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Can You Guess Why This Rolex Is Unusually Valuable? Images

Earlier this year, GQ watch columnist and artist Wes Lang wrote about why he loves the relatively unheralded Rolex Air-King: “The bold logo, the green second hand, the white-gold 3-6-9 markers, and the O.G. ‘AIR-KING’ make [this watch] fuckin’ fun.” Let’s focus on that third quality for a moment: those radical Mission Impossible-font 3-6-9 markers. As Lang points out, they’re part of what makes this Rolex model so f-ing fun—bold, flashy numbers crashing into the typically understated Rolex universe.

Last week, though, those numbers were the cause of even more attention in the watch world. WatchFinder.com reports that a Rolex Air-King was put to market, purchased, and worn around until someone pointed out the mistake: In addition to its regular 9 marker, it has another in the position where the 3 should be.

In any other market, with any other product, this would be a pretty straightforward issue: an unseemly defect that prompts a stern letter to the manufacturer. But in the topsy-turvy world of watches, what typically might be considered a “defect” is actually a boon to the value of the watch. “Dials with such errors are indeed quite rare to see,” says Paul Boutros, head of watches for the Americas at Phillips auction house. “Due to how obvious the error is, it has great appeal to collectors.”

This watch benefits from a couple factors. Chief among them is the fact that Rolex hardly ever makes a mistake like this—that’s what makes a watch like this “rare” in Boutros’s eyes. It’s specifically because this watch passed so many eyeballs with the mistake undetected that collectors and those at auction houses are so excited about it. Rolex is known for an intensive quality-control process that includes several internal checks before the watch is sent out to COSC, an organization in Switzerland that tests a watch’s accuracy, after which it comes back to Rolex for a final round of looks. “The modern Rolex is recognized for exacting quality control,” says Nate Borgelt, head of sale for Sotheby’s Watches in New York. “This in turn makes it interesting to see small variations or errors, especially in modern-day productions from the brand, which are certainly outliers. In the world of watch collectors, outliers mean rarity, and rarity can prove highly desirable.”

left, a closeup of a gold rolex, right, aurel bacs inspects a watch

Auctioneer Aurel Bacs has upended the business of classic timepieces. Here’s how.

Both Boutros and Borgelt believe the extra 9 marker on this Air-King only serves to make the watch that much more valuable. “We believe it would sell for a significant premium above its retail price,” Boutros says. (That retail price is approximately $6,200.) Brandon Frazin, a watch specialist at Christie’s, is less sure a mistake like this instantly ups the value of this particular watch, because the Air-King isn’t a very sought-after Rolex model. But, he adds, all that can change quickly in the vintage watch market. “Other models that were unpopular in the past, like the Daytonas with the Exotic/’Paul Newman’ dials are now some of the most sought after watches in the world,” Frazin says. (That’s almost certainly an understatement: Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona is the most expensive wristwatch ever sold.)

And, of course, there is a precedent for messed-up, discolored, and unloved watches turning into auction superstars. In fact, the whole auction world typically turns on nominally mass-produced items that have morphed into one-of-a-kind pieces. Take watches with a “tropical” dial, for example: “tropical,” after all, is just a romantic way to say that enough exposure to sunlight mutated the dial’s original color. But because a tropical dial makes a watch unique, it becomes a marker of collectibility.

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Turmeric Takes a Star Turn in Cocktails Images

If cocktails look golden to you lately, it’s probably not because spring is here and the sun is out. Turmeric, the bright yellow-orange spice long used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, is the latest ingredient to make the leap from the kitchen to the cocktail glass. Every upscale bar menu these days seems to have at least one drink containing the spice.

There is no single reason for this. And the two most significant ones sit on opposite ends of the serious-to-superficial spectrum.

On one hand, turmeric is riding its current reputation as a superfood with anti-inflammatory powers — a big selling point at a time when bars are straining to sell the idea that cocktails can be healthful. On the other hand, it’s pretty. Turmeric turns every cocktail into a sunshiny glass of Instagram bait.

Combine those two qualities and you have the mixological equivalent of the gorgeous Hollywood actor who turns out to hold a degree in physics.

“Popularity and Instagram,” said John Clark-Ginnetti, an owner of the New Haven cocktail bar 116 Crown, summing up the buzzworthy spice’s appeal. “I don’t know how many things can take hold without the benefit of social media these days.”

There are those who mix with turmeric for more mundane reasons, like flavor. “Just a dash or two can add another layer,” said Jillian Vose, the bar director and managing partner of the Dead Rabbit, in Manhattan.

Ms. Vose uses turmeric in her drink Watch Tower, which contains Irish whiskey, brandy and yogurt, among other things. She says it keeps guests going back for another sip “to seek out what that underlying flavor is.”

Nico de Soto, an owner of Mace, in the East Village, works with turmeric because, like Mount Everest, it is there. “Turmeric was a spice I really wanted to incorporate into the Mace menu because I love the flavor,” he said, “and I hadn’t previously experimented with it.”

Getting the spice into cocktails can be labor-intensive, and not as simple as sprinkling ground turmeric into a drink. Bartenders often use fresh turmeric root, a tincture or a syrup, as in the pisco and ginger liqueur-based Always Sunny cocktail at Decca, in Louisville, Ky.

Eben Freeman, a veteran New York bartender who ran Genuine Liquorette before it closed in December, noted that the spice can play havoc with bar equipment. “That yellow stains everything,” he said.

Turmeric found favor with American chefs years ago. But cocktail bar menus tend to be the slowpokes of the food-and-drink world, seizing upon new ideas last.

“It was in the juice bars and then went into the coffee bars,” Mr. Freeman said. Now it’s in bar bars.

Victor Greco, an architect in Wheeling, W.V., who likes to cook with turmeric, was recently introduced to turmeric cocktails. “As in cooking there is the obvious amazing color,” he said. “But what I think what sets the ingredient apart in drinks versus food is that the flavor seems to be more to the front.”

Mr. Clark-Ginnetti, of 116 Crown, began drinking turmeric tea on the advice of his doctor, and believes it helped ease soreness in his joints. From there, the seasoning found its way in a cocktail on his menu called Bitterroot Flip, made with parsley syrup, lemon juice, shochu and egg white.

Sean Kenyon, owner of the bar Williams & Graham in Denver, doesn’t dispute such perceived health benefits. But he also doesn’t think people should turn to cocktails to improve fitness.

“I don’t look for cocktails to be healthy,” he said. “I look for cocktails to have booze in them, to be tasty and composed and balanced.”

And, if possible, bright yellow.

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