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This one is not new in fact. It dates back to the summer of 2015. But we had so much fun back then that I immediately decided to re-post it, when I stumbled across it during a recent file cleanup. I realize, I was bigger then despite the smarter pizza and pasta recipes...


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60 Years On: Rolex Cosmograph Daytona for Beginners I

Kronberg, October 22nd, 2023

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 'Paul Newman Oyster Sotto Tropicalized'
This year's fall season for collector's watches kicked off with the Monaco Legend Group, where the top lot was one of the most desirable variants of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: a 'Paul Newman Oyster Sotto' with a fascinating face that has patinated to a beautiful chocolate tone.
The icon of the swiss watch industry per se also celebrates it's 60th anniversary these days. Good reasons to start sharing the passion in a little sequence of essays where I summarize what I know so far.

Image 1: A dream watch; the ultra rare and amazingly beautiful, inverse 'Paul Newman- Oyster Sotto -Tropicalized' exotic dial, the strong presence of the reference 6263 on the wrist, the correct and attractive condition and the known provenance. © Monaco Legend Group

Image 2: Similar not the same; Ref. 6263, case 2.197.852 (left), case 2.085.563 (right): Few 'Oyster Sottos' are known. The serial numbers fall within a small range, still the 'Rolex' logos clearly differ between the two only known 'tropicalized 'examples. Go figure! © Monaco Legend Group, © Phillips


I can still recall how excited I was when I held the only other similar example in my hands for the first time. It was during Phillips' thematic auction 'Start, Stop, Reset' in the spring of 2016. The room was like electrified when the lot was called. It was the first Daytona to break through the CHF 1 million mark. 'Crazy, crazy, crazy' was the comment of a well known dealer from Miami who sat next to me back at the time.

Meanwhile, 7 digit bits for Daytonas are no longer rare. The record price of $ 17.8 million for the 'Paul Newman' of the actor and race car driver himself has forever changed the dynamics of the market.

Image 3: Paul Newman and his Rolex ©Phillips

The importance of Rolex chronographs for collectors today comes as a surprise, considering chronographs have long been treated a step child by the Brand. The success of Rolex is based on achievements in the areas of mechanical wrist watch precision (Chronometer), water tight cases ('Oyster') and automatic winding ('Perpetual'). The first 'Oyster Perpetual' with chronometer certificate was already introduced in 1931. In contrast, the first certified chronograph only came out in the 1970's. Truly waterproof cases were launched just a couple years earlier when the traditional pump pushers were replaced by a screw down design. The first automatic chronograph was presented as late as 1988 and the movement was still an 'ebauche'. Fans had to wait until the Millennium to purchase a true Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronograph with manufacture movement - close to 4 decades after the introduction of the Oyster Perpetual concept.

Image 4: my first Daytona! It has been more than 20 years since it was handed over to me by Wempe‘s President of  North America, Rüdiger ‚Rudy‘ Albers. I was very excited at that moment. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, Model11650 with Rolex proprietary movement 4130. The registers begin to take on a most attractive brass tone

Let's go back to the beginnings. Early in the 1960's, there was only one true chronograph in the range of Rolex, the reference 6234. It's sister model ref. 6236 was the last 'Dato Compax' with annual calendar in the catalogue of the Brand.  In 1962, model 6234 was replaced by the reference 6238 and model 6236 was discontinued. Another year later, the model 6239 appeared. This reference would later become the famed 'Rolex Cosmograph Daytona'.  

All three models, 6234, 6238 and 6239 had identical case designs and were visually only different by their dials, hands and bezels. Even the crowns and crystals were the same. Later on, the case profile of the model 6239 would change slightly.
Models 6238 and 6239 were advanced over the original model 6234 by their upgraded  movement. Based on the ebauche Valjoux 72 VZH, model 6234 received a Breguet balance spring (part 722A), replacing the factory flat spring (part 721). The balance staff was additionally protected by a shock absorber type 'Kif Flector'. Models 6238 and 6239 were originally fitted with calibers 72B and later caliber 722 which where further upgraded with patented 'microstella' adjustment screws in the balance wheel (part 722B) that replaced the regulator on the balance cock. The 'KIF Flector' shock absorber was later and/ or in service replaced by the model 'Inca Bloc'.

