When the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is More Than an Entry-Level Watch

The ref. 6098 "Galaxy" and ref. 6102 cloisonné "La Caravelle".

A no-frills time-only watch, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is now the brand’s entry-level model that’s available in a variety of dial styles and sizes, including the sought-after “Bubbles” dial. But Rolex has been making watches for long enough that the Oyster Perpetual from many moons ago is now a six- or seven-figure watch.

Two of these special Oyster Perpetuals figure prominently in Phillips’ upcoming Geneva auction. They are final two lots on the last day of the sale: lot 218 is the Oyster Perpetual ref. 6098 “Galaxy”, and lot 219 is the Oyster ref. 6102 cloisonné “La Caravelle” with bombe lugs.

The Oyster ref. 6098 “Galaxy”

The Oyster ref. 6102 “La Caravelle”.

Both are time-only watches with Oyster cases, but the opposite of no-frills. They date from the 1950s, when Rolex was experimenting with a diverse range of dials for the Oyster Perpetual (and perhaps the recent 1908 in platinum is a return to form?)

The “Galaxy” gets its name from the star-shaped indices on the glossy black dial, while “La Caravelle” refers to the cloisonné enamel dial made by a leading enameller of the period, Margueritte Koch.

Today’s Oyster Perpetual with the “Celebration” dial of coloured bubbles


Rolex watches with star dials are marvellous watches (which is why it was the inspiration for our Habring² Erwin “Star”). The most famous and expensive type of Rolex with such a dial is the ref. 6062 “Stelline” triple calendar. Less widely known but are the time-only Oyster models with similar star-shaped hour markers.

This is a ref. 6098 from 1953 in yellow gold with matching yellow gold-gilt hands and stars on a black “gilt” dial – the most desirable and uncommon combination for such a watch. Only four watches with a black dial featuring star indices are known. The same star indices can also be found on a white dial, which is substantially less valuable.

The combination of the gilt stars on a glossy black dial is particularly alluring with its high contrast and rich colours. Adding to the appeal is the condition of the dial, which is excellent.

The dial retains its glossy finish and markings. Though both the hands and luminous paint show obvious age, they do not detract much from the appeal of the dial.

And it helps that the rest of the watch is in good condition, with the case and bezel both well preserved.

This exact ref. 6098 last sold in 2015 for CHF425,000 including fees. And in 2017 a nearly identical ref. 6088 sold for CHF670,000. The ref. 6098 now carries an estimate of CHF150,000-300,000.

Cloisonné caravelle 

Featuring distinctive bombe (or sometimes “Bombay”) lugs, the ref. 6102 “La Caravelle” dating to 1953 has an exquisite cloisonné dial. Depicting a stylised scene of a viking ship on the waves, the dial was made by Stern Frères, the dial maker founded by the Stern family that now owns Patek Philippe.

But the dial wasn’t so much made by the company as it was by the artisan, which in this case was Margueritte Koch, one of the handful of enamellers making top-quality cloisonné dials for Stern at the time.

Dials in this style were not unique to Rolex. High-end brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin also created watches with similar dials during this period, as did less obvious marques like IWC and Omega.

These dials inevitably have a similar style, a simple motif rendered in multi-coloured enamel and particularly fine cloisonné work.

The “Caravelle” dial is typical of such dials in both execution and style. The gold wires that form the motif are exceedingly fine and elegantly formed, while the colours of the enamel are vibrant and nuanced.

Importantly, the dial is in excellent condition. Its slightly domed surface remains smooth and shiny, while the enamel is free of cracks.

The rest of the watch is also in fine condition. In fact, it even includes the original warranty card from Bucherer dated 1957.

The provenance is also known: it was first sold by the family of the original owner in 2006 at Christie’s, and then sold once again in 2015 at Phillips where it achieved CHF1.235 million with fees. The estimate is now CHF400,000-800,000.

Both of these Rolex watches will be sold on May 12. The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX takes place over two days on May 11 and 12 at the Hotel President in downtown Geneva (a change from the traditional venue of La Reserve). The full catalogue is available on Phillips.com.


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