‘The Dark Star’ — What makes this Rolex ref. 6062 ‘Stelline’ the experts’ most wanted?

The yellow gold case of this 1952 Rolex — offered on 6 December — has acquired a remarkable patina with age. Yet for horologist Dr. Andrew Hildreth and Christie’s specialist Rebecca Ross, it is just one of many stellar qualities that make it the most highly prized watch of the season

When asked about which vintage Rolex watch reference is at the top of their wish list, most experts will name the ‘Stelline’ 6062 reference rather than, as you might expect, a Submariner or ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona with a special dial. The watch gets its nickname, which is Italian for ‘starlets’, from the stars on the dial.

What makes this automatic triple calendar Rolex Ref. 6062 — from circa 1952 (case number: 916'321) — so special are its design, the fact that the production for the reference was limited to a few hundred watches over 10 years, and its original condition, which has seen the 18k yellow gold case develop a highly attractive dark patina.

Nicknamed ‘The Dark Star’, this extremely rare watch is being offered on 6 December in New York, with an estimate of $1,000,000-2,000,000. Read on to find out why it is the most highly priced — and prized — watch of the season.

A potted history of the Rolex Ref. 6062

Introduced at the Basel Fair in 1950, the reference 6062 is one of only two Rolex models from the period to feature a triple calendar complication. The other is the reference 8171 ‘Padellone’.

Unlike the ref. 8171, the ref. 6062 was housed in the iconic Rolex ‘Oyster’ case, which protects both movement and dial from moisture and dust. The mid-century Oyster case is a beautifully proportioned 36mm in diameter.

As with all vintage Rolex models, the actual number produced in any reference remains unknown, but watch scholars estimate the number to be around 350 — considerably less than most modern ‘limited’ editions.

The reference 6062 watch came in a variety of metals: steel, yellow gold, and pink gold. The yellow gold version is the most likely to develop the deep, iridescent patina seen on this watch.

Perfect condition

Such a level of dark oxidization is only possible when the watch has remained unworn and been impeccably preserved over its lifespan. The case is the closest we have ever seen to an original finish, and it is very likely that this particular ‘Stelline’ has not been polished since new.

The dial on this ‘Stelline’ is in pristine original condition

The dial on this ‘Stelline’ is in pristine original condition

The case lines are excellently preserved, both on the upper side of the case and to the back, which retains its original satin finish. The numbers in between the lugs are stunningly crisp, and so are the pinholes on the bracelet — proof of how seldom the watch has been worn. A crisp gold hallmark is seen to the back of the top right lug.

The case

The gold cases of the reference 6062 were made by Genex, Geneva, the case department of Gay Frères. What distinguishes this watch is the case manufacture by the master case-maker for Genex, which is denoted by the number 12 inside a key (12 for Genex, the key for Geneva).

Some inside casebacks made before 1953 are marked with an extra ‘Montres SA Rolex’ side engraving. They were still in inventory when the company address was changed in 1953, and renamed ‘Montres Rolex SA in Geneva’.

The crown

Adding to the rarity of this particular watch is the crown. Two variants of crown are seen on the reference 6062 — the Super-Oyster and the Twin-Lock.

On closer inspection, the Super-Oyster on this example has a cross between the ‘Super’ and ‘Oyster’, which was added after the crown had been patented.

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The dial

The dials on the 6062 reference are either light or dark. The light dials are generally two-tone in nature, adding to their patina as they age, while the black dials are glossy and monotone. The dial on this watch is in pristine original condition.

Even the stars on the dial, which give the watch its moniker, vary over the production of the reference. Earlier batches of the Stelline dial (Dial Type 453) have the lume outside of the stars; later versions (such as the ‘Mark 1 Dial Type 755’ by Stern Frères as seen on this watch) have the lume placed on the stars and the triangular hour markers. The gold luminous stars are a rarity for this dial configuration and shine brightly against the matte silvered dial.

The moon phase disc is adorned with eyes, a nose and a mouth

The moon phase disc is adorned with eyes, a nose and a mouth

The lume placement also indicates a change in the location of the ‘officially certified chronometer’ statement, which dates this watch to 1952-1953.

The moon phase disc was produced by Stern Frères with the blue enamel champlevé technique that was also used in Patek Philippe calendar watches. There are also versions of this reference with the moon phase having eyes, a nose and a mouth (as with this example).

The calendar discs, also made by Stern Frères, are with inscriptions painted black and were produced in five languages — English, French, German, Italian or Spanish. The calendar discs on this watch are in English.

The movement

The Calibre 655 was developed specifically for this reference, and boasted the patented Rolex Super-Balance. The automatic movement had an added function that would allow the calendar to advance through the setting pin holes in the band.

The reference 6062 ‘Stelline’ is the only instance of Rolex placing a triple calendar display in its ‘sports’ casing.

Provenance

This Rolex reference 6062 is important because of its condition and known provenance. The watch — case number: 916'321 — has a history and is cited in a number of articles that discuss watch condition and auction prices.