Schnipper, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Watch Division, commented: “Resilience, reinvention and vision are cardinal virtues for watchmakers and have been the driver of many revolutions in the field of horology. In a year that has seen so many successes for Breguet, including a record for a Tourbillon by the watchmaking genius at $2m, these values were certainly present in our minds. Many myths have been debunked, in particular the assumption that historic timepieces won’t sell well online: our “Masterworks of Time” sale in June - the first ever online auction of world-class pocket watches - was 100 % sold and set some of the highest prices of the season. It’s been fascinating to see antique pieces generating so much passion online and on social media - further proof that historic timepieces are so relevant today. They transcend the function of mere timekeeping to tell us the history of the modern world.”


  • Two of the Highest Prices ever paid for a Rolex Daytona

Record for an Automatic Daytona

A possibly unique Cosmograph Daytona, Reference 16516 platinum chronograph wristwatch with lapis lazuli hardstone dial, circa 1999, sold for HK$ 25.4m (US$ 3.3m) in Sotheby’s Hong Kong ‘Important Watches’ live auction on 11 July (lot 2236, est. US$ 500,000 – 1m/ HK$ 4m – 8m).

Record for a Daytona JPS

Record for a watch sold in an online auction

Record for a wristwatch auctioned in the UK

An ultra-rare Rolex Daytona JPS reference 6264 in 18-carat gold soared to £1,215,000 ($1,545,723) in a single-lot online sale, opened for biding 24-31 July (est. £320,000-650,000 / US$ 400,000-800,000).

Record for a Tourbillon by Abraham-Louis Breguet

King George III’s Tourbillon watch - one of the most important watches created by Abraham-Louis Breguet - sold for £1.6m ($2m) at Sotheby’s London on 14 July. Lot 28 in the ‘Collection of a Connoisseur’ sale, the gold four-minute tourbillon watch was secretly sold to the King of England in 1808, in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars (est. £700,000-£1,000,000 (US$ 895,000-1.3m).

Highest Total for an Online Watch Sale & White Glove Sale

In June, the third instalment of the landmark collection ‘Masterworks of Time’ – and the first online sale ever dedicated to world-class pocket watches - totalled USD 4.5m (CHF 4.4m), far surpassing the pre-sale expectations (est. CHF 2-3.1m). 100% of the 125 lots found a buyer.

Record for a pocket watch sold in an online auction

The top lot of the ‘Masterworks of Time’ sale was the Dent ‘Ultra Complication’, one of the most sophisticated watches ever made, which eclipsed its pre-sale estimate to sell for US$ 832,240 / CHF 800,000 (Lot 34, est. CHF 300,000-500,000).


  • Auction sales totalled $48 million so far this year
  • 50 sales in 7 months
  • 3 lots sold above $1m, 7 lots sold above $500,000 and 61 lots sold above $100,000
  • 80 countries from across the globe have taken part in our watch sales since the beginning of 2020, with strong participation from Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.
  • Half of the buyers were new, i.e. had never participated in a watch auction before
  • 40% of the bidders were aged 40 and under
  • 25% of the bidders participated in at least 2 watch sales
  • Since January, online sales have quintupled in volume (to reach 48 sales) and their combined value ($28m) has been multiplied by 7 compared to the same period last year.


New sale formats

  • Watches Weekly sales: four sales a week run out of Hong Kong, New York, Geneva and London. A rolling sale format, with a new selection of watches being unveiled every seven days (Tuesday for NY, Wednesday for HK, Thursday for Geneva and Friday for London, offering a fast and dynamic format for collectors to sell and buy watches.
  • Single-lot online auction: see the Daytona JPS sale mentioned above
  • The first-ever online auction dedicated to pocket watches: see reference to the ‘Masterworks of Time’ sale above.

New Technology

  • New, immersive digital catalogue experience showcasing a ‘digital-first’ design that emphasizes visual storytelling through video, interactive media, and other rich content formats in a way that moves beyond print media.
  • Chat Function on sothebys.com piloted by the watch team, allowing clients to chat live with our specialists.
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