Image 5: Movement 72A, detail of movement 72A, regulator on the balance cock and 'Kif Flector' shock protector, 72 B with 'Micro Stella' regluating screws in the balance wheel. 722 'ROW' with 'Inca Bloc' shock protector. 'ROW' was engraved into the balance cock of watches deemed for the US market.

Both models, 6234 and 6238 but also references 6239 with serial numbers below a million can still count as 'Pre Daytonas' since none of them carried the 'Daytona' name on the dial. Commonly, just the models 6238 and 6234 are nicknamed 'Pre Daytona'.

Image 6: ‚Pre Daytonas‘, left to right: ref. 6234 case 688637 ©Antiquorum, ref. 6238 case 964606 ‚Underline‘ ©Antiquorum, ref. 6239 case 923'156 ‚Double Swiss Underline‘ ©Sotheby's. Overlapping serial numbers: ref. 6238 in traditional graphics is younger than model 6239 to its right!

The first examples of model 6239, starting with serial numbers around 923.000 already bore features that would become typical of the Daytona later: the bezel was engraved with the tachymeter scale and the registers were contrasting to the remainder of the dial.  The face of the watch appeared much more modern, organized and legible. That was necessary as Omega had launched its famed 'Speedmaster' chronograph already 5 years earlier. The model already had an engraved bezel, however it's dial design was monochrome black.

Double Swiss Underline
Further typical features of examples with serial numbers below a million are the 'Double Swiss' and the 'Underline' below the model name 'Cosmograph'. It was often speculated, the 'Double Swiss' came about because the dials had initially been deemed for watches with a larger diameter. That seems unlikely however, since at that point in time, all Rolex chronographs had identical case designs.

Image 7: ref. 6239, case 923'156, ‚Double Swiss Underline’ ©Sotheby’s

It seems certain however, that the 'Underline' in combination with the 'Swiss' only signature signals that instead of Radium, Tritium is used as luminous material. Tritium is much less radioactive than Radium and has a shorter half  life period too. That's why the Geiger counter reacts way less with Tritium dials. The assumption is that the 'Swiss' dials were remnants from the Radium age and the 'Underline' was added to communicate that Tritium was used for the luminous accents instead of Radium.

Early pieces of reference 6239 are valuable, when they come with the correct '275 Intermediate' bezel, the early narrow baton hands and of course a clean, evenly patinated dial. The surface of these dials has a grainee finish and reminds of Patek's off white 'opalin argentée' dials from the 1950s and 60s. In combination with the domed 'Tropic 21' crystal, a very elegant look arises: clearly a sports watch but not ostentatious at all.

Correct dials can be identified from the backside as the indices are not riveted on but rather soldered on to the dial. The pearlcrown in contrast is riveted as can be seen by its two small drilling holes. From the onset, these dials were supplied by Singer while the model 6238 in gold was also delivered with Stern dials up until the second half of the 1960's.

Image 8: Ref. 6239 ‚Double Swiss Underline’ case 923'192, ©Christies

Rolex Cosmograph

In the beginning, model 6239 was simply called 'Cosmograph'. The name was originally registered for the legendary reference 6062 with automatic winding, annual calendar and moonphases. Possibly, the name was chosen because of the wonderfully finished enamel moonwheel with starry skies. However, the name was only used in advertising and not on the dial. It could thus be recycled for the reference 6239.

Image 9: Rolex ‘Cosmograph’ Ref. 6062 case788634 rosé gold ©Rolex, ©Antiquorum

The most likely explanation for choosing the name 'Cosmograph' on the dials of the chronographs seems to be the space rush that began in the early 1960s when J.F.Kennedy declared his intention to go to the moon. The 'racing territory' was initially occupied by Omega's 'Speedmaster'. It is interesting to note, that the Daytona now is the choice of race drivers around the world while the Speedmaster ended up being the 'Moonwatch'.

