Description

The Daytona is one of Rolex’s greatest success stories

The Daytona is Rolex’s principal chronograph watch, and is one of the most iconic watches ever made. Along with the Omega Speedmaster and Heuer Carrera, the Daytona was one of the first examples of the sports chronograph watch. Prior to these releases, chronographs were typically dressier and more fragile. In contrast, this new type of watch was tough enough to withstand everyday use.

At the time of the Daytona’s release, chronographs were not very popular. It is therefore not surprising that the watch did not sell in great numbers compared with other Rolex models of the time. However, over time the popularity of these watches has steadily increased. Now, there are long waiting lists for the latest models. At the same time, the Daytona has risen to become the star of the auction market – with vintage references selling for extraordinary amounts.

The watch was released at a time when motor racing was just getting popular, and like the Speedmaster and Carrera the name of the watch originates from this world. Since its inception, there has always been a close brand association between the Daytona line and motor racing. The ‘Daytona International Speedway’ had opened only a few years before the watch’s release and the ‘Daytona 500’ race that was held there was one of the most prestigious of the time.

History

The Daytona went from being an unpopular watch to one of the most iconic ever

The Pre-Daytonas

A chronograph is a watch that can act as a stopwatch. Typically, the chronograph function is activated by pushers on either side of the crown, with the top pusher starting and stopping it and the bottom pusher resetting it.

The very first chronograph timepieces were pocket watches from the early 19th century. In 1913, the first chronograph movement for a wristwatch was released – the Longines caliber 13.33Z. Following this milestone, many watch manufacturers started producing chronograph wristwatches.

The chronograph watches produced by Rolex prior to the Daytona did not fall under a single name. These are now commonly referred to as pre-Daytonas. The very first Rolex chronograph was the reference 2303, released in 1926.

1937 was a particularly important year for the Rolex chronograph. In this year, several non-Oyster case chronographs were released (2916, 2917, 2918, 2919, 2920 and 2937) along with the first Rolex chronograph with an Oyster case (reference 3346, nicknamed the ‘Zerograph’).

The company followed this with the 4500, 4537, 6232, 3668 and 5034. The 5034 was followed by the 6034, at which point we begin to see a watch that more closely resembles the Daytona that would follow.

The last two pre-Daytona references, the 6234 and 6238, are often referred to as the ‘Godfather’ and ‘Father’ of the Daytona respectively. The 6238 in particular has much in common with it; including a 37mm case, three registers, two pump pushers either side of the crown, and a Valjoux 72B movement (on examples produced prior to 1965).

In addition to the visual similarities between these watches and the Daytona, there are also similarities in the way the watches were marketed. The Daytona has always been closely associated with race car driving, but this association was also there with many of these pre-Daytonas.

For examples, the 6034 was popular with many race car drivers, as they found the chronograph function very useful. In 1953, LeRoy Neumayer broke the land speed record wearing this reference; a fact promoted by Rolex at the time.

The Release of the Daytona

The Daytona was launched in 1963 with the reference 6239. From this point until the release of the Yacht Master in 1992, the Daytona was Rolex’s only chronograph watch.

There were many elements of this new watch that were similar to the Omega Speedmaster, a watch released a few years earlier. The original 1957 version of the Speedmaster had a large metal bezel with tachymeter scale, three subdials, and two pump pushers. Although its monochromatic dial differs from the white and black of the Daytona, the Heuer Carrera, released in the same year as the 6239, did have these same contrasting colours on its dial. Therefore, we can see that the design of the Daytona was likely influenced by other prominent watches of the time.

In 1962, Rolex became the ‘official timekeeper’ of the ‘Daytona International Speedway’. Despite this, the watch released in the following year, which came to be known as the Daytona, was not initially called this. Early examples do not feature this designation on the dial. Instead, it had the nickname ‘Le Mans’, named after the prestigious ’24 Hours of Le Mans’ race held in Le Mans, France since 1923.

The name ‘Cosmograph’ also appeared on the dial. Where ‘Le Mans’ and ‘Daytona’ are both taken from the world of racing, ‘Cosmograph’ has entirely different associations. The word translates to ‘writing of the world/universe’ and so is associated with space.

At the time of the Daytona’s launch, the space race between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union was under way. Word got out that NASA was planning on picking an official chronograph for the mission to the moon. Just as NASA was racing with the Soviet Union, Rolex entered its own race with the rival watch company Omega to decide whether the Daytona or Speedmaster would be the first watch on the moon. In the end, Rolex lost out in 1965 when Omega was chosen as NASA’s official timekeeper. When Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969, it was a Speedmaster that he wore.

In 1965, the same year that Omega was chosen as NASA’s official timekeeper, Rolex started adding ‘Daytona’ to the watch’s dial. Despite this, the word ‘Cosmograph’ remained on the dial, giving the line a strange dual identity. Even though it seems that ‘Cosmograph’ was the original name for the watch, all 6239s from 1963-1965 are still retrospectively called ‘Daytonas’ by modern day collectors, since the design is basically the same.

This indecision on the part of Rolex might seem strange, but was actually fairly commonplace for the company at this time. The hesitancy over names is not unique to the Daytona. It can be seen in the early history of the Submariner, another classic Rolex line that was originally called the ‘Skin Diver’.

Initial Reception

Today, the Daytona is regarded as one of the all-time classic sports watches. However, when it was first released, the watch was not that popular with consumers. In fact, it became fairly common for retailers to offer large discounts on Daytonas.

Due to this, fewer of these early Daytona references were produced than other Rolex watches of the time. Since less were produced their value in the market is now higher than these other watch lines. Consequently, as is common in the strange topsy-turvy world of watch collecting, the initial unpopularity of the watch is one of the main reasons that the watch is so valuable today.

