From Zero to Hero – The Late Bloomers of Watches

By Montredo in Lifestyle
March 26, 2020
From Zero to Hero – The Late Bloomers of Watches

Not every new release on the watch market brings the manufacturer the desired success. Man is a creature of habit and, true to the phrase “Don’t fix what isn’t broken”, new designs carry the risk of being rejected by the masses. There is a reason why Rolex prefers to leave watch experiments to its little sister Tudor, which can be seen quite clearly in bold models such as the Tudor P01.

But a bad start does not necessarily mean the total end of a model in the long run. After all, poor sales figures can also mean that these models later become rarities. If the demand suddenly increases, we may have to deal with extremely valuable collector’s items many years later.

Here are a few examples of watches that were initially scorned by the buying public, with one or too surprises!


Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman”

 Rolex Paul Newman
Paul Newman and his Rolex Daytona

Yup, it’s hard to understand these days. The object of every watch collector’s wet dreams was at first a shelf warmer. In general, the Daytona from Rolex was not very popular at the end of the 1960s, and the version now called “Paul Newman” (reference 6239) with the white dial and black totalizers was certainly not.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman
The holy grail of the watch world: Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman”

It should be sufficiently known that these references are now traded at condominium prices, and that an original “Paul Newman” piece was auctioned off in 2017 for a measly € 15.3 million. How the tide can so easily turn, indeed.

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Patek Philippe Nautilus

Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus © Patek Philippe

Another of the current most sought-after watches in the world also struggled with start-up difficulties. After the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta had already provided Audemars Piguet a watch legend (the Royal Oak), he created for Patek Philippe in 1976, “one of the most expensive watches made of steel in the world”, as Patek Philippe confidently announced in advertisements. True to the model designation, the watch was inspired by portholes of passenger ships. With its new design, the Nautilus was initially not a bestseller.

And today? Those who are not yet so familiar with watches should dare to experiment and naively ask the Patek watch dealer for a Nautilus. Have fun.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

If one looks at the success story of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, there are clear parallels to the career of Patek Philippe’s Nautilus: daring design by Gérald Genta, steel case and poor sales figures at the beginning.

When the Royal Oak was presented in Basel in 1972, the professional public was not at all enthusiastic, and Audemars Piguet had difficulties to reach 1,000 units sold in the first year. The almost utopian price of over 3,600 francs for a steel watch at the time contributed the rest. But soon the tide turned and the Royal Oak turned out to be the salvation of Audemars Piguet, a watch manufacturer shaken by the quartz crisis.

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Rolex 6324: “Pre-Daytona

Rolex 6324
The predecessor of the Daytona: Rolex 6324

The Daytona, especially its predecessor, the Reference 6324, had a difficult existence during its years of production. The 6325 was launched in 1955 and remained a slow seller until it was discontinued in 1961, as customers tended to prefer chronographs to the proven competitor products. Rolex could only sell about 500 copies of the “Pre-Daytona” per year.

If you look at the current demand for the Rolex Daytona, the current success of the “Pre-Daytona” Ref. 6324 is not surprising. Prices for this extremely rare collector’s watch start at € 20,000.

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