By Fabrice Guéroux.As we approach the Rolex Daytona's sixtieth anniversary, we have been working hard to find and introduce you to the rarest possible models and products, i.e. special designs, and limited production periods.
The history of the legendary Rolex "Daytona" actually starts in 1963, a momentous year for Rolex. It marked the arrival of the most popular and sought-after sports timepiece among collectors, and it was not until 1964 that "Daytona" would appear on its dial. Robust, precise and highly legible, this watch was designed to meet the growing interest in motor racing at that time. This was one of the main reasons why Rolex marketed the model in the United States for a short period of time before bringing it to Europe.
Predominantly available in stainless steel, the Rolex Cosmograph reference 6239 was produced in approximately 14,000 pieces. Of these 14,000 pieces, three models stand out for their rarity:
- Rolex 6239 "Double Swiss"
- Rolex 6239 or 18k et 14k
- Rolex 6239 cadran "Paul Newman"
In 1963, the model was launched with a special feature on the dial and bezel that made it a very rare piece: a "Double Swiss" dial and a 300-unit "250/275/300" bezel, all in one year. Here are some explanations...
The "Double Swiss" dials are marked by the presence of two "SWISS" markings at 6 o'clock. One of them is visible, the other is hidden by the new case. This feature is a direct result of the typical Rolex manufacturing process at the time. In order to save on production costs, these already stamped dials will be used for some of the first batches of the new reference 6239. This is to ensure proper management/ evaluation of new dial production, since the model's success was still unknown. Rolex then added a second "SWISS" on these dials so that it becomes readable despite the new case cover. Let's call it a "fortunate" accident that gives it its charm today.
Because they are so rare, Double Swiss watches are highly sought after and very popular among Rolex collectors.
This dial, at the time, was made available with either a white or black background but there are four different versions, even if the rarity factor of these different color dials doesn’t influence their rarity.
- White dial "underlined" - underlined with a line under ROLEX/COSMOGRAPH
- Black dial "underlined" - underlined with a line under ROLEX/COSMOGRAPH
- White dial "no-underline" - not underlined
- Black dial "no-underline" - not underlined
With regards to what was happening on the back of the case for the first series, the old reference 6238 was used, until stocks were depleted. Only then after were the new production batches stamped with "6239".
Throw in a special "250/275/300" graduated bezel available only that year (the "275" which disappeared after 1964), and you have what can be described as a very rare collector's watch. How many are left on the market today, we'll let you have a guess... very very few.
"SWISS" mark at 6 o'clock
While the 6239 is best known in its steel/"Paul Newman" dial design, the yellow gold version is much rarer. Only about 300 were made in 14k and 18k yellow gold from the entire production run. Once again, no need to guess how many of these timepieces are available on the market today.
Intended for a different type of clientele, the reference 6239/8 (code: 8 for gold) is available in several versions at the time:
- 18k and 14k gold
- Black dial - gold sub-counters
- Champagne dial - black sub-counters
Some very rare versions have been inventoried, such as the 6239 "30 pulses", called "Crazy Doc", which belonged to Eric Clapton and was sold for 1,724,000 Swiss francs at Phillips.
Rolex also introduced a few watches with exotic "Paul Newman" dials on the gold version.
The strap that came with the watch was a polished/brushed riveted Oyster strap. An incredibly aesthetic bracelet that is perfectly proportionate to this sporty watch.
Calibre 722-1 from ref. 6239/8
"polished/brushed" riveted bracelet from 6239/8
The Rolex Valjoux 72B movement is an upgrade from the 72A, found on the pre-Daytona 6034 and 6234. Rolex changed its balance system and created the famous Rolex Microstella adjustable inertia balance: a pair of screws located on the balance wheel, allowing the inertia to be adjusted by acting directly on the frequency of the movement.
The Rolex Valjoux 722 movement is an upgrade from the 72B. Little changes were brought to this movement except, a Kif anti-shock system to improve the balance.
The last upgrade to this movement, in 1967, the latest generation Rolex Daytona 6239 is powered by the new 722-1 movement. Many movements from this generation of timepieces had a guard spring that protected the balance spring from the balance wheel. This spring consists of a small metal plate that prevents the balance spring from slipping in the event of an impact.
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