Today is May 10th 2015.
And Phillips Auctions will auction off 4 watches that have attracted a lot of attention in these past weeks. All of which are expected to break records.
And all of them are absurdly overpriced and overvalued.
But one in particular is egregiously overpriced and overvalued, because one of it's failures is what makes its rare, hence valuable.
I'm talking about the the Rolex Daytona ref.6263, but the one known as the "Albino" Daytona (ooouuuu, ahhhhh), because it's sub dials are the same color as it's dial (white/silver). And Rolex only made about 4 of these "Albino" versions.
All other 6263s were either black on black, black on white, or white on black.
And the reason why only 4 white on white's were made is because they were hard to read, hence the dials being considered "failures", albeit loosely so.
But even though this is true, it's the Albino that is expected to fetch $1 million (if not more), not it's easier-to-read brethren, which are about $1 million less valuable.
But the Albino, and the entire 6263 model range (and to a degree all Daytona's in general), are failures for another documented, concrete, and very technical reason: it got it's ass handed to it by the Omega Speedmaster.
It's still, after all these years and interesting story. And for those who don't know it, or don't remember, here is the short version:
NASA needed to find a watch for it's Astronauts for their space missions. But instead of commissioning a watch be made, they literally bought some watches from a local jeweler and then proceeded to test the watches.
The key point here is that since they were bought "off the shelf", the companies that made these watches did not have the time to engineer an extra strong or extra special watch just for NASA. These were the exact same watches you and I would buy, and one of the watches by Rolex was essentially the exact same watch as the "Albino" being auctioned off today for $1 million plus.
To be fair, though, we don't know the exact references of all the watches NASA tested. I guess it didn't matter once they had their winner. But we do know there was a Bulova among the group, as well as Breitling and a Longines and a Rolex and of course the Speedmaster by Omega.
And since we know it was off-the-shelf and a chronograph, it doesn't take a genius to figure it out that the Rolex tested was probably a 6263. But even it was an overlapping Rolex reference, it most definitely had the exact same movement and case as the 6263, because Rolex didn't have any others at the time.
In fact, unlike the Speedmaster and the Longines, Rolex's entry was no where near in-house. The 321 in the Speedmaster was made together with Lemania, and Longines of course made their own 13Z. But the Valjoux 72 in the Rolex, is the same Valjoux 72 found in literally thousands and thousands of other Chronographs from the same era.
So right there, the $1 million dollar bidder is bidding on a $2000 movement, tops!
But as any good Rolex collector would tell you, Rolex collectors don't care about the movements.
They should, but they don't.
To them, its about overall utility (or the "details", which I easily dissect here).
The simplicity of their movements, even the few they manufactured themselves have fewer parts than the competition, and makes them easy to service and therefore, true workhorses that can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.
And that is where the Daytona and Rolex had it's greatest defeat (or failure).
NASA had some very specific tests and these tests were harsh, real harsh. The kind of harsh only the best of the best could handle. The kind of harsh Rolex told us and continues to tell us via their marketing campaigns that truly defines their raison d'etre, not silly "complications". In other words, these tests were supposed to be their friggin meat and potatoes.
Fail this and you've failed as a tool watch, period.
But let's throw them a bone and say winning isn't everything. Let's say competing is. After all, Enzo Ferrari used to say it wasn't about who won the race as much as how you fought during the race, and who am I to disagree with the great Enzo?
Well, as it turns out only the Speedmaster was able to complete each test. And only the Speedmaster was able to deliver or exceed the requirements set by NASA in each test it completed (which was all of them).
All the other watches failed and failed miserably.
And that includes the Rolex.
To my surprise, it also includes the Longines -- I've often said the 13Z has to be considered right there with the 321 as the greatest manual chronograph ever made, so I'm guessing it's failure had to do with its construction and/or case.
And maybe even more surprising is that from unverified sources, it appeared as if the Bulova was actually the 2nd place finisher, but at distant 2nd at that.
Point being, none of these watches, including the Rolex was in any way a match for the Speedmaster. Again, not even close!
Yet today, it's the Rolex that will sell for $1 million, not a Speedmaster.
Obviously being 1 of 4 ever made is a big reason, i.e. "rarity"...but look to the prices of the standard 6263s and you will see that even those fetch more than a Speedmaster.
So again, why?
Would you pay more for the race car that lost the race vs. the one that won it all?
The answer is NOT rarity. Although the 6263 is probably the nicest Daytona, a lot were made. Not to mention an early 321 Speedy is arguably far more rare.
The real reason why the 6263s (and Rolex watches in general) hold their value so well, and in this case the reason why the 6263 is worth more than a Speedmaster, despite the fact the Speedmaster is a much, much, much better watch is because of the Rolex Marketing machine, which is LEGEN... (wait for it) ...DARY! ...and the people who've been so thoroughly brainwashed along the way that help perpetuate the myth.
And in doing so, they blur lines between what is actual horological importance or substance in order to justify these crazy values. I've said it once and I'll say it again, its horologically ignorant people manufacturing "substance" so they can have watches to show off their affluence. But not because those "details" they tout actually have merit. Or that those "details" are ever applied in the same way to other brands.
Some, like me have broken off. The same way I refuse to shop at Walmart or at Chick-fil-A, I will NOT buy a new Rolex. Only vintage for me. And I will not fall into the trap of paying even a dime more for something as insignificant as an "underline" or tone on tone dials.
I'll gladly sell you one; however, for far more than it's worth, the same way Eric Clapton sold this very same Albino for $505k in 2008. But I will never bend over and let the Rolex collector's market have their way with me the way the poor sucker who buys this "Albino" today will in essence be doing.
And maybe the sweetest part of this is that to all of us who own 321 (or 861/1861) Speedy's, it's us who get to enjoy a true legend, one that doesn't demand fanfare or doesn't live off of marketing and lies, or as I like to call it "douchebaggery", but off of actual mechanical, technical and meaningful achievement.
Substance that has been documented each and every time NASA flies into space. That was documented when the Speedy's on the Astronaut's wrists helped saved a few lives in Apollo 13.
And that was documented during those tests by NASA, well before anyone knew about any of this, and gave Rolex it's greatest defeat to date.
Not just because Omega beat Rolex at their supposed game, but because the Speedmaster defines what a real tool watch is better than any Rolex ever could.
P.S. if you have more brains than money, take a look at lot 217 from the same auction. Now that's the watch to buy.