Despite this, the watch did have its early fans. One group that was very interested in the watch in the early years was race car drivers. They had always been fond of Rolex chronographs, but the new design was even better. One of the main reasons for this is that the movement of the tachymeter to the bezel made it more legible. For them, both the chronograph and the tachymeter were very useful features to have on a wristwatch. This design change therefore made the watch very appealing to them.

One of the drivers that took to the watch was the famous actor Paul Newman. Known for such films as ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘The Sting’, he was also a serious race car driver. He was almost inseparable from his 6239, and became almost certainly the most important unofficial ambassador for the watch in its history. This is why his personal 6239 sold for such a phenomenal price when it was sold by Phillips in 2017.

Daytona References

The references in the Daytona range can be organised into three series. The first series, which ran from 1963 to 1987, comprises all of the four-digit references. These watches all have manual wind movements. The second series ran from 1987 to 2000 and contains all of the five-digit references. All of these watches have automatic movements. The third series began in 2000 and runs to the present. These are the six-digit references, and the movements in these watches are manufactured ‘in-house’ by Rolex.

The first series was kicked off with the 6239, a classic reference that currently holds the title of the highest selling wristwatch at auction. The major first series references can be sorted into three groups of two watches, with one extra reference left over.

These are the 6239 and 6241, the 6262 and 6264, and the 6265 and 6263. The watches in each group are almost identical except that the first has a steel bezel and the second a black acrylic bezel. The 6240 is an outlier that can best be thought of as a prototype of the 6263.

All were first released between the years 1963 and 1970. In addition to these seven references, there are also some special watches in the first series that were released in 1984; the 6269 and 6270. These are extravagant 18kt gold watches with diamonds on the dial and bezel.

The second series began with the release of the Rolex 16520 in 1987. This was the first Daytona to feature an automatic movement. The movement was a reworked Zenith ‘El Primero’, and it is still well loved by watch enthusiasts. The case size in this new series was increased to 40mm. In the same year, the 16523 and 16528 were released, and references such as the 16515 and 16519 would follow some years later.

In 2000, Rolex released a number of watches using their new ‘in-house’ calibre 4130 movement. These include the 116520, 116523, 116528, and 116509. This is a tremendously powerful movement that has been used in every Daytona released up to the present.

Components

Each component plays its part in making this iconic watch what it is

Bezel

Throughout the many versions of the Daytona, there have been some consistent features. One is the tachymeter scale on the bezel, which can be used to calculate average speed over a given distance. On the pre-Daytonas, this scale was typically printed on the dial itself. Moving it to the bezel gives the watch a sportier and more technical appearance and also makes the scale easier to read.

The bezel of the watch is either metallic or black acrylic. Although collectors generally prefer the black bezel, there are many who disagree. All Daytonas also feature three sub-dials that count off the seconds, chronograph minutes, and chronograph hours.

Case

Another feature found on all Daytonas is the ‘Oyster’ case. The first Oyster case was registered in 1926 and was designed to withstand water and dirt, in much the same way that an Oyster’s shell protects it from the elements. This was achieved thanks to a screw down crown, case-back, and bezel. All Daytona cases have these three features, and so they can all technically be called ‘Oyster’.

Having said that, the reason the Oyster case got its name was because it was water resistant. Due to the nature of the chronograph, the watch can only be considered water resistant if it has screw-down pushers as well (rather than pump pushers). This is a feature that was absent from the original Oyster case watches of the twenties. For this reason, the word Oyster was not added to the dial of the first Daytona references.

The 6240, released around 1965, was the first Daytona with screw-down pushers and for this reason many refer to it as the first ‘Oyster’ Daytona. This watch was produced in very small numbers and is now looked at as a kind of prototype of the 6263 that followed in 1969.

The case material of the Daytona is usually stainless steel or yellow gold, with rare examples with white gold or platinum cases.

Dial

The Daytona comes with many different dial configurations. By far the most famous of these configurations is the ‘Paul Newman’ dial. This was initially called the ‘exotic’ dial and was one of the two main dial configurations found on the earliest Daytona references. The other configuration, now referred to as the ‘standard’ dial, was actually much more popular at the time of release.

The ‘exotic’ dial got the name ‘Paul Newman’ after Italian collectors spotted the famous actor wearing a Daytona with this dial type in a poster. Since then it has become the most popular dial type with collectors. Most of the highest selling Daytonas at auction have Paul Newman dials.

The main features of the Paul Newman dial are sub-dials with an art deco font and block markers. There is also a step between the main dial and the outer minute track. Examples with a white dial and black subdials are known as ‘Panda dial Paul Newmans’, whilst those with the colours reversed as sometimes referred to as ‘Reverse Panda dial Paul Newmans’. The standard dial also has the same contrasting colour combinations, but lacks the subtle features that mark out a Paul Newman. 

Movement

There have been three main groups of movement used in the Daytona. The Valjoux 72 calibre was the base of all movements from the Daytona’s 1963 release up until 1987. After this, Rolex started using automatic movements based on the Zenith El Primero. They named this new modified movement the Rolex 4030. From 2000, they started using their own in-house movement called the Rolex 4130.

Nowadays in-house movements are revered, and it is generally considered a mark against a watch company if they use movements supplied by someone else. This is especially true if they use Valjoux and ETA type movements.

However, in the past this practice was the norm in the trade. Even the members of the revered ‘Holy Trinity’ – Patek, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin – used movements supplied by Jaeger LeCoultre. It is certainly not a factor that works against the Daytona as examples of this reference have sold for incredible sums at auction in recent years.

Rolex substantially altered the Valjoux 72 to fit their requirements. They also continuously altered it along the way, producing many different versions based on it. These included the 72A, 72B (renamed 722 in 1965), 72C, 722-1, and 727. The 727 was the most advanced of these variants, and was used in the 6262, 6264, 6263, 6265, 6269, and 6270.

