Phillips Watches Visits the Studio of Pucci Papaleo

Phillips traveled to Rome to meet up with Pucci Papaleo, renowned watch collector, scholar, author and curator of our upcoming Daytona Ultimatum auction, to learn about his selection process for this highly anticipated sale.

Phillips traveled to Rome to meet up with Pucci Papaleo, renowned watch collector, scholar, author and curator of our upcoming Daytona Ultimatum auction, to learn about his selection process for this highly anticipated sale.

Pucci Papaleo


When it comes to vintage Rolex Daytona watches, Pucci Papaleo has seen and photographed the very best. The Italian collector-turned-author began studying watches before watches were broadly considered an area of study.

Before focusing on the Daytona, Pucci was interested in early Rolex and Patek Philippe chronographs, but his attention turned to the bigger and bolder chronograph at the end of the 1980s. As a result, he was one of the first experts to understand the intricacies of the Daytona and predict such a bright future for it as collectible watch. His scientific approach to the study and photography of noteworthy Daytona models led to the publication of 'The Ultimate Rolex Daytona,' a 600-page guidebook with its own impressive list of specifications: the book contains 2,000 images, weighs 12 kilograms and retails for $4,000.

"The Ricciardi Panda" Rolex, Reference 6263 in stainless steel with Paul Newman dial, retailed by Joyeria Ricciardi, circa 1969

A smaller portfolio version sits on the desk of every watch expert and Daytona collector we know. Pucci's dedication to this watch has earned him the nickname of 'Mr. Daytona' and, in November 2013, he, Aurel Bacs and Livia Russo orchestrated the now historic 'Daytona: Lesson One' sale.

Five years later, Pucci returns to the auction scene for Daytona Ultimatum. Taking place on May 12 at the Hotel La Reserve in Geneva, Switzerland, the upcoming thematic sale will feature a highly exclusive selection of the finest examples of the Rolex Daytona to appear on the market, each one checked and vetted by Pucci Papaleo, together with our international team.

We are thrilled to announce Pucci Papaleo Editions will also create a state-of-the-art catalogue for the Daytona Ultimatum, having already produced many of our thematic catalogues, including 'Start-Stop-Reset: 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronographs' and last year's 'Heuer Parade' and 'Winning Icons'  catalogues.

Phillips recently visited Pucci's studio in Rome to witness the early stages of the creation of the Daytona Ultimatum catalogue. Having long-admired and in some cases benefitted from the team's exquisite work, we wanted to follow the cataloguing process of a watch, from the moment it arrived in Pucci's office to the moment it was placed in front of Fabio Santinelli's camera, photographed, edited, and finally, placed on the pages of a catalogue.

We met with the renowned journalist Paolo Gobbi, who had the unenviable task of filling a 600-page book, and has shown that is it not only possible to find so many words to describe a watch in fascinating detail, but it is perhaps the only way to do so. We sat down with Gino La Bella, perhaps the only image editor we know who is asked specifically not to remove scratches or alter the image of a watch in any way that might prioritize its beauty over its natural appearance. Finally, we watched as the team's illustrator Chiarra de Luca produced the layout of the pages with pen and paper before printer Enrico de Antoni cemented the position of the watches in ink.

"The John Player Special" Rolex, Reference 6241 in yellow gold with Paul Newman dial, circa 1968

Given the team's obsession with timepieces, it was fascinating to learn that time does not dictate the office's daily routine. There are no deadlines. A catalogue page is ready, or it isn't, according to Naomi Ornstein, the team's general coordinator. Back at the studio, Fabio Santinelli can, and often will, take up to 24-hours to set up a single shot. The only constant is the ringing of Pucci's phone which typically announces an important question from a collector eyeing a particular Daytona. "What do you think, Pucci?" Whatever it is, his word is often final.

"Pintabian" Rolex, Reference 6265 in stainless steel with brown registers, circa 1974

Phillips is thrilled to present the first three watches from the Daytona Ultimatum sale as an early preview of the long-awaited thematic auction. These pieces will be on view later this week from 16 to 18 February at Opera Gallery in the Miami Design District during Watches & Wonders: Miami. Collectors will also be able to view highlights from the 12 & 13 May Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN sale. Further exhibitions to take place around the world will be announced at a later date.

For more information visit the official Pucci Papaleo Editions website.