John Goldberger interview- Rolex Milestones: 38 legendary watches that shaped history

John Goldberger is among the greatest connoisseurs of vintage watch collecting in the world. Member of the GPH, experienced collector and author of the most important bibliography that as a whole, represents the panorama of the vintage watch world, Mr. Goldberger is the curator of the upcoming Phillips Auction “38 Legendary Watches That Shaped History”. A man for whom no further introduction is needed.

LB: Which was the first watch that a collector like you owned and what was the story behind this finding?

JG: I started collecting watches 40 years ago and I bought my first watch when I was 20 years old, a Rolex reference 3835 in 18K gold manufactured in the 1930s for only 600 $. My parents were long-time art collectors and often, we were browsing the flea markets. It was a great chance for me to realize how cheap they were at the time compared to modern quartz pieces. But it was not only a matter of price. It was so fascinating to observe the design and the appeal of vintage watches compared with the 1970s watch production. For the record, this very first watch I owned, is still in my collection.

LB: After 40 years of experience, do you have any regrets regarding a watch that you would love to have?

JG: The Rolex 6062 sold by Phillips in Geneva, 2002. It was an incredible Oyster moonphases with a unique black-lacquered, diamonds dial from the late Vietnam Emperor Bao Dai. It was a perfect example of beauty, rarity and provenance combined together in one timepiece. A great watch with a great history, able to transmit an “aura” that you just can’t find the proper words to describe.

LB: Which three references would you suggest someone to buy from this auction, not because of their objective beauty but according to your own, personal taste?

JG: My preferred timepieces from this auction, are the pink gold Chronograph reference 3525, the reference 6062 gold Oyster with Moonphases and the gold square reference 4645. The ref. 3525 is a a great example of the first Oyster chronograph manufactured by Rolex circa 80 years ago, with the present watch carrying an untouched case and dial. The reference 6062 with Moonphases is the most iconic model in the entire Rolex production and it is one of the most beautiful examples ever seen. Lastly, the gold square reference 4645 with the Neptune polychrome cloisonné dial, is a unique and stunning example of the art of watchmaking in Geneva during the 1950s.

Rolex reference 3525 in 18k pink gold, circa 1945 sold for HK$1,125,000 (approx.136,500 €). Discover more at

Rolex reference 6062 “Stelline” with moonphases, in 18k yellow gold, circa 1952 sold for HK$5,120,000 (approx. 621,000€). . Discover more at

Rolex reference 4645 18k yellow gold, square wristwatch, circa 1953 sold for HK$5,840,000 (approx. 708,000€). Discover more at

LB: Is there a model that you would like to have been in included in this auction but is not present?

JG: Unfortunately, what is not present in this catalogue, is the Milgauss model with reference 6541, another iconic watch in the early “Tool Watches” line launched by Rolex in the 1950s.

LB: What are your expectations from this much anticipated auction?

JG: I do not know the South East market that well but I do think the Phillips 38 Milestones auction will be a good test to see the response from collectors, watch enthusiasts and dealers in this interesting and economically fast-growing area.

Author: Luca Balella