Valjoux 72 Base

Base of movements used in the 6239, 6240, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264, 6265, 6269, 6270

Valjoux 72B

Used in the 6239, 6240

Valjoux 722

Used in the 6239, 6240, 6241

Valjoux 722-1

Used in the 6239, 6240, 6241

Valjoux 727

Used in the 6262, 6263, 6264, 6265, 6269, 6270

Rolex 4030

Used in the 16515, 16518, 16519, 16520, 16523, 16528

Rolex 4130

Used in the 116500, 116505, 116506, 116508, 116509, 116515, 116518, 116519, 116520, 116523, 116528, 116576, 116589, 116598, 116599

Variants

There are many different versions of the Daytona, some of which are very rare and valuable

Rolex Daytona Tropical Dial

The term ‘tropical’ is used by watch collectors to indicate that the dial has become discoloured due to aging. This is both an indicator of authenticity and is also appreciated for aesthetic reasons.

Tropical dial Rolexes are highly valuable, and this is especially true of the vintage Daytona. It creates a richer aesthetic that contrasts well with the hour markers and other features on the watch. Some have compared it to the aging of a fine wine. The discolouration doesn’t look like damage to the eye, and anyone unfamiliar with the Daytona will just assume it started off with a brown dial.

It’s hard to get a sense of how it looks from pictures alone. You can only appreciate it fully if you hold it in your hands. It’s is very much personal taste, but the market value reflects the consensus among watch lovers is that a tropical dial is a very desirable feature in a vintage Daytona. According to collectors, the quality of a particular tropical watch depends on the uniformity of the aging.

If you buy one, it might be worthwhile considering how you wear the watch. Most collectors like pairing a Daytona with the traditional Oyster bracelet. However, with a tropical dial, a brown leather strap can complement the tropical features on the watch.

Rolex Daytona Tiffany

The Tiffany dial Daytona is a Daytona that has had a special ‘Tiffany & Co.’ designation added to the dial. This appears just below the standard ROC (‘Rolex Oyster Cosmograph’) designation at the 12 o’clock position. There are Tiffany dial versions of many Rolex models, including the GMT-Master, Submariner, and Daytona. The Daytona Tiffany is perhaps the most sought after of them all.

Rolex Daytona Big Red

The name ‘Big Red’ is used to indicate that the ‘Daytona’ text on the dial is larger than usual. This writing, which is always bright red, appears in curved writing above the 6 o’clock sub-dial. There are ‘Big Red’ versions of many of the early Daytona references, and each of them demand a premium at auction. The reason that watches with the larger text are so valuable is simply down to the fact that less of them were produced.

A little history of this ‘DAYTONA’ designation might help put this into context. When the first Rolex Daytona reference was released the word ‘Daytona’ did not appear on the dial at all. In fact, this line of watches was initially was referred to as the Cosmograph rather than the Daytona.

It only came to be called the Daytona a few years later, after Rolex became the official timekeeper of the ‘Daytona International Speedway’ in Florida. This was a site of great sporting achievements and many speed records were broken there. It’s therefore not surprising that Rolex wanted to form a brand association with this speedway, including naming their new watch the Daytona.

This was part of a longstanding pattern in Rolex’s marketing strategy. They had always been very keen to associate their brand with ‘firsts’. For example, sir Edmund Hillary wore an early prototype of the Rolex Explorer when he reached the summit of Mount Everest. Also, when Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel, she wore Rolex’s waterproof ‘Oyster’ watch.

The name Cosmograph was chosen for the same reason. Rolex wanted this watch to be the first watch to be worn on the moon, and the ‘cosmo’ had all the right associations for this purpose. When that honour went to Omega with their Speedmaster watch, Rolex switched the name to Daytona; a name also associated with many great achievements and firsts.

Rolex first added the name Daytona to the dial in 1965. However, on the first examples it appeared under the ROC (‘Rolex Oyster Cosmograph’) designation at the 12 o’clock position. It was only later that the text appeared in curved writing above the centre sub-dial.

There are a number of subtle variations in this text that serious collectors are interested in. Firstly, the size of the font can vary, giving us the ‘big red’ vs ‘small red’ dichotomy. Another term you might come across is ‘floating dial’. On ‘Big Red Floating Dials’, the Daytona text is not only larger but also appears higher than usual; with more room between it and the centre sub-dial. Collectors are also often interested in big red sigma 6263s. These have both the big red ‘Daytona’ and a sigma dial. Another term that comes up occasionally is ‘low big red’ and ‘high big red’. Here the words low and high refer to the serial number. So a low big red is older than a high big red.

Rolex Daytona Big Eyes

The name ‘Big Eye’ refers to a slight increase in the diameter of the sub-dials. The Daytona has three sub-dials, and this makes them ever so slightly more legible. Many people have differing views of how this affects the aesthetics of the watch. It is said that it draws attention to the bezel, and some say it’s more masculine with the bigger eyes.

It’s believed that these are in truth prototype or test dials. The difference in size is subtle, and might not be immediately apparent at first sight, but Rolex collectors know it when they see it. ‘Big Eye’ versions of the 6263 and its sister watch the 6265 have been found.

Rolex Daytona Albino

An ‘Albino’ dial is a dial where the dial and sub-dials are both ‘white’. This completely alters the appearance of the watch, as the two-tone palette is perhaps the main defining feature of the Daytona. The most famous and highest selling Albino Daytonas have a reference number 6263, but there are also examples for the 6239 that are slightly different.

Rolex Daytona Flat Dial

On almost all vintage Daytonas there is a ‘step’ between each subdial and the rest of the dial. However, if it has a so-called ‘flat dial’, these sub-dials are level with the rest of the dial. On most but not all flat dial Daytonas the concentric circles within the sub-dials are also absent. The shiny finish is gone, and instead you have a matte black finish. All of this gives them a much simpler and cleaner appearance. The flat dial is one of the rarest Daytona dial configurations. It is found on a number of vintage Daytonas, including the 6263.