The 1950's and 60' were the golden years of post war sportscar racing. Endless stories can be told of the engineers, their machines and the heroes that tamed them. Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and Le Mans set the scene for the epic fight between Mercedes and Ferrari that ended in the catastrophe of Le Mans. A silver arrow took off right in front of the main stand and took the lives of 84 spectators. Mercedes pulled back from sportscar racing after. From there on, Ferrari dominated the world championships for almost a decade with their 'Colombo' V-12 engines and the brilliant constructor Mauro Forghieri.

Image 10: Le Mans 1962, last victory of Ferraris grand Testa Rossa und GTO front engine 12-cylinders ©Gasolinasuper, ©Motorsportimages

But success is never final: Enzo Ferrari's initial arrogance towards the middle engine design developed by the British melted the innovation gap over competition down. The financially more developed US car industry discovered sportscar racing as advertising channel and started the development of competitive vehicles. Carroll Shelby, constructor of the archaic 'Shelby Cobra' was engaged by Henry Ford II to bring the FIA world championship title to the new world. This was achieved shortly after in 1966. The same year, Daytona introduced the 24 hour format in line with the FIA regulations. Ford won there as well as in Le Mans where Ford GT's took positions one, two and three.  

Image 11: Le Mans 1966: positions one, two and three for Ford GT V 8 / 7 liter middle engine sportscars ©motorsport

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

There is speculation, the Daytona was originally called 'Le Mans'. However, there is no convincing evidence. It is more likely that Rolex realized that the US are the bigger market. Additionally, it became already apparent that Enzo Ferrari would be dethroned by Ford in sportscar racing.

Another hint is the 'ROW' engravement that very often appears on the balance cock of examples with low serial numbers. It signals the determination of the watch for the US market (image 5).

Rolex had a long standing relation with Daytona that went back the to the pre-war period. The early Brand ambassador Sir Malcolm Campbell used the track in Daytona Beach 1933 and 1935 to break the landbound speed record in his Roll Royce powered Bluebird. He accelerated the vehicle to 300 miles per hour over the one mile distance.

Image 12: Sir Malcolm Campbell and his Bluebird, © Rolex, ©floridamemory

Very likely, the relation between Rolex and the strong man behind Daytona, Bill France goes back to these times. France was the architect behind developing the sleepy beach track into a global Brand. That was achieved, although the course is rather short and simple. At the same time, it is super fast, so that no stories of pilots are known that would have fallen asleep during the race. 

Image13: Rolex ad with Bill France, ©Rolex

Starting from serial numbers over 1 million, the 'Rolex Cosmograph Daytona' came to life in 1964. The 'Daytona' logo still appears rather sober and is not used consistently across the entire production yet.  There are more subtle differences to the early examples: the bezel still calibrated to 300 units but the '275' is omitted. The markers become shorter and interchange with dots. The steel model is still available with a silver or a black dial. The silver version now has a sun burst ('soleigh') finish to better meet the contemporary taste.

Image 14: the first examples with 'Daytona' dials appeared with case numbers around 1.1 mio., (left case1’083'385, right case 1'091'031) the lettering 'floats' below the 'Cosmograph', The case numbers are less than 8.000 apart but different plates were used to print the Rolex logo, ©Christies

Part 2 of my little series '60 years on; Rolex Cosmograph Daytona for Beginners' will introduce the models 6240 and 6241 that were conceived with new, larger acrylic bezels. Stay tuned.


Attachments ©Rolex

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Truly, A Mid-Summernight's Dream

Rome, June 24th, 2023

After already having us at the Watches and Wonders in March, Van Cleef & Arpels invited us to the presentation of their new haute joaillerie collection in Rome on June 24th. We feel deeply indebted to Tatyana, Ralf, Philip, Jülide and Pinar for putting us on the guest list of this wonderful event.

