Lapis Lazuli Dial 4316 Rolex King Midas Cellini
Last evening, Rhianna made some noises which could be described as music in front of 28.5M viewers. You may have gathered, I’m not terribly fussed over modern pop. But I am, you may be surprised to hear, a massive fan of Riri. Because she has been snapped a handful of times sporting a King Midas, a vintage Rolex deep cut that clearly demonstrates she gave real thought to her wrist and didn’t care for anyone else’s opinion. See, even Rolex is not above an outright miss; the King Midas was never a popular watch. But there are a few even more unjustly maligned stepchildren that fall under the name King Midas Cellini. The symmetric-case King Midas Cellini is something beautifully divisive: simultaneously very avant-garde to the point of looking modern today, yet clearly brutalist 70s. It’s possibly Genta’s work, definitely an acquired taste, and vanishingly rare with the lapis dial this one sports.
The King Midas began in ’62, so named for the Greek mythological figure for whom everything touched turned to gold. The original ref. 9630 was so designed that it would look like the Parthenon when laid on its side, drawing apt inspiration and penned by Genta. That model is the one Riri wears, also sported by Elvis and Scaramanga in Bond’s Man with the Golden Gun. As the most expensive watch in Rolex’s catalogue (by far), the King Midas was designed with royalty and stars in mind. However, it sold poorly, mostly to wealthy clients in the Middle East and South America. We only know this because that’s where they tend to pop up for sale from in greatest numbers today.
But then in ’75 Rolex sought to double down on the dress Cellini line, giving the Midas an update and new branding to suit. This is where the symmetric-cased King Midas Cellini began, a strange ultra-70s beast that friend of Hairspring Phil Toledano would undoubtedly describe as Brutalist architecture in wrist format. Where Genta definitely did the original, no one seems to know for certain if this symmetric case was born of his pen or upper management. Cellini often experimented with gem-setting, stone dials, and different bracelets, there are many iterations. This ref. 4316 is one of the rarer, a yellow gold 34x24mm case with a magical lapis dial. The Cellini line hasn’t produced anything so brave or unique since, it’s been a slow and painful death for that name. There are thought to be around 6000 total King Midas out there, but far rarer of symmetric cases and far rarer still with this lapis dial.
I’ve always believed in appreciating and separating art from the artist. Normally, I love the art and have to endure the artist. In Rhianna’s case, I don’t much care for the art. But I love everything about her rocking a King Midas. It’s not for everyone, but that’s point. And it would’ve been a damn sight better than that Jacob&Co. Finally, I get to be topical for once.
This example has a very sharp case, about as factory as an edge could look, but with light surface wear everywhere. That’s perfect. Its dial shows no cracks or hairlines, still a totally uniform piece of stone. Even the bracelet is tight, it looks hardly worn. This is one of the best Cellini Midas I’ve seen for some time outside Phillips, and these are getting surprisingly difficult to seek out these days. It comes from a well-regarded Berlin retailer.
Find this Lapis 4316 here from The Watchguy for 29500 EUR.