The Rolex King Midas: A Look Back In Time
James Elliott5 October 2020 | 5 min read
Whilst Rolex are by far and away the most popular and well known watch brand in the world, there’s a number of their models which you may not have heard of. One of those could be the Rolex King Midas which is the watch we’re going to be looking at today!
Not only is the watch unique for its construction, design and popularity, the King Midas has also had a number of very unique owners and a strange relationship with the general public.
Intrigued? We don’t blame you!
Read on where we’ll take a look at the King Midas in more detail and bring you up to speed with the watch many consider to be the forgotten Rolex.
- Rolex King Midas – History
- Rolex King Midas – The Watch
- Rolex King Midas – Famous Wearers
- Rolex King Midas – The Price – Then & Now
Rolex King Midas – History
If you head back to the 1960’s, Rolex were at the top of their game. With fresh releases of models such as the Submariner and the Day-Date, Rolex were leading in the watchmaking market with their popularity growing and growing by the day.
It’s around this time that Gerald Genta was also up and coming. Before his later ascent as one of the greatest watchmakers in history, Genta was plotting a watch with a difference. This watch would set records whilst honouring royalty from ancient times gone by.
In 1964, the Rolex King Midas produced.
Notice the word produced rather than released? That’s because the King Midas was originally intended to never be available for the general public. Instead, it was to be reserved for the elite of society, in line with the royalty on which it was modelled.
Whilst it remained a relatively unknown watch, it still attracted the demand and attention of any Rolex piece. In the 1970’s the King Midas went from being a range in it’s own right, to merging into the Cellini range.
The Rolex Cellini King Midas then began to draw more widespread appeal as a key feature of the Cellini range. A range that offered (and continues to offer) quirky, high intricacy design was the perfect home for the King Midas’ unique design style.
Whilst the King Midas left production in the 1970’s, it remains a sought-after watch for collectors. The rarity factor is only increased by the limited production numbers, especially for the original King Midas with only 1000 ever produced.
Rolex King Midas – The Watch
As the name suggests, the Rolex King Midas is modelled on the history and riches of the kings and queens. As such, it’s only right the King Midas is made from pure, solid gold in line with the stories from Greek mythology.
At the time of it’s launch, the goal was for the King Midas to be both the heaviest and most expensive gold watch on the market, appealing to those of high stature as a symbol of their wealth.
Aside from the gold, the first thing you will notice is the unique design style. A watch that almost looks like a bracelet, the off-centred pentagon face blends into an integrated gold bracelet.
The face of the watch is incredibly simple combining the Rolex logo, minute and hour baton hands and a “ΜΙΔAΣ” Greek inscription to signify the Midas model name. These limited dial features sit atop a slightly lighter gold/yellow dial which all blends together to create a simple overall design.
A watch designed to be worn on the right wrist, the crown is found on the left of the case alongside an engraving of ‘King Midas.’ The low profile, bracelet-like look and feel means the maximum thickness of the case is just 5mm.
Inside the case, the watch runs on the super thin Ref 9360 movement, which unusually for the time was a manual-wound movement rather than Rolex’s favoured automatic.
As mentioned earlier, Rolex wanted to create the heaviest gold watch on the market with the Midas coming in anywhere between 150-200 grams depending on the model. (Queen and Princess Midas models were also made.)
Rolex King Midas – Famous Wearers
The King Midas was originally created to be worn by the elite, the rich and famous and the tops royals across the globe. And during the 1960’s, there was only one king people were interested in – Elvis Presley.
With the king of rock and roll loving the finer things in life, he was thought to absolutely love his gifted King Midas, the 313th model of production. The watch now sits pride of place in Elvis’ hometown of Graceland, Tennessee with the original engraving from the organisation which gifted it to him.
He was thought to love the watch so much that we would even wear it in the bath, and given the water oxidation on the dial, that rumour could serve to be very true.
Aside from Elvis, another entertainment legend of time, John Wayne, was also a proud owner of a King Midas. Famous for his roles in Western’s such as True Grit, the actor owned number #557 of the original production and whilst not ever pictured wearing it, was thought to be found on the elaborate piece.
The watch was eventually sold in 2011 during a “The Personal Property of John Wayne” auction. It sold for $26,290, which, at the time, was well over three times its pre-sale estimate.
Rolex King Midas – The Price – Then & Now
As we’ve mentioned previously, one of the chief objectives for the King Midas was to be the most expensive gold watch on the market.
Upon release, the watch costs around $2,500. Whilst not terribly expensive by 2020 standard, at the time, this was a big investment with a Day-Date only retailing around the $1,800 mark.
With the popularity of the watch increasing thanks to Elvis & co, by the mid 70’s a King Midas would more than double in price and retail around $5,500 (the equivalent or around $70,000 in value today.)
Thanks to its ‘acquired taste’ the King Midas isn’t always top of vintage collectors lists and therefore the price isn’t remarkably high. Whilst there are still only 1000 of the original King Midas models available, those that are for sale online will set you back around £12,000.
Naturally, these models may not come with a box or papers and will show signs of wear but that is to be expected for a 50 year old watch.
If you look into the market for some of the later Cellini King Midas models, prices do start to fall. Given the high rate of production, there are a lot more of these pieces on the market and thus some variety in colour and style to choose from.
Still expect to pay a price upwards of $4,500 with prices rising further for newer and better condition models, especially those in desirable styles such as models with silver cases or alligator leather straps.
The Rolex King Midas is one of those Rolex’s you may not have come across before and that’s likely because of it’s very unique design style. At the time of its release, it was a hit with the elite of this world and would turn heads wherever it was spotted although it didn’t have the staying power of models such as the Day-Date and the Submariner.
It still remains a very unique watch today, with it a prized possession for those collectors that love quirky watches and hidden gems.
What are your thoughts on the Rolex King Midas? Is the Greek inspired piece a vintage watch you’d love to own or a piece that should very much live and die in the past?