Rolex Daytona Floating Dial

When you see the term ‘floating’, this indicates that some line of text is detached from the text around it. In other words, the spacing between the text and surrounding text has increased. For the Daytona, the term is used in two main ways.

It usually indicates that the gap between ‘DAYTONA’ designation and the centre subdial is larger than usual. This is called a ‘Floating Daytona’. However, there are also ‘Floating Cosmograph’ dials, on which the ‘COSMOGRAPH’ designation is detached from the ‘ROLEX OYSTER’ designation above it. On later Daytonas, there is more text above ‘COSMOGRAPH’, reading ‘ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL SUPERLATIVE CHRONOMETER OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED’.

Sometimes the term ‘floating dial’ is used without reference to whether it’s the ‘DAYTONA’ or ‘COSMOGRAPH’ designations that are floating, and this should be checked beforehand.

Less floating Daytona were produced than non-floating ones, meaning they are more valuable. Even more rare and valuable are the big red floating dial Daytonas, where a larger ‘DAYTONA’ signature floats above the centre subdial.

Rolex Daytona Lemon Dial

Lemon dial Daytonas have been found for the references 6264 and 6263. Both are incredibly valuable, but examples of the latter have sold for millions at auction.

Rolex Daytona Oman

Rolex made many custom watches for Omani royalty, but some of the most sought-after are the Rolex Daytona Omans.

When it comes to the Daytonas with the emblem they come with green or red emblems on either a silver or black dial. These watches go by many names, including Daytona Oman Khanjar and Daytona Spade Oman, due to the fact that the emblem is sometimes called the ‘Spade of Oman’.

Ones with a red emblem are referred to as a Red Sultan Daytona or Red Khanjar Daytona, and green emblems as Green Sultan Daytona or Green Khanjar Daytona. The text of ‘Rolex’ and ‘Oyster’ is moved higher up, and ‘Cosmograph’ appears in curved letters above the 12-hour register at the centre, replacing the Daytona designation we usually find in this location.

There are also watches with an ordinary dial, but a Khanjar emblem engraved on the case back. These are not as desirable as the custom dial watches, but if genuine they can still add substantially to the value of the watch. Genuine examples of these case backs can be valuable in themselves. On May 12, 2013, one was sold for CHF7500 in an Antiquorum auction, despite the fact it wasn’t even in perfect condition.

Some pieces have a signature instead of the emblem. This appears just below the ‘Oyster’ designation as was typical of these watches. As with the watches with emblems, the text ‘Cosmograph’ is moved to replace the ‘Daytona’ designation on ordinary Daytonas. According to experts, the watches with signatures were given as a higher honour than those with the emblem. In addition to the emblem and signature, According to Antiquorum, two platinum 6263s were made for the Sultan of Oman.

Rolex Daytona Panda

Of all the weird names collectors come up with for the Daytona, the Panda is one of the best known, but it’s also one of the most sought-after in the bunch. The name derives from the fact that the white dial with black subdials resembles the face of the Asian bear. The word Panda has become a generic term any watch with a white dial with black subdials, used for watches such as the Omega Apollo 11 35th anniversary watch for example.

There were two main versions of Panda dial Daytonas. There was a version with a silvery white dial and black subdials, called the Panda dial, and a version with a black dial and white subdials, called the reverse Panda. Both versions are rare, but the reverse Pandas are incredibly rare. There are some subtle subcategories, such as a version with a cream-coloured rather than white background, and a version with a background that is more of an anthracite colour rather than black. People sometimes use the term ‘red panda’ for the silver dial/black subdial combo.

The dials of vintage Daytona Pandas were made by Singer. The first examples sit at around the 2.08 million serial number mark. At the top of the dial is the Rolex crown, below which sits the ‘Rolex Oyster Cosmograph’ designation, known as a ROC designation by collectors due to the initials of the letters. The Panda design has become a classic in the world of sports watch collecting. As with all things Rolex, simplicity is often the key to success.

Pandas have gone for extraordinary prices at auction. In the famous ‘Lesson One’ sale at Christies, a fantastic Panda dial Paul Newman dating to 1971 was auctioned for CHF 449,000. It was in excellent condition, having never been polished. A few years later, on 13 November 2017, we saw a similar watch dating to the same year selling for CHF 504,500. Factors that fuelled this watch’s value are the light patina on the dial, and the excellent condition, and Mark 1 bezel and pushers.

However, a New York sale on 13 June 2018 saw the price jump to USD 732,500. Although partially to be attributed to a general increase in the value of vintage Daytonas in this time, the price was also caused by the watch being the very earliest production, c. 1969. These original pieces are the ones that are the most favoured by collectors. It was also helped by the fact that it had been stored in a safety deposit box for the best part of thirty years, and had only been worn a few times. It was therefore in impeccable condition.

Due to their rarity, reverse pandas can go for even more extraordinary prices, and these tend to exceed that of their Panda cousins. This happened in the famous auction at Christies on 10 November 2013. This was part of the ‘Lesson One’ sale, and it is credited as being the auction that catapulted us into the world of extraordinary prices for Daytonas we see today. Although now common, the final price of CHF 989,000 was extraordinary at the time. This was exceeded some years later in the 7 December 2017 sale at Christies, where a reverse Panda sold for USD 1,092,500. This is approximately CHF 1,080,930 at the current conversion rate. It’s price was boosted by the fact that it was an incredibly rare Mark 1 version.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman

When Rolex first launched the Daytona it found that sales were very low. However, watches with a particular dial called the ‘exotic’ dial were even less successful. Strangely, this has now been turned completely on its head. Daytonas are now the most sought-after vintage sports watches in the world, and examples with an exotic dial, now referred to as the Paul Newman dial, are the most highly prized of all. In fact, for a time the highest selling watch in the world was a Paul Newman dial Rolex Daytona.