Ralf Graeser of Van Cleef at Villa Medici, June 25th, 2023

The invitation spoke for itself. Receiving a piece of art like this already communicates, this will be special. Still, I needed to convince Sandra to go.

She never regretted coming along. Friday after work, a driver picked us up from our home to take us to the airport. When we arrived in Rome, we were taken to the storied 'Hassler' located atop the Spanish Steps. We were in Rome many times during my first years at Colgate but had not been back for a long time. It was fantastic to return on a mild summer night like this!

After a quiet rooftop dinner, a refreshing rest and an extended breakfast in the patio of the hotel, we did not need to hurry to be ready for a visit to a family-owned winery, not too far from the city.

Of course, we arrived back to the hotel later than expected, which saved me shopping the old town in oven type temperatures - for now. The mood remained upbeat, since the wine tasting was such a nice experience. Waiving the shops also meant having enough time to get ready for the 'Grand Tour'. They actually sent stylists to our hotel room!

None of this felt intimidating and we were eagerly expecting what was to come when we re-joined our company from Van Cleef in the lobby.

The venue of the main event was the Villa Medici, conveniently located just a few steps away from the Hassler. While in the heart of Rome, the property is home to the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, hence a very fitting place to host the presentation of a new line of jewelry by the maison. Although just a short walk away, they took us by golf carts, so we stay chilled!

Welcomed by the host of the event, Mme. Stéphanie Rault, we embarked on our Grand Tour. The term 'Grand Tour' stems from the times when the upspring of the well-to-do were sent on an extended journey, usually sponsored by their mothers. The idea was to gain meaningful experience (of all sorts) before entering adult life. This was achieved by travelling to 8 different locations, never running out of cash. Johann von Goethe was among the lucky ones. London, Paris, Venice and Baden-Baden (not because they have a 'Roomers' now too there...) were some of the places that were set to scene in the garden of the Villa. Each destination presented the visitor with examples from the new collection.

Even those of us, who are not into gems weren't disappointed. Those who are, were bracing for focus...

Final stop was the breath taking terrace of the beautiful 14th century structure, overlooking the ancient city of Rome.

After a number of champagnes, everyone was ready for dinner. This was prepared by 3-star chef Emmanuel Renaut of the popular 'Flocons de Sel' in Megève, who had already prepared the meal at the 'Kiosque des Bastions' during the Watches and Wonders in Geneva. The meal was visually at least as pleasing as it was tasty. The jewellery line was presented by the very sweet models like in a fashion show.

The final chapter of the journey was the quite impressive performance of an opera singer who sang, sitting on a swing hanging from a balloon that slowly rose before the eyes of the stunned audience.

Instead of flying us home, Ralf and Pinar took the time to take us through the exhibition the next day. The display of jewelry was mind-boggling in itself. Not only did it comprise the new collection, it also featured such an extensive compilation of historic pieces that I was wondering, what insurance would ever cover an event like this. Everything was in the Villa for at least three days!

By the way, 85% of the examples of the new collection were sold on the spot.

Highlight of the day was the opportunity for Sandra to try on a couple of the items herself. They looked too good on her!

The remaining time was reserved to browse the shops with a well deserved female bias, as Domenica, my beloved vintage watch stores are chiuso anyways.

As if one could ever forget this amazing weekend, a wonderful bouquet of flowers was sent to our home later on. It was ordered from a well known florist in Sachsenhausen that we would only allow ourselves on special occasions.

Now, you may wonder how I got there. Being at the watch fair in March was owed to my writing. Being in Rome however, felt like real friendship. I am certainly not the Richard Burton type and not one who could spend six digits out of impulse. I feel no pressure to become an haute joaillerie customer but I am now a fan of Van Cleef & Arpels. Fortunately, they have different ranges of beautiful Jewelry to choose from!




Mail: Oliver Knop, Mittelweg 171a, 20148 Hamburg, Germany

Thank You!

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