Sotheby’s, London, March 8 2016
Sold for: £20,625
The legendary status of Rolex Cosmograph Daytonas fitted with “Paul Newman” exotic dials has sent values of the best examples soaring into the stratosphere. The most paid so far is £673,000 at Christie’s in 2013 for a 1969 example in which the words “Oyster” and “Cosmograph” were transposed from their normal positions.
But while enthusiasm for the model never seems to wane, the values of an arguably far more attractive Rolex chronograph from the 1960s remain relatively low. The watch in question is the delectable reference 6238, also known as the “pre-Daytona” due to it being manufactured between the first Rolex wrist chronographs made during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and the Cosmograph/Cosmograph Daytona introduced in 1963.
Examples of the 6238 appear at auction relatively rarely (certainly in relation to the perversely more valuable “PN”), and those in such well preserved condition as the one offered by Sotheby’s really are “once in a blue moon” affairs. The exceptionally good state of the watch could be accounted for by the fact it was consigned by the original owner of more than 50 years; someone who must be commended for the way he looked after it.
The 36mm case appeared to be gently worn but not over-polished, the crown and push-pieces were in excellent order, and even the bracelet – which may well have been the original fitting – still seemed entirely usable. What really marked this watch out, however, was the fabulous condition of its (original) silvered dial, on which everything from the luminous dot hour markers to the printing of the inner tachymeter bezel remained fresh, crisp and clear.
Whoever took the decision to ignore the high estimate of £15,000 and bid to the final selling price of £20,625 was wise indeed. This watch will never lose value but, as more people become aware of just how rare and stylish the 6238 is, it might just creep towards “Paul Newman” territory before you know it.
In summary: An excellent vintage Rolex that can feasibly be worn without losing value. Its “one owner” provenance can never be repeated but if it is maintained in similar condition during the next decade and doesn’t pass through the hands of further buyers it will only increase in value.