Last night at Christie’s in New York City, the watch you see here sold for over $1 million, becoming the most expensive Submariner ever sold at auction and the very first to enter seven-figure territory. When I first realized this, I was a bit surprised. With Daytonas routinely hammering for prices like this, it’s hard to believe that the iconic Sub had never reached these heights. But it’s true. Here are some thoughts on why this watch fetched such a sum and a little context for the high-end vintage Submariner market more broadly.
Just looking at this watch, you can probably tell that it’s not your run-of-the-mill Submariner. I mean, it’s not even your run-of-the-mill big crown (and yes, we’re now saying things like “run-of-the-mill big crown). First off, it has an Explorer dial, something super rare to see on a 6538. Then, if you look closer, you’ll notice that the depth rating is both meters-first, reading “200/660” with no actual units present, and it’s printed in red instead of white or gilt. Right here we’ve got the makings of a perfect storm Submariner. And, oh yeah, it doesn’t have a bezel. Yep, you read that right. The watch comes from the original owner and supposedly he popped the bezel off years ago when working as a painter because paint would get between the bezel and the crystal and prevent it from rotating. He never put it back on before passing away in 2017 and his son (the consignor) left the watch this way.
When I first saw this watch and its $500,000-1,000,000 estimate, my instinctive reaction was “Seriously? For a watch with no bezel on a too-small NATO strap?” But we all know that’s now how things work and there’s an important lesson to be learned here about where the value in a watch actually sits. This watch is coming fresh to the market from the family of an original owner who has a pretty strong story about having acquired the watch as an actual tool and then wearing it every day for decades. That always helps things along. Then there’s the sheer rarity of the dial configuration and the condition of that dial, which is outstanding. The scratches you see are in the crystal and the dial, as …read more