Even amongst the rarefied world of vintage, handwound Rolex Daytona collecting, certain references simply stand out from the crowd. Last week, one such reference hammered for an astounding $1.5M+ at Sotheby's London — a super rare Daytona "John Player Special" ref. 6264 in 18k yellow gold, one of just a handful such watches known to the watch community. The auction constituted not only a record sale for a "JPS" Daytona, but also the record for most expensive wristwatch ever sold in the UK and the record for most expensive wristwatch ever sold in an online auction.
The "John Player Special," so named for the John Player-brand cigarettes livery found on 1970s Lotus Formula One cars, describes a special black and gold look that's instantly recognizable to collectors and Daytona devotees. This particular JPS is particularly notable, however, for having been produced in 18k yellow gold rather than steel (only about 10 examples are known) and further, for featuring a "Paul Newman"-style exotic dial in black. Smashing past its estimate of $400,000-$800,000, the watch hammered for a final sale price of $1,545,723.
With online auctions becoming more and more commonplace during the era of COVID-19, we're surely poised to see more horological sales records broken in the future. Since the beginning of 2020, Sotheby's alone has sold more than $48 million in the watches category.