A lot has been written to try to explain the birth of the

The DAYTONA boom started in Italy in 1985, when a magazine published on its cover the photo of G. Agnelli, arm resting on the mast of a boat, wearing a classic 6263 with light-coloured dial. A simple photo that would breath new life into a model that for 22 years had never really found its public.

Birth of the greatest watch-making myth of all

The Watch Quote™ - February 20th, 2004

In 1963, production of the COSMOGRAPH began with the reference 6239, initially with a VALJOUX 72B movement, and identical to that of the 6238 models.

The tachometric scale engraved onto the bezel and counters in a different colour to that of the dial (black or more rarely brown on light coloured dials, mat white or brilliant sun, silver or white/cream on black dials.)
This colour contrast fulfilled the need to check time more easily in bad visibility, for example during motor races.
The oldest examples have a bezel for speed measurement with graduations of up to 300km per hour instead of 200, and silver counters on a black dial for the steel version. In some cases the T on
each side of the word “Swiss” are not present.
The two tiny letters sometimes present in the 6239 and in subsequent models next to the two Ts are Sigma (letter S in the Greek alphabet) to indicate that the dial, though belonging to a model in steel, had indices applied in gold, the standard of manufacture for all gold cases (14 or 18 carat).

• Production was obviously not adequate for the paranoia of today’s collectors and there is no written law saying that a 1964 example (with a case number hardly greater than a million) should include all the above elements.
All information should be read by relying on good sense, and when you value a watch it is always advisable to pay attention to the authenticity of the case, the back, the dial and the movement rather than to the colour of the counters or of the tachometric scale engraved to the bezel (always assuming that it’s the original)
• In many cases, dials and bezels have been replaced over the years, either due to damage, or according to the owner’s taste.
While on this subject, it is interesting to note what happened on the North American market when the 6239 arrived.

Official retailers delivered a number of pre-DAYTONA watches with the bezel and dial of the 6239, following customer orders. As the new model was not yet available, these brought up to date the previous models. The result is a watch that in the eyes of today’s collectors should be returned as soon as possible to its original condition.

The inscription DAYTONA on the dial, initially aimed only at the English market, appeared on a ROLEX advert in 1964, when production began.
ROLEX sponsored an automobile competition on this famous circuit and legend relates that an example in stainless steel was given to all the participants and a gold version to the winner of the race.

Before 1967, The DAYTONA inscription was at the top, under COSMOGRAPH with letters of varying size and /or separated from each other, but as from that year, it appeared on the counter at 6 o’clock.
As to the colour of the inscriptions for the models in steel, also taking into account successive models, it should be remembered that:

On the earliest black dials, the inscriptions were light in colour, either white or grey (in other words, the same or very similar to those of the minute counter and other words) and red on more recent examples.
You can also find dark inscriptions on the dials, brown or black for the earlier years, then later, red.

Appearance of the first screw-in buttons.

In 1965, the first model with screw-in buttons was produced, and production continued until 1969 with the 722 movement.
This watch was one of the mysterious objects produced by ROLEX for a limited period and appeared only rarely in catalogs of the time.
Several theories have been put forward as to the introduction of these screw-in buttons:
The most substantiated seems to be to prevent the accidental starting up of chronograph functions in high-risk situations (diving, presence of dust or other aggressive material). For the first time, the OYSTER inscription reappeared on the dial of the 6240, previously only present on the 6238 and chronometers with pump buttons.

The OYSTER qualification, guaranteeing improved water resistance, was due to the presence of screw-in buttons as well as a 7mm winding crown from the 700 series, instead of the 6mm 600 series mounted on examples equipped with pump buttons.
This model is mainly available with a black Bakelite bezel, but it is quite probable that ROLEX produced the first examples (1965/67) with the metal 6239 bezel, as the first model with standard Bakelite bezel 6241 that stayed in production from 1967 to 1970, was identical in every way to the 6239, except for the bezel.

The movement which ran these three models in the latter half of the 60s (including the 6239) was still the 722 derived from the 72B from which it retains the same number of alternations per hour-18,000.
Returning to the 6240, it should be remembered that examples in steel with dark-coloured dial, the earliest, were available with silver-coloured counters, and those with light coloured dials with brown counters too.
This model was probably produced for a fairly long period but in limited numbers, as ROLEX did not expect a favourable market reaction.
According to official retailers at the time, many clients didn’t buy COSMOGRAPHS for the following reasons:
They were afraid of damaging their shirts with the large-size buttons that stuck out.
They felt that the bigger the watch, the less attractive it became.
They felt that the dials differed too much from others in production at the time.

At the start of the 70s, other mysterious objects arrived on the market, with rare reference numbers, the 6262, produced only in 1970, and the 6264, produced from 1970 to 1972.
The first had the 6239 bezel and the second the 6241 bezel, but both always and exclusively with screw-in buttons.