According to legend, the watch got the name ‘Paul Newman’ after it was spotted by Italian collectors in a poster for the film ‘Winning’, and also on a magazine cover around the same time. However, the collector was struck by the unusual dial configuration and started to call it the Paul Newman. Since then it has come to be called the Paul Newman dial rather than the exotic dial.

To be a Paul Newman dial it has to match certain criteria. It has to be in a watch with one of the following four-digit references: 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264, or 6265. The crystal on the watch has to be domed acrylic. As for the dial itself, the sub-dials have block markers instead of lines and the numerals have an Art Deco style font. The seconds sub-dial at the 9 o’clock position, is marked at the 15, 30, 45, and 60, rather than at 20, 40, and 60 as it is on other dial configurations. There is also a crosshair in each sub-dial that meets in the middle.

One of the reasons that this watch has become so desirable is because it appeals both to watch collectors and to groups outside of the watch collecting world. It appeals to fans of motor racing due to the Daytona and Paul Newman connection, and also to those who love Hollywood due to the Paul Newman connection.

The watch Newman wore on ‘Winning’ was a reference 6239, the first Daytona reference. It was bought for Newman by his wife Joanne Woodward during filming in 1968. Since the film was about the Indianapolis 500 race, the Daytona is a perfect fit. Newman was himself a keen motor racer, and participated in many events. The watch was bought from the prestigious New York ‘Tiffany & Co’ boutique, and Woodward customised the watch with an engraving on the case back reading ‘Drive Carefully Joanne’.

There are some accounts that say the watch was acquired later than than this. Whatever it was, apparently Newman was very attached to the watch, wearing it everyday for fifteen years. In 1984, Newman gave the watch to his daughter Nell’s boyfriend James Cox while at Newman’s home in Westport after he told Newman he didn’t own a watch. Newman handed Cox the watch, adding ‘If you wind it, it tells pretty good time’. This understatement is high when thinking of how it sold for $15.5 million at Phillips, becoming the world record.

Around that time, Woodward bought a second Daytona for her husband, this time a reference 6263. It was a black dial with white registers, and a red ‘Daytona’ designation above the centre register. It has a similar engraving as the first watch on the case back, this time reading ‘Drive Slowly Joanne’. Supposedly, Newman liked to wear the watch on a bund strap rather than with the usual oyster bracelet. The watch appears in a photograph in the Sunday Times on 13th May 1984, and so was probably taken in 1983 or early 1984. This means that Newman must have owned the 6263 before he gave away the 6239. Newman’s daughter Clea came to possess the watch and later put it up for auction.

Rolex Daytona RCO

In the world of the vintage Daytona, small and seemingly insignificant details can increase the value of a watch from the tens of thousands to the millions. Although this might seem crazy, it starts to make more sense once you examine these details a little closer. A great illustration of this is the Daytona RCO, also known as the Oyster Sotto. This is one of the rarest of all of the Daytona variations, and correspondingly it’s the most sought after by collectors.

Quite simply, it’s a Daytona with a black Paul Newman dial. All genuine black Paul Newman dials – barring one possible exception called the ‘Black Ghost ROC’ – exhibit the strange and unique feature that the words printed at the top of the dial swap places. Where on all other Daytonas, the designation reads ‘Rolex Oyster Cosmograph’, here it reads ‘Rolex Cosmograph Oyster’. This is called an RCO designation, from the initials of the words. In contrast, the standard designation is called ROC. The rule is that all ROC Paul Newman watches have a white dial, and all RCO Paul Newman watches have a black dial.

Since the Paul Newman dial was discontinued soon after its release, these RCO dials are incredibly rare. If we add to this the fact that Paul Newman Daytonas are some of the most lusted after sports watches of all time, following the law of supply and demand it’s no surprise that they have become some of the most expensive Daytonas ever sold at auction. Many experts think that the Rolex 6263 RCO represents the pinnacle of the Rolex sports watch world.

The history of how the Daytona RCO came to be is quite interesting, even if it’s slightly speculative. Since the release of the first Daytona reference (the 6239) in 1963, the evolution of the Daytona dial went through several stages. Between the various stages, there are transitional or ‘missing-link’ dials that interest collectors due to their rarity. These are dials that can be classified as belonging to one stage, but that still have some hold-over characteristics from the previous stage.

Of all the ‘missing-link’ dials, the RCO dial is by far the most sought after. They are transitional because they have dials from references that predate the first ‘Oyster’ reference, the 6240. In fact, the dials were originally produced for the 6262 and 6264 references. On RCO watches, these dials were transplanted onto watch’s with later reference numbers, such as the 6263 and 6265. As was typical for references at that time, the text on the 6262 and 6265 dials reads ‘Rolex Cosmograph’ at the 12 o’clock position, and has the curved red ‘Daytona’ at the 6 o’clock position.

The theory goes that when Rolex launched the Oyster case version of the Daytona with the references 6263 and 6265, some customers wanted a black ‘exotic’ dial version of it. However, since no black Oyster dial had been designed for this reference, Rolex simply used the dials made for these older references.

However, they also wanted to highlight the fact that the watch was waterproof, due to its new screw-down pushers. For this reason, they decided to print the word ‘Oyster’ onto the dial, and were forced to put it below the word Cosmograph since this was already printed on the dial. Since the ‘Oyster’ designation was printed later than the rest of the dial, the font used differs, not having the serifs that are in the ‘Rolex Cosmograph’ font.

The RCO has also played an important role in the history of Rolex collecting. It was an RCO that took us into the current world of insane Daytona prices. During Christies ‘Lesson One’ sale in 2013, a beautiful example sold for just shy of one million swiss francs. Apparently, it was during this sale that the term Oyster Sotto was coined. It was given the name ‘Oyster Sotto’ in 2013 because Sotto in Italian means ‘underneath’, and so it’s to say that the ‘Oyster’ designation appears underneath the Cosmograph rather than above it as it usually does. Italian collectors have coined many of the terms used in the Daytona world, including Mk1, Ovettone, Paul Newman to name a few.

