The 6239 is the First and Some Say the Best Reference in Rolex’s Daytona line
From its launch in 1963 up to the release of the Yacht Master in 1992 the Daytona was Rolex’s only chronograph watch. The Rolex 6239 was the very first reference in this Daytona line. The chronographs released prior to 1963 did not have a single name at the time, but are known today as pre-Daytonas. Although the 6239 does share some similarities with these earlier watches, it ultimately marked a turning point in the history of the Rolex chronograph.
There was a lack of focus in Rolex’s chronograph range during the pre-Daytona period. The 6239 gave the Rolex chronograph watch line a focus and identity. All of the references that followed can be seen as iterations of its classic design. For this reason, it is perhaps the most historically important of all Daytona references.
The first Rolex chronograph was the reference 2303. It was released in 1926 and it has little in common with the 6239. It had a 34 millimeter case, two subdials, and no pushers. The chronograph is activated using the crown rather than pushers. The chronographs that followed this each got a little closer to the classic 6239 design.
The last pre-Daytona, the 6238, shares many of the features of the Daytona. The case has blown-up to 37mm, a size retained for the 6239. The 6238 and 6239 both have three subdials and the chronograph is operated using two pump pushers located on either side of the crown. Both also have an Oyster Twinlock 600 crown and a Valjoux 72B movement (at least on examples released prior to 1965).
However, a few big changes were made that completely altered the appearance of the watch, giving us the iconic Daytona we know today. First of all, the telemeter scale that appeared on some 6238s was completely phased out. In addition, the tachymeter scale was moved from the dial to an enlarged bezel. This uncluttered the dial and made the watch look chunkier.
Moreover, the monochromatic dial that was the norm during the pre-Daytona period was replaced with a new two-colour design. This came in two forms; either a white background and black subdials, or a black background and white subdials. These are called ‘Panda’ and ‘Reverse Panda’ respectively, and became classic dial layouts in the Daytona range.
Together, these changes produced a much cleaner appearance and a much more legible dial. It was also a much sportier watch than earlier Rolex chronographs.
In this section we outline the specifications of the Rolex Daytona 6239
Time, Chronograph, Tachymeter
Number of Watches Produced (Estimate)
Yellow Gold: 300
Oyster Twinlock 600
Domed plexiglass (‘Tropic 21’)
Calibrated metal with tachymeter engraved in black
60–>90 units/hour (5-unit intervals)
90–>200 units/hour (10-unit intervals)
200–>250 units/hour (25-unit intervals)
250–>300 units/hour (50-unit intervals)
Note: sigmas (σ) flanking the ‘T SWISS T’ designation at the 6 o’clock dial position indicates the hour markers are gold
‘ROLEX COSMOGRAPH’: 12 o’clock
‘DAYTONA’: In early examples appears below 12 o’clock designation. Later on appears above centre sub-dial in curved red text.
904L Stainless Steel, 14kt Yellow Gold, 18kt Yellow Gold
Oyster (but no screw-down pushers)
904L Stainless Steel, 14kt Yellow Gold, 18kt Yellow Gold
904L Stainless Steel, 14kt Yellow Gold, 18kt Yellow Gold
(Indicates date of production)
Letters: A to L = 1976 to 1987; VA to VF = 1976 to 1981
Numbers (not always present) : 1 to 12 = January to December
Rolex (adapted from the base movement Valjoux 72)
72B: c. 1963-1965
722: c. 1965-1967
722-1: c. 1967-1969
Number of Jewels
More Info on Rolex 6239’s Movements…
The Rolex 6239 has had three different movements over its production history, all based on the Valjoux 72. The 72B was used from 1963 to 1965 and the 722 from 1965 to 1967.
There are only very small differences between these two movements. Both are manual wind movements that run at 18000 vibrations per hour (vph), and both have a 48-hour power reserve and 17 jewels.
The 722-1 was used from 1967 to 1969, and has more substantial differences from its predecessors.
