A Thorough Guide to Vintage Rolex 4-Digit Daytonas

A Thorough Guide
to Vintage Rolex
4-Digit Daytonas

The world of luxury timepieces is marked by extraordinary craftsmanship, timeless design, and a rich history that often becomes the narrative of the watches themselves. Among the pantheon of prestigious watchmakers, Rolex stands as a titan, synonymous with quality, durability, and prestige. In this sphere, the Daytona series holds a special place, embodying a blend of exquisite design and technical mastery.

The Daytona, named after the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida, has become more than just a watch; it's a symbol of racing heritage and watchmaking excellence. Introduced in the 1960s, the Daytona was designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers. It quickly transcended its initial purpose, gaining acclaim not just for its functionality but for its elegant aesthetics.

Of particular interest to collectors and enthusiasts are the vintage 4-digit Daytonas. These models, characterised by their four-digit reference numbers, represent a critical period in Rolex's history. They mark the era of innovation and transition, laying the groundwork for what the Daytona has become today. Their rarity, combined with their historical significance, makes them coveted pieces in the world of horology.

The allure of the 4-digit Daytonas extends beyond their rarity. These watches are a study in the evolution of design and technology. Each model, with its unique features and variations, tells a story of a particular moment in time, captured in the form of a timeless timepiece. It is this blend of history, rarity, and craftsmanship that makes the 4-digit Daytonas not just watches, but treasures of horological art.

In this guide, we delve into the intricate world of vintage Rolex 4-Digit Daytonas, exploring their history, distinctive features, and the enduring legacy they hold in the world of luxury watches.

Recognising Vintage Daytonas

Recognising Vintage Daytonas

When delving into vintage Rolex Daytonas, particularly those with 4-digit reference numbers, it becomes essential to recognise the distinct features that differentiate one reference from another. These watches, crafted over several years, exhibit subtle yet significant variations that not only distinguish them from contemporary models but also provide a window into Rolex's evolutionary design and craftsmanship.

Detailed Examination of Components

Detailed Examination of Components

Keys (Pushers)

Fundamental to the Daytona's functionality are its pushers, located at 2 and 4 o'clock positions. These are crucial for operating the chronograph feature. Vintage models showcase two primary types: pump pushers, which are smooth and can be used immediately, and screw-down pushers, which are knurled for better grip and need to be unscrewed before use. The latter also enhances the watch's water resistance​​.


The bezel is another distinctive feature. In Daytonas, it typically bears a tachymetric scale marked "UNITS PER HOUR" and varies between being entirely metal (gold or steel) or metal with a black bakelite insert​​.


The variety and richness of Daytona dials are remarkable, ranging from white, silver, champagne, to black. The dial not only adds to the aesthetic appeal but also plays a role in differentiating models. It's important to note that dial variations don't necessarily distinguish references but are variable details within the same reference​​.


The counters, or sub-dials, are the three circles positioned at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock, usually in a contrasting colour to the rest of the dial. These are easy to identify and are key in distinguishing different Daytona models​​.


At the heart of these watches is the mechanism or calibre. The 4-digit Daytona models are powered by Valjoux movements, known for their accuracy. This detail is crucial as Rolex did not produce its own chronograph movements during this era​​.


At the heart of these watches is the mechanism or calibre. The 4-digit Daytona models are powered by Valjoux movements, known for their Common bracelet types for these models include the three-link Oyster and the five-link Jubilee. These bracelets contribute significantly to the watch's overall look and feel, and their variations play a part in identifying different models​​.

Understanding these components is key to appreciating the nuances of vintage Daytonas. Each element, from the pushers to the bracelets, not only adds to the functionality and aesthetic of the watch but also tells a story of its design evolution and Rolex's commitment to perfection.

The Differences Between Each Reference

The Differences Between Each Reference

Rolex Daytona 6238 (Pre-Daytona)

Production Years: Approximately 1960 to 1967​​.

The 6238, often referred to as the "Pre-Daytona," was a precursor to the iconic Daytona series. 

It was available in steel or yellow gold. The dials came in two colours: white or black. 

Uniquely, the 6238 featured the tachymetric scale not on the bezel but on the outer edge of the dial, a design element that set it apart from subsequent Daytona models. The pushers in this model were the pump style The case measured a classic 36mm in diameter, and it was paired with either an Oyster riveted bracelet or a Jubilee bracelet with folded links.

