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Unexpected Watch Collectors: The Dalai Lama

Unexpected Watch Collectors: The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is the religious and spiritual leader of the Buddhists and the Tibetan people. He travels around the world to spread the message of peace and non-violence.

Usually, the concept of religious leaders and Buddhism isn't associated to flashy watches. However, the Dalai Lama has an immaculate collection of timepieces.

Patek Philippe Grand Complication Ref 658 Pocket Watch

When the leader of a country owns a Grand Complication Patek Philippe or any other watch with a pricetag of 6 to 7 digits, it’s easy to assume they purchased this watch after making a fortune linked to corruption. This Grand Complication has a more righteous backstory.

The Dalai Lama received this watch in 1943 when he was just 8 years old. Let’s not forget that the Dalai Lama got his divine title at the age of 4.
The watch was a gift from none other than American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also known to be a big watch collector.

The pocket watch has a whole list of incredible impressive complications, including a minute repeater, split second chronograph, perpetual calendar and moonphase. Even 80 years later, this is still an impressive list of complications that not many watchmakers are able to make.

Only around 15 pieces were ever made.

Since these watches are so rare, it’s very hard to estimate the value.
In 2014, a similar ref. 658 pocket watch has been sold. This one had a black dial, while the Dalai Lama’s has a white dial. The watch was sold at Sotheby’s for around half a million euros, even though it did not have such a famous owner.

Rolex Day Date & Datejust

The Dalai Lama is often seen wearing Rolex. One of the pieces he wears the most is his Day-Date 18038 with yellow gold case and sunburst blue dial. In Tibetan Buddhism, yellow (the case) represents earth and the real world, while blue (the dial) stands for heaven and spiritual insights.

Next to the Day-Date, the Tibetan leader also has a two tone Datejust ref.1601 he is often seen wearing. It is assumed both watches were gifts.

At Timepiece Bank, we don’t sell Patek Philippe Grand Complication pocket watches (Yet..), but make sure to take a look at our immaculate selection of Rolex Day-Dates and Datejusts below.