There are many different versions of the 6239, some of which are very rare and valuable
Rolex 6239 Cherry Logo
6239s are said to have a cherry logo if the ‘DAYTONA’ designation above the centre subdial is red. Red was only used as the standard colour for this designation when the 6263 and 6265 were released in 1969.
The red colour makes the dial look more stylish and modern. More importantly, the fact that it is only found on a small number of watches with this reference enhances the value of these watches considerably.
Most examples have a curved designation, not standard until the 6262 and 6264, which were also released around 1969-70.
Read more about Cherry Logo Daytonas here.
Rolex 6239 Double Swiss Underline
The earliest 6239s lack the ‘DAYTONA’ designation found on later examples. This is because the name ‘Daytona’ was not chosen by Rolex until later on. Originally, the watch was supposed to be called the ‘Le Mans’ and advertisements from the time feature this name.
On most of these early examples there is instead a small line under the ‘ROLEX COSMOGRAPH’ 12 o’clock designation. The line is silver in colour and is referred to as an ‘underline’ in collecting circles. It can be found on many different Rolex watches from late 1962 to early 1964 including the GMT, Submariner, Explorer, Daytona, and also some earlier Rolex chronographs such as the 6034 and 6234.
The release of the reference 6239 in 1963 stands right in the middle of this period, and many of these earliest 6239s exhibit the underline. The earliest 6239s are the most valuable anyway, but the prescence of the underline enhances the value even more.
The reason for it being there is not known for sure as Rolex has never confirmed this. However, it is highly likely that it indicates the use of tritium in the lume dots added above the indexes. Lume is the luminous radioactive paint dotted onto parts of dials to ensure that the watch is visible in the dark. Around this time there was a switch from using radium to the less radioactive and thus safer tritium. This switch was made largely due to new government regulations made at that time.
The ‘SWISS’ designation denotes the country of origin of the watch and is standard across the Daytona range. However, on these early examples you also often see the presence of a second ‘SWISS’ designation at 6 o’clock. Watches with this feature are referred to as ‘Double Swiss’. This is right down at the very bottom of the dial, and when the case is added it is obscured. You can only just see the top of it, and most people would never notice it at all. Again, this is not unique to the Daytona as it is found in other Rolex watch lines during this same short period around 1963.
The reason this second ‘SWISS’ designation is there is because the dials used on the earliest Daytonas were actually altered dials from earlier chronographs. However, since the bezel on the 6239 was larger than on these chronographs, the ‘SWISS’ designation on the dial was mostly obscured. This forced Rolex to add a second one higher up.
The reason these two features appear in the variant name ‘Double Swiss Underline’ is because in most Mark I 6239s they appear together. The term ‘Mark I’ is used to denote the earliest 6239s released in 1963. Some don’t have either, and on some you have only one of these features. A suggestion has been made that when it comes to these Mark I 6239s the ‘underline 6239s’ were for the U.S. market and ‘non-underline 6239s’ for the European market, but this has not been confirmed by Rolex.
Nevertheless, on most they do appear. According to respected Rolex authority Pucci Papaleo, the earliest Daytonas have a 922.900 serial number. Mark I’s with the Double Swiss and underline features usually have a serial number from 922.900 to 924000.
Mark I 6239s, and hence ‘Double Swiss Underline 6239s’, are incredibly rare. This is largely because they were only released during a short window around 1963 as described earlier. Also, since the Daytona was not a popular model when first released less of these first examples were released during this early phase. However, they are also highly prized by collectors. Collectors are always interested in the earliest examples of watch lines, and Mark I 6239s are the very first Daytonas ever released. Since the Daytona is such an iconic line, it is not surprising that that the Rolex 6239 Double Swiss Underline receives so much attention from watch enthusiasts. Watch enthusiast Christopher Beccan called it ‘iconic and just effortlessly cool’.
