Can you still get on the Daytona train and make a good investment? With Rolex prices coming down over the last six months or so, it seems like the craziness has come to a halt, but that doesn’t mean the potential investment value has completely disappeared. The thing is, you have to know which references are still highly sought-after, and you might have to adjust your expectations of when you’ll see some return on your investment. It’s often the case that true value increases happen over longer periods of time. In the meantime, you can simply enjoy your watches, because more than anything else, it should be fun to wear the watches in your collection.
When it comes to the Daytona specifically, the investment potential is mostly in vintage references. Their desirability has not gone down one bit and over time, their value is most likely to increase. Not only do these watches represent the rich history of the Daytona, but there won’t be any more added in retrospect, so their value is pretty stable. For this list, I picked three Rolex Daytonas from the vintage, manual-winding era of Rolex’s famous chronograph. So, let’s jump right in!
Rolex Pre-Daytona Ref. 6238
Okay, maybe it’s not entirely true that I’ve picked three Daytonas, because the first watch I would like to discuss is what collectors call the Rolex “Pre-Daytona” ref. 6238. This was the last chronograph reference before the Genevan brand introduced the Daytona ref. 6239 in 1963, but that’s not its only claim to fame. It also introduced tremendous changes to the design of Rolex’s chronographs, starting with the dial and hands, which are similar to those of early Daytonas.
Inside the ref. 6238, you’ll find the well-known Valjoux 72 movement that also powers the manual-winding Daytonas. This movement is legendary among chronograph collectors and has powered many different chronographs from the likes of Heuer, Breitling, Universal Genève, and Zodiac, among others. But it was the Rolex Daytona that made the Valjoux 72 a popular name in the industry, but that’s not all…
The Pre-Daytona is actually a Bond watch. In his one-off role as 007, George Lazenby wore a special version of the watch in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The watch was equipped with a red central chronograph seconds hand, making it stand out. The original Bond watch was put up for auction in 2016 and 2019, but never sold. The famous watch auction house Antiquorum estimates it is worth between $320,000 and 530,000. Those aren’t the sums you’d have to pay for a regular “Pre-Daytona” ref. 6238, but cost does depend on whether you want a steel or gold version. Stainless-steel versions with a black dial are more expensive due to their rarity. Expect to see prices between $45,000 and 70,000 for a standard stainless-steel version. That sum will buy you one of the most beautiful vintage chronographs out there, and the watch that is considered the start of the manual-winding Daytona era.
Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239
My second pick is the famous Rolex Daytona ref. 6239. This is the first official Daytona reference, and the successor to the watch discussed above. When it comes to Daytona models, most enthusiasts know that there are a few distinctions to be made: First off, Rolex produced the manual-winding Daytona with a stainless-steel bezel alongside a sister reference with a black Bakelite bezel. In this case, the ref. 6239 features a stainless-steel bezel and the ref. 6241, a black Bakelite bezel.
Secondly, there are Daytona models with pump pushers that collectors know as the push-down Daytonas. Finally, there are Daytona models that feature screw-down push-pieces. Generally speaking, fans go for the push-down Daytonas. This is in part due to the “Paul Newman” Daytona, i.e., a ref. 6239 with regular pushers, being the most iconic of all Daytonas. So, why did I go for my second pick? Because a ref. 6239 “Paul Newman” Daytona with an exotic dial will set you back some $200,000 or more, making it an option for the happy few.
But if you focus on the non-exotic dial variants, you might be able to buy one of the famous first references for between roughly $50,000 and 95,000. Of course, that’s still a huge amount of money, but if you were able to get one at the lower end of that price bracket, you’ll own an absolute classic that will only go up in value over time. These watches feature a beautiful black dial with white subdials or silver dial with black subdials, and are iconic classics that will not lose their value. You’ll also find early models with a cream dial, and from 1963 to 1965, the watch didn’t have the “Daytona” name on the dial, but just “Rolex Cosmograph.” That said, those early models have become true collectibles and, therefore, more expensive. Nevertheless, you should be able to find one of these classics for well under the $100,000 mark.
Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263
For my final pick, I actually went for the last manual-winding Rolex Daytona reference with a black bezel. The Rolex Daytona ref. 6263 was produced from around 1971 to 1988. Not only does it feature the characteristic black bezel, but the watch also comes with screw-down push-pieces for added water resistance. Obviously, this type of push-piece is less convenient when it actually comes to timing something, but they add a level of practicality to the watch and some mass visually.
Overall, the design of the ref. 6263 is slightly bulkier than that of earlier references. It’s a perfect modern version of the manual-winding Daytona that is powered by the Valjoux 727 – essentially an evolutionary movement based on the Valjoux 72, but with a higher beat rate for greater accuracy. The watch came in a variety of different dial colors and was produced in stainless-steel and yellow gold. The main dial colors for the stainless-steel version are silver and black. Rolex produced three versions of the black exotic dial and two of the white exotic dial, but I find them only minimally more attractive than the standard versions. Thus, I’d opt for the standard version with a price tag anywhere between $80,000 and 110,000; most exotic versions start above the $100,000 mark. With prices starting under $100,000, the standard version makes for an “affordable” manual-winding Daytona that is unlikely to lose its value over time.
So, there you have it, three different vintage Daytona references that are among the most affordable from the manual-winding era. Each of these watches will likely hold its value and potentially even appreciate over time. As always, there are no guarantees, only predictions. In the meantime, however, I’d suggest you enjoy wearing your Daytona from time to time; only then will you fully understand what makes this model so special and such a hit.