There are two different versions of Sotto dial. Mark 1 Sotto Dials are the most sought after. They were produced in 1969 and have very close serial numbers as they were produced in a short space of time. The serial numbers of all examples found have been in the 2,085,500-2,085,600 range. All have casebacks from the 6239 reference. For early Daytonas, it was common practice to use old watch casebacks for watches. There are some very detailed differences in the font used, particularly for the letter ‘R’ in ‘Rolex’, and ‘G’ and ‘H’ in Cosmograph. Mark II Sotto Dials appear on watches with serial numbers from 2.1 million onwards. The main distinguishing marks are the fonts on the dial differ from Mark I.

Since they are so expensive they are also highly faked. There are various ways to tell an original, including looking at the fonts on the dial. However, it’s always best to get a proper opinion from an expert.

Rolex Daytona Red Dial

Red dial Daytonas, sometimes called ‘Ferrari red’ Daytonas, have been found for the references 6263 and 6265. These are some of the rarest Daytonas in the world.

Rolex Daytona Small Red

On ‘Small Red’ Daytonas, sometimes called the ‘Little Red’, the ‘DAYTONA’ text above the centre subdial is smaller than usual. This is often contrasted with the ‘Big Red’ Daytona, where the text is larger than usual. Like it’s large counterpart, the small red desgination appears in a curved red font. The ‘Small Red’ Daytonas are less collectable than the ‘Big Red’ Daytonas.

Celebrities

The Daytona is one of the most popular watches with celebrities. For more information, go to the individual pages of each reference. 

Paul Newman (actor)

Paul Newman has become something of an inadvertent ambassador for the Daytona range. He was one of the early adopters of the watch back when it was not very popular with the general public. His 6239 is the watch that Italian collectors saw in a poster, leading them to rename the exotic dial the Paul Newman dial.

In October 2017, this watch became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction. The watch was a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward. Woodward also gave him a black dial 6263. He can be seen wearing the 6263 on a photograph taken at some point from 1983 to early 1984, so he must have had it at the same time he owned the famous 6239.

6239 and 6263

‘Part 1 of 3: The ACTUAL Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6263 owned by Paul Newman’

Eric Clapton (musician)

A member of rock bands the Yardbirds and Cream, Eric Clapton went on to solo success. His songs included ‘Layla’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’. His 6263 briefly became the highest selling Rolex ever when it was sold at auction in May 2015. What made this watch so valuable was not only the celebrity provenance, but also the rare ‘Albino’ dial configuration.

6263

‘Eric Clapton’s Rare Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6263 Oyster Albino Goes Up For Auction’

Brad Pitt (actor)

Brad Pitt has starred in such films as ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Seven’. He has been known to wear both vintage and modern watches. He was spotted wearing a steel white dial 116520 in a publicity photo.

116520

‘Which Rolex Does Brad Pitt Wear?’

Russell Crowe (actor) 

Russell Crowe has starred in such films as ‘Gladiator’ and ‘A Beautiful Mind’. He decided to sell many of his belongings at auction in 2018 and a beautiful yellow gold 16528 with black dial was one of the items. He bought the watch when he founded the company ‘Blackcourt’.

16528

‘Rolex A fine gold automatic chronograph wristwatch with registers and bracelet ref 16528 no 149099 Cosmograph Daytona late 1990s’

Sylvester Stallone (actor) 

Sylvester Stallone is an action star most famous for the film ‘Rocky’. His collection includes a platinum 116506 with blue dial, and a platinum 116576 with gem-set dial and baguette bezel.

116506 and 116576

‘Sylvester Stallone Watch Collection – Rated from 1 to 10!’

Nicolas Cage (actor)

From ‘Raising Arizona’ to ‘Face/Off’ and beyond, Nicolas Cage has been a staple on our screens for decades. In a scene from the film ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, Cage wears a steel 16520 with white dial. The watch is discussed in a scene in the film, and then in another scene he sells the watch for $500.

16520

‘Rolex Daytona | Leaving Las Vegas | Cool Watches in Film’

David Beckham (football player)

Born in East London, David Beckham played football for Manchester United and became a worldwide star. He was spotted wearing a steel black dial 116500 while attending the 2017 Wimbledon Tournament.

116500

‘What the Spot?! What watch was David Beckham wearing at Wimbledon?’

Daniel Craig (actor)

Most famous for playing James Bond, the actor Daniel Craig was spotted wearing what is perhaps the quintessential Daytona; the reference 6263. He wore it whilst being interviewed on the ‘Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno.

6263

‘Part 9: Daniel Craig Rolex #5’

‘James Bond vs Daniel Craig’

Ellen DeGeneres (TV presenter)

Ellen DeGeneres is a successful stand-up comedian and talk show host on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’. She is an avid watch collector, and is certainly a fan of the Daytona range. She has at least seven different references within it, more than any other celebrity on this list.

Her vintage collection includes three stainless steel pieces; a black Paul Newman dial 6241, a white Paul Newman dial 6262, a black dial 6263. She also has a yellow gold black dial 6265. On top of this, she has a yellow gold 116518 with an Oyster-flex Bracelet.

6241

‘Celeb Watch: Celebrities that Wear the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman’

6262

‘Celeb Focus: Ellen DeGeneres’ Impressive Watch Collection!’