Having said that, most will not notice the small features, the small silver underline and the hidden second ‘SWISS’ designation, that identify this as a Mark I. For this reason, many may not feel it’s worth paying a premium over a normal example of a 6239.
Rolex 6239 Pulsation
On some 6239s there is a blue pulsation scale on the outer edge of the dial. Only a few examples with this scale have been found. Due to this rarity, it is not surprising that they have sold for remarkable sums at auction. Of all of the various scales found on watches, the pulsometer is one of the least used. This is because it is not really of any practical use to the general public.
Its purpose is the measurement of number of heartbeats per minute. A doctor will take a patient’s pulse, and start the chronograph function at the first heartbeat. When a particular number of heartbeats is reached, they stop the chronograph and the dial tells them the heartbeats per minute. For this watch the number they have to stop at is 15. Using this function, the doctor can work out the patient’s pulse rate without having to do the calculation in their head, saving time and effort in what might be a life or death situation. The lower this number is the less accurate the measurement will be. The number 15 was chosen because it is relatively short but still accurate enough for use. The handful of examples of this watch found were probably custom made for VIP doctors, for whom this is a useful feature in a watch.
The rest of the dial has been altered to accommodate this scale. This indicates that this was a completely custom-made dial, not simply an existing dial with the new scale printed onto it. The minute scale, hour markers, and ‘T-SWISS-T’ designation have all been altered. The movement of the hour markers further in towards the give the watch a more compact appearance. The ‘T-SWISS-T’ designation is smaller than normal. All of this combines to create a quite different looking dial.
Some may find the presence of the bright blue scale garish but others may appreciate it’s uniqueness. Blue is rarely found on the dials of Daytonas in general, so its presence is quite unusual. The colour was most likely chosen because it stands out so much against the rest of the dial, providing greater legibility for the doctors.
Rolex 6239 The Priest
Usually on black dial 6239s the ‘ROLEX’ designation is white and the ‘COSMOGRAPH’ designation is silver. However, on certain examples the ‘COSMOGRAPH’ designation is also white, creating a bi-colour dial. These are referred to as ‘The Priest’ because priests wear all black with a white collar at the top, just like these white designations at the top of the dial. 6239s with this dial type are very rare, and the bi-colour dial has a simplicity that is attractive in the eyes of many collectors.
The Daytona is a popular watch with celebrities, and this certainly applies to the reference 6239
Ryan Seacrest is one of the top television personalities in the United States. He is most well known as the host of ‘American Idol’, but has also been a news anchor on the E! network. He attended the 2015 Golden Globe Awards E! Red Carpet host, and chose to wear a stunning stainless-steel 6239 with white dial and black registers to the event.
Mario Andretti is one of the greatest race car drivers who has ever lived. He has won numerous important titles over a long and distinguished career. Andretti showed off his stainless steel 6239 with a standard black dial and white subdials to Hodinkee’s Jon Bues. The watch is in fantastic condition and would be sure to sell for a remarkable sum if it were ever auctioned.
The provenance is obviously extraordinary, but is made even more impressive thanks to the close connection Andretti has to the Daytona brand. Andretti won the Daytona 500 race that the watch is named after in 1967, and he was close friends with Paul Newman; the man who is more closely associated with the Daytona brand than anyone else.
In fact, Andretti attended the famous auction of Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona in 2017. Andretti says that his own watch was a gift, but he cannot remember who gave it to him.
Taiwanese singer-songwriter Will Pan was spotted wearing a 6239 Daytona in a publicity photo. Pan is well known singer in the world of Mandopop (pop music sung in Mandarin). He began his career hosting programs on Channel V, and starred in the TV series ‘Endless Love’. Since then, he has become a successful businessman in the fields of fashion and mobile games.
Here is a selection of some of the most interesting videos online that feature the Rolex 6239
From 4.34 onwards:
German with English subtitles, from 0:54 onwards:
From 1:14 onwards:
From 15:28 onwards: