Collectors speak of “grail” watches, and the Rolex Daytona with a Paul Newman Lemon dial is one such watch. When a Rolex Daytona bears a Lemon dial, it is a classification of traits that is rarely ever seen and consequently, singularly coveted.
What differentiates a Lemon Paul Newman Daytona from the more commonly found champagne-dial Paul Newman Daytona? It is all in the details, and the details are in the dial. To be considered a Lemon Paul Newman, the main dial must have a matte-finished, grèné, or grained, texture with an almost powdery effect with a more cream yellow colour than a metallic gold or champagne. Compared with the yellow main dial on the more regularly seen champagne Paul Newman Daytona’s, the Lemon dials feature an intense shade of yellow that sets them apart.
Very specifically, the lemon dials occur only in the ref. 6264s, which were produced at the tail end of the pump-pusher exotic dial gold Daytona’s production, in the late 60s (1969/1970) and was in production for a mere three years. In 1971, the Oyster case was introduced into the exotic dial Daytona family. Therefore, given the transitional timeline and rarity of the dial’s occurrence, it does seem safe to, again, suggest that these were a prototype variety.
When discussing rarity, it is important to set a scale as Rolex has always been a mass manufacturer of their sports ranges. Their Yellow Gold versions have typically made up 10% of the total reference production. It is documented in the publication Rolex Daytona Lesson One that the reference 6264 was not only a transitional model in production for only three years but the pump pusher exotic dial combination is considered in the rarity realms of a prototype. The known total production of the 6264 sits in the region of 3500, leaving potentially only 350 existing yellow gold models to ever be made or owned. It’s difficult to know how many have survived their near-50-year-old lives but the low volume production is certainly the reason behind so few having ever appeared.
Including the exotic dials, the yellow gold 6264 was in a short production at the tail end of the 1960s and into 1970s (1969-72) signifying a transition between the earlier reference 6262 and later references 6263 and 6265. The previous 6262 had an even shorter production run of one year in 1969-1970 and shared the pump pushers with the 6264. The later 6263 and 6265 embodied the Oyster case and screw down pushers. It is thought that the last exotic dial pump pusher ref 6264 Daytona’s were produced in 1971. All the above used the calibre Valjoux 727.
In 1971, the Yellow Gold Daytona 6263, which was only available in 14k Gold in the USA was $525 USD at retail. In 1980 this had risen to $2800 USD retail, nearly doubling in price every year in between. The equivalent steel 6263 in 1980 was $995 USD at retail price, and the newly introduced 18k gold version sold for $3600 USD.
In the decade leading up to 2013 there was nearly a 981% increase in value across the board in all Rolex Paul Newman at public auction, but many auction pieces before those records were set around stainless-steel versions and went under the hammer for less than six figures USD. The numbers have grown healthily since, with multiple examples of the steel versions appearing.
Since Paul Newman included the steel Daytona in his indelible and iconic imprint on film, fashion and race car driving, the gold Daytona has been the second favourite and undervalued. While the gold version at retail price has always been more expensive than steel due to materials, this is the absolute opposite in the example of modern auction value. Rare steels are consistently selling for more at auction than their gold, non-identical twins.
Most conventional collectors who have been active since the 1960s 1970s have at one stage or another owned a Paul Newman Daytona. As prices rose in the 1990s second-hand market many collectors decided to store or sell their pieces. Perhaps their material value and therefore the material risk associated outgrew the joys in wearing a once fashionable item, turning it into a collectable or an investment.
If your budget is in the sub-million region then the same rarity lies in very few other pieces than this 6264.
Rolex Daytonas were abnormally unpopular when they were launched in the 1960’s. Rolex did not even know what to call it. The first plans were for it to be named the Rolex “Le Mans” as the company were at this loss of how to introduce their automotive-themed new-born. It was comprised of outsourced parts and took an unfamiliar racy place in the Rolex collection seeming more of an adopted sibling. Rolex were around ten years early for the general acceptance of the steel sports watch into modern everyday life as well.
The lack of Daytona popularity spanned 1970’s Rolex manufacture into a flurry of production. Therefore, we find a cascade of references with progressive features and designs integrated in such varied ways as they gradually tested their market. This cascade is somewhat responsible for the short-lived production life and rarity of the late edition, pump pusher, exotic dial 6264.
They also tested out a mixture of descriptive words including the hardly apt “Cosmograph” - there was nothing astronomical about the timepiece other than today’s price spikes - a poetic foresight at best.
We can see that the market has therefore flipped upside down since the early slow start for the Daytona. Perhaps this lemon dial 6264 is the latest star on the vintage Rolex stage with its first to market and ultra-rare status.
In fact all the four known gold 6264 watches with this configuration of lemon dial with white sub dial printing have serial numbers in the same 2’330’*** to 2’357’*** bracket. Amongst all of the Cosmograph Daytonas, reference 6264 is one of the rarest, considered by collectors to be a transitional model, it was in production for only three years between 1969 and 1972.
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