6263

‘Ellen DeGeneres Watch Collection – Rated from 1 to 10!’ (from 2:51 onwards)

6265

‘Ellen Degeneres’ Monstrous Collection of Rolex Watches | COLLECTION REVIEW’ (from 4:20 onwards)

‘Ellen DeGeneres Watch Collection – Rated from 1 to 10!’ (from 3:04 onwards)

116518

‘Ellen DeGeneres’ Watch Collection | SwissWatchExpo [Watch Collection’

John Mayer (singer)

John Mayer is an American singer-songwriter who is known for songs such as ‘No Such Thing’ and ‘Daughters’ another serious Daytona collector. In a conversation with Benjamin Clymer of Hodinkee, he showcased his beautiful vintage steel 6263 with black dial, and he discussed his yellow gold 6264 with black dial on an article written for the website. He’s also been spotted with a steel white dial 116500, and yellow gold 116598RBOW with rainbow bezel.

6263

‘Talking Watches: With John Mayer’

6264

‘John Mayer On Watches: And Now, A Message From John Mayer’

116500

‘John Mayer’s Watch Collection’

116598RBOW

‘Talking Watches: With John Mayer, Part 2’

Kevin Hart (actor)

Kevin Hart is a successful actor and standup, appearing in films such as ‘Get Hard’ and ‘This is the End’. He has an impressive Daytona collection, including a steel 116500 with black dial, a steel 116506 with blue dial, and an Everose 116515 with chocolate dial.

116500

‘Kevin Hart’s Insane Watch Collection | SwissWatchExpo [Watch Collection]’

116506

‘Kevin Hart’s Watch Collection’

‘Kevin Hart – “TIMEPIECE TOUR” Part Two – HAUTE Time’

‘A Rolex Collection After Our Own Hart’

116515

‘Kevin Hart’s Watch Collection’

Mark Wahlberg (actor)

Mark Wahlberg is another prominent actor with an interest in the Daytona range. He has starred in films such as ‘Ted’ and ‘Daddy’s Home’. He has a platinum 116576 with a spectacular gem-set dial and diamond bezel. He also has the 116598; the so-called ‘rainbow’ Daytona. This time it’s in yellow gold with a black dial. Last but not least, he has a steel 116500 with black dial and black bezel.

116576

‘Mark Wahlberg Watch Collection – Rated from 1 to 10!’

‘LIST: 4 watches Mark Wahlberg wears on a daily basis that you’ll never, ever have the stones to’

‘Mark Wahlberg is a Mega Rolex Watch Collector’

116598RBOW

‘Mark Wahlberg is a Mega Rolex Watch Collector’

116500

‘Mark Wahlberg is a Mega Rolex Watch Collector’

‘Which 3 Rolexes Does Mark Wahlberg Love To Wear?’

Drake (rapper)

Canadian rapper Drake is famous for such hits as ‘One Dance’ and ‘Nice For What’. He is obviously a big Daytona fan, having been spotted wearing a yellow gold 116528 with black dial, a rose gold 116505 with baguette dial, a yellow gold 116508 with mother of pearl dial, and a yellow gold 116528 with black dial.

116528

‘Celeb Watch: Drake’s Rolex Watches’

116505

‘Celeb Watch: Drake’s Rolex Watches’

Adam Levine (singer)

Adam Levine became famous as the lead singer of the pop band ‘Maroon 5’, and has also appeared on hit TV show ‘The Voice’. He is obviously a serious vintage Daytona collector, as he’s been spotted wearing a steel white dial 6241 and another one with a black Paul Newman dial. He also has a yellow gold 6263 with black dial and yellow gold 6264 with black dial.

6241

‘Celeb Watch: Celebrities that Wear the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman’

6263

‘Perpetual Motion’

6264

‘Reviewing Adam Levine’s ROLEX Collection | COLLECTION REVIEW’ (from 1:34 onwards)

Justin Bieber (singer)

Justin Bieber is a Canadian pop singer who became a teen idol after his first single was released in 2009. His songs include ‘One Time’, ‘Baby’ and ‘Boyfriend’. He is known to be a fan of Rolex, and has been spotted wearing a yellow gold 116508 with champagne dial.

116508

‘Popular Canadian Rapper Justin Bieber Top Rolex Picks’

Jason Statham (actor)

Jason Statham is an actor known for playing tough-guy roles in films such as ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’. He has been spotted with a white Paul Newman dial 6241. It fits well with his rugged but stylish persona.

6241

‘Jason Statham’s Watch Collection | SwissWatchExpo [Watch Collection]’

Jay Z (rapper)

Jay Z is a rapper from Brooklyn who is known for hits such as ‘Takeover’ and ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’. He clearly has expensive tastes. Amongst his watch collection is a steel white dial Rolex Daytona 116500.

116500

‘Jay-Z Rolex Watches that Will Make You Nod’

Paris Hilton (model)

Paris Hilton’s great-grandfather was the founder of Hilton Hotels, and he frequently wore a Rolex. Following in his footsteps, Paris has been spotted with an Everrose gold Rolex 116505 with black dial.

116505

‘Paris Hilton Rockin’ A Rose Gold Rolex Daytona’

Jonah Hill (actor)

The actor Jonah Hill is a familiar face, having appeared in films such as ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ’21 Jump Street’. He has also been spotted with a 116508. When Jonah Hill and John Mayer began wearing this reference, it’s price skyrocketed.

116508

‘The Value of Jonah Hill’s Rolex Daytona Is Currently Exploding’

‘Jonah Hill Spotted Wearing John Mayer’s Rolex In New York City’

Auctions

Here is a list of the top 10 highest selling Rolex Daytonas sold at the auction houses Christie’s, Antiquorum, Phillips and Sotheby’s

Number 1

Phillips: Rolex 6239 (1968) (USD $17,752,500)

New York; 26 October 2017; LOT 8

The highest selling Daytona sold for over twice that of the second watch on our list. In fact, the sale is one of the highlights of the watch auction world in recent times. It was not only the highest selling Daytona ever, but also the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction up to that point.

