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The Rolex Deep Sea Special – sold for approximately $1,158,952

In the 1950s, chasing to send its watches deeper into the ocean than any watchmaker before it, Rolex developed a trio of prototypes to test its capabilities. The Deep Sea Specials, as they were named, were the prototypes created for Rolex’s experiments. And they look built for the job: that domed crystal is designed to hold up well to the extreme pressure that comes from deep sea diving. Because of its provenance, the watch came into the weekend with more buzz than nearly any other piece in the catalog. However, the watch failed to meet even its low-end estimate of $1,310,000, coming in just under at around $1,158,952.

The results certainly weren’t helped by the fact that Christie’s, just across town, was selling another Deep Sea Special this weekend, too—number one, to the number-three piece at Phillips.Christie’s Deep Sea, though, also failed to meet its low-end estimate.

You could chalk the poor results up to bad timing—or I could test out a hot take. Let’s try the latter.The pieces sold this weekend are items that, at the end of the day, are meant to be worn—auctioneers, collectors, and brands will all hammer that point home. It’s what makes watches such great collectibles: they are completely portable. The record-setting Philippe Dufour is a gorgeous watch that can accompany the owner to galas and the most special of date nights. This Rolex Deep Sea tells a great story, but it’s one that’s probably happier in a glass case at the Rolex Museum than it is trying to suck in its bubble crystal to fit under the sleeve of a suit.

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