This model's understated yet elegant design made it a significant piece in the evolution towards the more famous Daytona references that followed. The Rolex Daytona 6238 symbolises the transitional phase in Rolex's chronograph design, bridging the gap between the brand's early chronographs and the more famous Daytona models that would follow.

Valjoux 72 B, later renamed 722 in 1965.

Rolex Daytona 6239 - The First Rolex Daytona

Production Years: Approximately 1963 to 1969​​​​.

The Daytona 6239 was available in steel or yellow gold, featuring a diverse selection of dials. This included black dials for both metals, silver-white for the steel version, and champagne for the gold version, all with contrasting counters. 

Notably, the "Paul Newman" dials were available in white and black for both metals. In the gold version, the white dials had a subtle yellowish hue. The bezel, a distinctive feature, had a tachymetric scale that either reached up to 300 km/h or was limited to 200 km/h. Initially branded as "LeMans," the "Daytona" branding appeared later, either below the "Cosmograph" inscription or around the 6 o'clock sub-dial.

Valjoux 72 (Rolex 722), a key differentiator from the previous Pre-Daytona models.

Rolex Daytona 6240

Production Years: Approximately 1965 to 1969​​​​.

The 6240 represented a pivotal shift in the Daytona series, notably introducing the black acrylic bezel insert, differing from the metal bezels of previous models. 

A significant advancement was the introduction of screw-down pushers, enhancing the watch's water resistance and making it the first true Oyster chronograph in the Daytona line. Primarily produced in stainless steel, the 6240 often did not include the "Daytona" inscription on its dial, distinguishing it from its predecessors. This model's design changes, particularly the screw-down pushers, increased its depth rating to 100 metres, significantly more than the 50 metres of the 6239 and Pre-Daytonas.

The Rolex Daytona 6240 stands as a pivotal model in the evolution of the Daytona series, introducing key features that would define Rolex's approach to chronograph design in subsequent years.

Valjoux 72 (Rolex 722).

Rolex Daytona 6241

Production Years: Approximately 1965 to 1969​​​​.

Just like the 6239, this reference was available in stainless steel or yellow gold. A notable change in this model was the switch from a metal bezel to a bakelite one, offering a distinctive look with a clear contrast on the tachymetric scale. It continued to use pump pushers, and the dial and movement choices remained the same to its predecessors.

Valjoux 72 (Rolex 722).

Rolex Daytona 6262 & 6264

Production Years: Both models were produced from approximately 1969 to 1972​​​​.

6262 Features:
This reference represented an evolution of the 6239, incorporating the upgraded Valjoux 727 movement for enhanced performance. The model retained the metal bezel, a characteristic of earlier Daytona models. 

Notably, it was one of the last models (alongside the 6264) to feature pump pushers, marking the end of an era in Daytona design.

6264 Features:
Shared similarities with the 6241, particularly in its aesthetic design, but with the Valjoux 727 movement. Like the 6262, it was the final model with pump pushers.

A subtle yet important distinguishing feature is the font used on the tachymetric scale, particularly noticeable at the "200" mark. The "2" on the 6264's scale is more angular and finer compared to the 6241, where it appears thicker and more squared, especially at the lower left corner of the "2". This detail offers a quick visual cue to differentiate the 6264 from the 6241, highlighting the nuances that collectors and enthusiasts appreciate in these vintage models.

Valjoux 727

Rolex Daytona 6263

Production Years: 1971 to approximately 1988.

The 6263 merged the Bakelite bezel of the 6241 with the screw-down pushers introduced in the 6240. It featured a new 7.00 mm twinlock crown, enhancing the 37mm Oyster case's water resistance.

Representing the culmination of Rolex's innovations, the 6263 marked a stable and enduring design in the Daytona series.

Rolex Daytona 6265

Production Years: 1971 to approximately 1988.

Introduced as a successor to the 6262, the 6265 stood out for its rich variety of dials, particularly in terms of inscriptions and details.

Notable was the "Big Red" Daytona, with a distinctive red Daytona name above the 6 o'clock counter.Gold versions featured the inscription “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” for the Valjoux movement.