It has the highly valued ‘Paul Newman’ dial; a dial that was originally called the ‘exotic’ dial. However, this particular watch was actually owned by the iconic actor himself. At the time he was given it, the Daytona was not as popular as it is today. Nevertheless, Newman cherished the watch and wore it regularly.

This was the very watch that Italian collectors saw Newman wear that led to them coining the term ‘Paul Newman’ for this dial configuration. For this reason, this watch can be thought of as the quintessential Paul Newman. The watch was purchased at the iconic New York Tiffany & Co. store and was in excellent condition.

Number 2

Phillips: Rolex 6265 (c. 1970) (CHF 5,937,500)

Geneva; 12 May 2018; LOT 8

This watch is the only white gold vintage Daytona ever found. Until this watch surfaced, it was thought that none with this case material were ever made. This example was made specially in 1970 for a German retailer. It was sold with an extravagant ‘bark-finished’ bracelet that was also made from white gold. The watch was given the name ‘Unicorn’ due to the fact that it was thought not to exist for so long. The price is further enhanced by the presence of a ‘Sigma’ dial, signifying that gold components were used on the watch.

Number 3

Phillips: Rolex 6263 (1969) (CHF 3,722,000)

Geneva; 13 – 14 May 2017; LOT 237

This yellow gold 6263 dates to the very earliest stages of the reference’s history, back when lots of experimental versions of the reference were released. It was thought for a long time that no yellow gold 6263s existed, but three examples have since surfaced. This makes this particular watch exceedingly rare. All three have the same early production date. There are a number of other interesting features, such as the MK 1 ‘millerighe’ pushers.

Number 4

Phillips: Rolex 6240 (c. 1966) (CHF 3,012,500)

Geneva; 12 May 2018; LOT 32

Like many of the watches on this list, this particular Daytona was given a special name. In this case, it was called ‘Neanderthal’, because it features a special dial that is a direct precursor to the coveted ‘Paul Newman’ dial. This gives some insight into the development of this special dial configuration. The main difference between the two is that this precursor has oversized registers, and a sole ‘ROLEX’ designation on the dial. This is a very unique watch that is historically important in the Daytona range.

Number 3

Phillips: Rolex 6263 (1969) (CHF 3,722,000)

Geneva; 13 – 14 May 2017; LOT 237

This yellow gold 6263 dates to the very earliest stages of the reference’s history, back when lots of experimental versions of the reference were released. It was thought for a long time that no yellow gold 6263s existed, but three examples have since surfaced. This makes this particular watch exceedingly rare. All three have the same early production date. There are a number of other interesting features, such as the MK 1 ‘millerighe’ pushers.

Number 5

Phillips: Rolex 6263 (1969) (CHF 1,985,000)

Geneva; 14 May 2016; LOT 31

This next watch is another very rare 6263. It is one of only two known ‘Oyster Sotto’ 6263s. This is the name given to Daytonas where the ‘Oyster’ designation is printed underneath the ‘Cosmograph’ designation on the dial. As with the last watch, it dates to the early experimental stage in the reference’s history. In addition to these features, the watch has acquired a ‘tropical’ hue over the years and also has MK 1.5 ‘millerighe’ pushers.

Number 6

Phillips: Rolex 6263 (c. 1974) (CHF 1,932,500)

Geneva; 12 May 2018; LOT 21

This 6263 was custom made for Arab royalty, and has a unique dial with Arabic-Indic numerals. It also has the highly sought after ‘sigma’ dial, which indicates that components such as the crown are made of white gold. The watch was given the name ‘Arabian Knight’ due to its Middle Eastern provenance.

Number 7

Phillips: Rolex 6263 (c. 1969) (CHF 1,662,500)

Geneva; 12 May 2018; LOT 14

This is the second Oyster Sotto 6263 to appear on our list, indicating how highly valued this dial configuration is. There are some small details in the font used for the ‘R’ in ‘Rolex’ and ‘H’ in ‘Cosmograph’ that are significant to collectors. The watch has a MK1 bezel and ‘millerighe’ pushers.

Number 8

Phillips: Rolex 6263 (1971) (CHF 1,325,000)

Geneva; 10 May 2015; LOT 214

Like the first watch on our list, this 6263 has a celebrity provenance. It was once owned by the famous rock guitarist Eric Clapton. Since the turn of the 21st century, it has been sold several times, and on each occasion its price has climbed dramatically. At the time of this 2015 sale, the watch had the record for the highest selling Rolex ever. Although the seven above have since overtaken it, it is still an important watch in the history of Daytona auctions.

Possibly a more important factor contributing to the price than the celebrity provenance is the special ‘Albino’ dial. On these dials, both the dial and subsidiary dial are silver in colour. This gives the watch a substantially different look than the more common black and white Daytona dials. It is an incredibly rare dial configuration, and this rarity is reflected in the price.

Number 9

Phillips: Rolex 6239 (1966) (CHF 1,085,000)

Geneva; 14 May 2016; LOT 88

This is a very unique watch that includes a blue pulsation scale used to measure a patient’s heartbeat. It was almost certainly made specially for a physician, earning it the name ‘The Doctor’. In order to accommodate this scale, certain details on the dial had to be rearranged, giving it a completely new appearance. In addition to rarity, the fantastic condition of the piece contributed to the remarkable sale price.

Number 10

Sotheby’s: Rolex 6239 (c. 1969) (CHF 951,000)

Geneva; 13 May 2018; LOT 276

Last on our list is a classic 6239 with a three-colour exotic Panda Paul Newman dial. It has the ‘tropical’ patina loved by collectors on both the dial and subdials. Most likely, what really earned it it’s place on this list is the fact that it was sold as what is called a ‘full set’. This means that the watch came with its original guarantee, original invoice, and original box. It is rare to see such a prestigious watch come with all of this documentation, and this is reflected in the price.  

Videos

Here is a selection of some of the most interesting videos online that feature the Rolex Daytona