Got Time? Get Yourself a Piece of History at this Online Auction

Fight over the Steve McQueen Rolex Explorer or the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona at the Leon Exchange auction.
IMAGE Leon Exchange Online

All watches tell the time, but certain watches tell of history. Remind yourself that when you attempt to hide your bitter expression the next time your wealthy uncle (or worse, nephew) checks the time on that hard-earned timepiece his wrist just a little bit longer than necessary. 

And know for certain that he’s not doing so you’ll notice—he’s doing it for himself. Which is what the biggest, most undeniable truth is when you’re buying your grail watch: you’re not buying it “so you can look after it for the next generation,” as that coy Patek Philippe ad famously says—you’re buying it for your damn self. Really, the next generation can and should worry about how to pay for their goals. 

The other big, undeniable truth is that a watch auction is a great place to start looking for a proper grail. Such as the one coming up online in a few days over at Leon Gallery. 

There are more than 1,500 lots to fuss and fight over, but of particular interest are the wristwatches, whose thumbnail photos, cold bullet-pointed descriptions, and brief descriptions of their condition take up six pages of catalog space. But their history, well, that could take another catalog entirely. 

Take the Rolex Daytona Reference 16520 with a Patrizzi dial. That’s certainly a cold description worthy of a QR-code-accessed short-order menu, but a Patrizzi dial—in which the sub-chapter rings have discolored into a lovely shade of brown—is one of those very rare things that makes this watch unique. In fact, this imperfection, which appears in only a handful of Daytonas of this model, makes each individual watch unique. 


Rolex Daytona Reference 16520 'Patrizzi'

Photo by Leon Exchange Online.

And then there’s the Rolex Explorer 1655 known in watch circles as the “Steve McQueen.” It is not known whether McQueen actually preferred this model—a well-known photo of his shows him wearing a Submariner—but these nicknames don’t subtract anything from its historical value. It’s all in this model’s details, woven into its other nicknames: “Freccione,” or “big arrow,” and also “orange hand.” 

Rolex Explorer Reference 1655 'Orange Hand' MK2

Photo by Leon Exchange Online.
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For those who don’t much like Rolex (really?), there’s the very interesting and extremely charismatic Omega Speedmaster 125, so named because it commemorated Omega’s 125th anniversary back in 1973. As one of the few luxury watches of its time (or perhaps, ever) whose strap was integrated into its case, it makes a large and unforgettable presence on the wrist, or in the cocktail foyer—or even on the Zoom window. As for that nagging criterion of why we want to buy it—it takes an equally commanding position in history as the world’s first chronometer-certified automatic chronograph. 

Omega Speedmaster 125 

Photo by Leon Exchange Online.

Finally, and with much ado, there is the Daytona 6265—the “Paul Newman.” There is, in fact, a photo of Paul Newman wearing one of several models christened with his name. But the real significance of the Newman Daytona is again in the small details you will never see if you’ve unfortunately been seated too far from the dignitary wearing it: a different font on the dial, a touch of red unique to this model line, a little variation in the hash marks, all enough to proclaim the dial “exotic”—and to pronounce this piece one of the most desirable watches ever produced. 


Rolex Daytona Reference 6265 'Big Red'

Photo by Leon Exchange Online.

This is why auctions are always exciting—you never know what kind of exotic piece history is going to show up. But besides history, there’s also heartbreak when you lose a bid, and there’s the additional horror of losing the timepiece of your dreams to some anonymous online bidder who may turn out to be your wealthy nephew. 

Of course, not everybody needs history. The smartwatches on our wrists will always tell the right time. They’ll even take our calls and texts and tell us our heart rate. But really, I don’t need to know my exact damn heart rate. Sometimes I just want to have something that will make my heart beat faster. 

The two-day Leon Exchange Online Auction 18 is set on Saturday, January 23, and Sunday, January 24, both beginning at 11 a.m. You may register and bid now at



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Sarge Lacuesta
Editor at Large, Esquire Philippines
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