These two references introduced the new caliber 727 with 19,800 alternations per hour, more carefully produced and precise than the 72B/722 of previous models.
Around 1970, the simultaneous presence on the market of a large number of references confirms that ROLEX had not yet decided which to go with, the classic or screw-in button.
On the subject of references 6262 and 6264, it must be remembered that the models in steel were also available with a rare black dial, with signs and inscriptions in silver, with the exception of the word DAYTONA, which was still in matt grey pearl.

All these references are rather confusing for today’s collectors, as the reference number on the back differs form that on the case on around 50% of the COSMOGRAPHS still in circulation.

These differences may be:
A perfectly original case-back marked with for example the initials C.R.S. (the ROLEX maker’s/supplier’s identification) and the other standard inscriptions but which don’t include the model reference.
Case-back with double reference (one written on top of the other, and erased by the classic 3 or 4 horizontal lines)
Case-back with different reference than the one marked on the case, as detailed above.

It is possible to presume that during watch assembly, identification procedures for COSMOGRAPH case-backs was as follows:

• Assembly of case-back with number identical to case.
• Where not available, assembly with different but congruent number, i.e. different reference but carrying the same type of bezel (e.g. 6239 with case 6262, or 6241 with case 6263 etc.)
• Where not available:
1-superposition of numbers (e.g. 6264 written 6263 with 6263 case)
2-Assembly of anonymous case-back
3-Assembly of any other case-back

So-called “false” case-backs are always linked to the logic of production.
The only well-founded concern in the domain must be the originality of the case-back, which can always be referred to an approved ROLEX dealer if there is any doubt.

Before examining models with screw-in buttons, it might be an opportune moment to mention PAUL NEWMAN.


First, it should be remembered that appellations on the dial are not official, as ROLEX has never given them specific names, and considers them to be standard dials.
Other terms, such as Exotic or Tropical, have also been given to these dials by collectors.

The term PAUL NEWMAN comes from the fact that the actor wore a stainless steel 6239 with an unusual dial for the film CARRERA MEXICANA in 1970.

When this watch appeared on the market almost at the same time as the COSMOGRAPH, enthusiasm among buyers was by no means unanimous, and at the request of buyers, some dealers in the 1970s were obliged to replace the PAIL NEWMAN dial with a normal dial.

Some years on, this attitude changed, and from the mid-eighties, the dial began to become part of the collective imagination of ROLEX enthusiasts.

In 1990, according to an American catalog of second hand watches, the COSMOGRAPH PAUL NEWMAN had acquired a value of double that of the same model with a standard dial.

The PAUL NEWMAN dial went with the COSMOGRAPH throughout almost all the production period of the watch, from 1963 to 1978, and was originally destined for the American market, which explains the inscription DAYTONA on nearly all examples with pump buttons and on every available reference of the time.

Given that the number of original PAUL NEWMAN dials that can be found nowadays is somewhat reduced in comparison to other models, we can conclude that their production must have been less than that of other standard dials.

This might also be explained by the difficulties in making the dial due to several factors.

• The presence of a small step between the plane of the main dial and the external circular crown that protects the scale of the 1/5-second chrono.
• The auxiliary counter sub-dials are spiralled instead of simply milled like the standard COSMOGRAPH dials, which had just a single right angle between the plane of the dial and that of the counters, two in the case of the PAUL NEWMAN.
• Dial more complex to print because of the colour contrast required between the zones.

With no official data, we can only guess at the total number of watches produced with this dial, without taking into account changes and replacements.
Semi-official rumours say 200 watches, a plausible figure for dials with the OYSTER inscription (models with screw-in buttons), which are rarer than the others.

The highest density of ROLEX from this time i.e. the highest ratio COSMOGRAPH/inhabitant, DAYTONA in particular, is probably Italy. This is obviously due to the fact that in the course of the last fifteen years, the European market has gathered up all the standard and PAUL NEWMAN models on the American market, including in South America, where many gold models turned up, sometimes 18 carat gold versions.

On the basis of production of the 6238 (around 3,600 in 7 years, i.e. 500 per year, a generally accepted and very plausible figure) and considering that annual ROLEX production doubled in the 60s, we can estimate that the total number of COSMOGRAPHS with pump buttons is around 10,000 from the period 1963 to 1972.
From this, we can put the number of PAUL NEWMANs at 1,000, with the reference with pump button, by calculating that the ratio of these standards is 1 in 10, including those in 14 or 18 carat gold.

As for models with screw-in button, i.e. 6263 and 6265 produced from 1971 to 1978, (plus the 6240), annual production of the COSMOGRAPH having increased again compared to the previous decade, a ratio of 1 to 4 seems plausible. This means around 250 PAUL NEWMANs for the 3 references.

The dials

For the stainless steel versions:
• Light-coloured main dial (white or cream) black counters and external crown with white tachometric scale
• Light coloured main dial, black counters, red external crown with light-coloured enamelled scale (rarer variant for the pump button versions)
• Light-coloured main dial black counters, brown external crown with light-coloured enamelled scale (rarer variant for the pump button versions)
• Black main dial, counters in white or cream, white or cream external crown with red enamelled scale.

