The Coolest Rolex You Might Not Know: The King Midas 9630

Rolex King Midas 9630 in yellow gold

From across the room, the average person or even casual watch enthusiast wouldn’t peg this as a Rolex. Today, the brand is synonymous with sports watches: rugged tools, commonly in stainless steel, born from mid-century design. Although modern Rolex sports watches are more so jewelry than ever before, they’re worlds apart from this 1964 King Midas (ref. 9630). The elegant gold watch was limited to just 1,000 pieces, and in many ways marked the beginning of a new era for Rolex. 

The Rolex King Midas 9630

Rolex King Midas ref. 9630 in yellow gold

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To be clear, I'm talking about reference number 9630: the first King Midas release, limited to just 1,000 pieces. Rolex did release subsequent King Midas watches, models that slowly established the Cellini line (RIP), but those are a bit less collectible. Out of the 1,000 King Midas 9630 examples, 856 came in 18k yellow gold (pictured above) and the remaining 144 came in 18k white gold (pictured below). 

Rolex King Midas 9630 in White Gold

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On a basic level, the Rolex King Midas is an integrated bracelet watch. However, it takes ‘integrated’ to a whole new level as the bracelet is completely unremovable. Max of WatchCrunch said it best in his recent IWC Ingeniuer review: “Integrated bracelet watches have this confidence about them. . . the designer is not-so-subtly telling you ‘don’t mess with my masterpiece’”. This is particularly true of the Rolex King Midas. The fixed integrated bracelet is paramount to the watch’s identity.

Yellow Gold Rolex King Midas 9630 on side parthenon

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On its side – crown up – the King Midas resembles the Greek Parthenon: a beautiful monument to democracy on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. The watch mimics the Parthenon's architecture with bracelet links as columns and a 9 o’clock peak as a triangular pediment. Of course, this design relates to the watch’s namesake, King Midas: the Phrygian king whose touch famously turned anything to gold (hence the watch only being offered in gold). On the dial, you’ll notice the Greek ‘MIΔAΣ’ (Midas) text at 6 o’clock. You’ll also notice ‘King Midas’ carved on the left side of the watch case: the “top” of the Parthenon’s pediment (pictured below). 

This watch’s personality comes from its case and bracelet. As such, the square dial is decidedly simple with only three lines of text: ‘Rolex’, ‘MIΔAΣ’, and ‘Swiss’. Atop all of this text is an applied gold Rolex crown. Other than that, all you have is two hands. No indices, no seconds hand, no notable texture – nothing. On a watch that could just as well be a bracelet – without a dial or even mechanics – the dial respectfully takes a backseat. 

What Makes the Rolex King Midas So Cool 

Rolex King Midas 9630 in white gold side profile

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We’ve covered the general design, but I have to talk about the weight and thickness. The King Midas’ case is less than 5mm thin: consistent with the bracelet itself. These proportions are rare in 2023, but insane in 1964. Because of the thin, fixed, integrated design, weight distribution is perfectly even all the way around the wrist. That really matters here; upon its release, the King Midas was the heaviest gold watch on the market at ~200 grams. For reference, that’s the same weight as the 44mm yellow gold Rolex Yacht-Master II – an absolute behemoth of a watch.

Rolex King Midas Complete Set

Rolex King Midas complete set with amphora-shaped case. Image Source:

The King Midas’ significance to Rolex as a brand is frankly hard to fathom. It was the first, and one of only three ever, numbered limited edition Rolex watches, the others being the ref. 5100 (1,000 examples made) and ref. 3612 (10 examples made). In another first for Rolex, the King Midas debuted the use of sapphire crystal: the standard crystal material for all modern Rolexes (and most other watches, for that matter). The King Midas suggested an idea later perpetuated by the Cellini line: having a "nice second watch". Sure, you have your Submariner, Explorer, or GMT that you wear all day, but why not buy a smaller gold watch to wear out to dinner? Rolex's dressy Cellini line was set in motion by the King Midas and discontinued just this year.

Elvis and Rihanna's Rolex King Midases

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Beyond watch-related accolades, the King Midas has deep cultural significance. It was famously worn by Elvis Presley and destroyed in his hot tub; this watch has no water resistance rating whatsoever. Today, Elvis' water-damaged King Midas sits on display at Graceland. Almost 60 years later, Rihanna wore a modified King Midas for her pregnancy announcement photoshoot. To my knowledge, it has yet to be destroyed in a hot tub.

Was the Rolex King Midas Designed By Gerald Genta? 

Gerald Gente listening to ticking of watch

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If you Google “Rolex King Midas”, the first result is an article titled “Designed by Gérald Gente: The Rolex King Midas”. If you dive deeper, you’ll find more of the same: claims that the King Midas was designed by legendary Swiss designer Gérald Gente. However, Watchbox’s Tim Mosso – a person who’s forgotten more about watches than I’ll ever know – claims the exact opposite, saying that Gente has nothing to do with the King Midas. He has it on good authority that the only Gente-designed Rolex was the quartz-powered ref. 5100 Beta 21. We may never know the truth on the matter, but we know one thing for sure: this debate only adds to the King Midas’ lore amongst watch nerds.

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