The Geneva Watch Auctions held by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo are always big moments on a watch collectors’ calendar. But the 19th sale – or XIX, as Phillips prefers – this May has added intrigue.

For among its 219 lots, there are more than 40 from the collection of esteemed Italian watch collector and publisher, Guido Mondani.

Guido Mondani, a pioneering collector and prominent industry voice for nearly four decades, established a publishing house dedicated to sharing his horological scholarship in 1992. His commitment to showcasing expertise has solidified his position as a key tastemaker – particularly in the realm of vintage Rolexes.

Mondani has form here, having previously auctioned a portion of his vintage Rolex collection in 2006, resulting in the two most expensive Rolex wristwatches ever sold at the time.

The collection on the docket this May includes the very first watch he ever bought for himself – a Cartier – as well as an eclectic range of timepieces from Eberhard, Longines, Patek Philippe, and, of course, Rolex.

It’s the latter that Tiffany To, Head of Sale at Phillips, has honed in on for her top three lots…

Lot 13

Rolex Reference 6269

Rolex Reference 6269
Rolex Reference 6269

The reference 6269 is my pick of the sale. This not only comes down to its good looks, but its historical importance within the history of Rolex.

While today gem-set sports pieces are highly collectible and widely seen, these watches were only brought into the mainstream during the 2000s. This combination of watchmaking and gem-setting has been relatively recently rediscovered and is enjoying the popularity it truly deserves.

Only a few decades ago the market for bejewelled timepieces was a very different beast. Prior to that, gem-set sports watches were considered either a special order series, or one-off pieces. During the 1980s, Rolex adorned tool watches with precious gems for its most exclusive and demanding clientele, ranging from Sultans in the Middle East to industry titans.

Rolex in particular excels in sourcing and setting gemstones. Alongside reference 6269 and its baguette diamond sibling reference 6270, the brand also developed a ruby, diamond and sapphire-set GMT-Master, known today as the ‘SARU’. It is thanks to this reference that we can today enjoy gem-set sports pieces in the general collecting sphere.

Lot 126

Rolex Reference 1680 ‘Red Submariner’

Rolex Reference 1680 ‘Red Submariner’
Rolex Reference 1680 ‘Red Submariner’

Personally, the reference 1680 ‘Red Submariner’ is one of the best everyday watches one can find, owing to the watch’s versatility, good looks and understated appearance.

This fact is compounded when the watch is found in excellent condition with all its original accessories.

Making its debut in 1967, the reference 1680 was the first Submariner to be fitted with a date function. Early dial variations of the reference display a ‘meters first’ depth rating and the single line of red ‘Submariner’ script, hence the name ‘Red Sub’.

Highly sought-after, these rare divers watches with a dash of red mark an important milestone for this utilitarian tool watch – and are beloved details by vintage Rolex collectors.

Lot 127

Rolex Reference 6239 ‘Paul Newman’

Rolex Reference 6239 ‘Paul Newman’
Rolex Reference 6239 ‘Paul Newman’

Superbly iconic and highly sought-after, Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ dials are one of the best-designed chronograph dials of the past century. They are also one of the scarcest horological resources on the planet.

A quintessential ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, this example perfectly embodies the Hollywood legend.

It was during the filming of “Winning” that Paul Newman fell in love with motor racing. His wife, Joanne Woodward, consequently gifted this exact Daytona variant to her husband, inscribed with phrase “DRIVE CAREFULLY, ME”. It is thanks to this particular design that exotic-dialled Cosmographs are now synonymous with the philanthropic icon. The dial is remarkable and impressive. While almost 60 years in age, it is preserved in immaculate condition, showing how exotic dials originally left the Rolex factory.

The ivory portion of the dial does not display any tarnishing or spotting, and the concentric circles within the contrasting subsidiary registers are defined and delicate. Of particular note is the superb case. Showcasing full lugs, the satin finishes are crisp. The lug-holes remain a considerable distance from the edge of the case, evidence of its original condition.

Sparking memories of Paul Newman’s original, this model is one of the most iconic Daytonas ever produced, representing the high-octane world of auto racing, speed and glamour.

These watches and many more are up for auction at the Geneva Watch Auction: XIX from 11-12 May 2024. See more at