For gold versions:
• Champagne main dial, black counters, black external crown with gilded enamelled scale.
• Black main dial, champagne counters, light-coloured external crown with dark enamelled scale.

Production of the final version of the COSMOGRAPH with manual winder began in 1971.
References are 6263 and 6265 with screw-in buttons and 21,600 alternations per hour, available on the market from dealers until 1987.

The fact that production stopped in 1978 but that more recent examples have cases with a number of over 9 digits (1986 to 1987) is because the cases where only numbered at the moment the watch went into circulation (it was then the task of the national subsidiary or directly the dealer’s task to put the number on the watch.)

The only difference between the two references is the bezel (Bakelite for the 6263, and stainless steel for the 6265.)
The base reference has to be the 6263, given that a number of the most recent 6265s have a case-back marked 6263.

• The wheel-bridge in the centre in the most recent examples can come without the words FAB SUISSE/SWISS-MADE, but even in this case it is possible to check that it is an original by checking to see whether it has been brought up to ROLEX standards (i.e. if the satin finish and edges match the modification criteria that ROLEX brought to raw materials from VALJOUX.
• Examples in gold (especially the most recent) have a mechanism that was brought up to chronometer standard (quality seen on the dial with the word OYSTER, which in this case will carry the word COSMOGRAPH instead of DAYTONA above the counter at 6 o’clock.)
• Water resistance goes from 165 ft. in the first case to 330 ft. in the second, even though it is advised not to check this under water.

As for the dials, there are no new aspects to clarify.

• In stainless steel: black matt dial (or more rarely, brown), brilliant satin-finish silvered or gilded dial.
• In gold: black or champagne dial with matt finishes.

Most dials carry the word DAYTONA, despite some differences between the 1970s and 1980s examples: in stainless steel with light-coloured dial the size of the letters is greater in the in older models (recent models usually have finer letters) whereas in the case of those with a black dial, it is the tone of the colour that changes, going from dark red to the maroon characteristic of recent production (due to direct printing of red on black instead of a two-step process, i.e. white on black then red on black.)

Also, to check the authenticity of the dial, it is a good idea to concentrate more on the authenticity of the various inscriptions (types of characters and varnishes used, height of letters in relation to plane), rather than the series carrying the inscription DAYTONA.

While on the subject, it should be remembered that according to another legend, the 6263/6265 COSMOGRAPH supplied in the 1980s to Peruvian Aviation must not carry the inscription DAYTONA on the dial.
To complete this information concerning the manual COSMOGRAPHS, the reference 6269, produced in very small numbers in the 1980s, should briefly be brought to mind. Their characteristics include an 18 carat gold case, a diamond-studded dial and bezel, and sapphire signs.


In 1987, the manual COSMOGRAPHS disappeared definitively from the catalog and for the first time the reference of the ROLEX chronograph with sapphire crystal appeared.

This was the famous automatic recharge model with the base reference 16520 (in stainless steel.)

This model is equipped with the ROLEX caliber 4030, which comes from the ZENITH EL PRIMERO 400, but it includes so many modifications and improvements that it should be a separate caliber.

Each piece has the ROLEX standard of manufacture, i.e. better quality than the original (pearl-finish bridges and plates.)

Furthermore, the anti-magnetic spring (in Glucydur like the all instruments from VALJOUX) with a frequency reduced to 28,800 alternations per hour, a Breguet rather than a flat spiral, and MICROSTELLA instead of screw adjustment.

Versions in gold and stainless steel 16523, yellow gold and white gold on leather, each with different types of dial would appear successively, including several coloured variants destined for women.
The developments brought about to the case and bezel of white gold models prefigured the launch of the new COSMOGRAPH.
Modifications and technical improvements apart, the model was especially significant for the world of watch making for its unique success the world over.

The beginning of the total ROLEX

In 2000, the new millennium sounded the death knoll of the DAYTONA El Primero after 13 years of union.
By developing its own chronograph movement, ROLEX became autonomous for 100% of production.
The arrival on the market of the new reference 116520 in stainless steel is a real event in the watch making world.

There are of course the pros and the antis, those who fall in love right away with the new model and those who completely reject it.
Other than the new movement, the new DAYTONA maintains continuity, though completely reworked.
The second hand at 6 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock, a different shape and polishing, new generation bracelet and a perfect balance, all make the 116520 a very successful timepiece.
17 years ago, the look of the DAYTONA automatic was a shock to a public used to chronographs designed to be as invisible as possible, both in size and in the aesthetics of the dial.
After all, by bringing them up to date, this dial developed the aesthetic criteria that had inspired their manual predecessor, i.e. a watch made not only to be worn, but more especially to be seen, immediately, a watch that is recognizable and desirable for those who didn’t possess one.

From Daytona
to the Cosmograph Daytona

a lot
very much indeed
not at all

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