"Paul Newman" dials were rare on the 6265, fitted only on the earliest steel production models.

Both the 6263 and 6265, with their 17-year production run, represented the culmination of Rolex's manual-wound Daytona designs, highlighting the brand's commitment to combining functional improvements with distinct aesthetic elements.

Rolex Daytona 6269 & 6270

Production Years: Specific years are not detailed, but these models represent special orders, often for Middle Eastern clients​​.

6269 Features:
Known for its brilliant-cut diamonds and unique versions like the diamond-set bezel and pavé dial with sapphire indices.

6270 Features:
One of the rarest, with only about eight known examples. Features include a baguette diamond-set bezel and a pavé dial with 240 brilliant-cut diamonds and 9 sapphires as indices.

Production Numbers

The chart below illustrates the approximate production numbers for each of the 4-digit vintage references.

These figures provide a clearer picture of the production spread across different materials and models, highlighting the rarity and exclusivity of certain references, particularly those in gold:

  • 6238: Approximately 2000 - 2,500 units produced.
  • 6239: 13,700 units in stainless steel and 300 in gold, totaling 14,000 units.
  • 6240: A total of 1,750 units, all in stainless steel.
  • 6241: 2,250 units in stainless steel and 750 in gold, totaling 3,000 units.
  • 6262 & 6264: 9,000 units in stainless steel and 30 in gold, totaling 9,030 units.
  • 6265 & 6263: 24,000 units in stainless steel and 2,000 in gold, totaling 26,000 units.

The production numbers for the vintage 4-digit Rolex Daytona models from 1963 to 1988 reveal interesting trends:

1960s Models (6238, 6239, 6240, 6241)

In the 1960s, the Daytona 6239 was more popular than the Pre-Daytona 6238, selling about four times as many. The 6240, with screw-down pushers, was less in demand compared to the 6241 with pump pushers, selling about half as many.

Transitional Models (6262 & 6264)

For the transitional models (6262 & 6264), despite a short production period, the output was high, with at least 6000 units produced annually. Before 1970, Rolex produced about 3000 chronograph units annually, including the 6238, but this number dropped to just over 1000 post-1970.

Screw-down Pusher Models (6263/6265)

The screw-down pusher models (6263/6265), despite their innovative design, had lower annual production volumes. 

These production insights suggest that certain features, initially not as popular, have contributed to the rarity and current value of these models.

Investment Potential

Investment Potential

Vintage Rolex Daytonas are highly sought after due to their rarity and unique stories, often fetching higher prices than their modern counterparts. This value is influenced by their limited availability, historical significance, and distinctive features like the Paul Newman Daytona's exotic dial.

Here's an overview of approximate prices for various vintage Daytona references:

Paul Newman Daytona (Ref. 6239 with exotic dial)
: Starting around £182,000, with some examples reaching or exceeding £273,000.

Standard Cosmograph Daytona (Ref. 6239 without exotic dial)
: As low as £44,000.

Ref. 6241 (Bakelite bezel)
: At least £213,000.

Ref. 6240 (First water-resistant Daytona with screw-down push-pieces)
: About £132,000 for models with a black dial; silver dial versions are around £96,000.

Pre-Daytona (Ref. 6234)
: Gold editions can exceed £83,000, while stainless steel versions range between £25,000 and £45,000.

These figures underscore the significant investment potential of vintage Daytona models in the luxury watch market.

Tips for Collectors

Tips for Collectors

When sourcing and buying a genuine 4-digit Rolex Daytona, it's essential to consider the following:

Research and Verification

Understanding the specific characteristics of the Daytona model you're interested in is crucial. This includes details like dial type, bezel, case back markings, and movement type. Familiarise yourself with variations across different production years to spot discrepancies.

Buy from Reputable Dealers

Opt for dealers who have a strong reputation in the market. Trusted dealers often have a history of verified sales and can provide additional assurance of authenticity.

Provenance and Documentation

A watch's history is invaluable. Authentic papers, repair records, and previous ownership details not only affirm its authenticity but also enrich its story, adding to its value. These documents are particularly important for rare models or those with unique features.

Expert Authentication

Before finalising a purchase, getting an opinion from a respected watchmaker or a Rolex expert can be beneficial. They can authenticate the watch based on their knowledge and experience with vintage models.

Every watch purchased here at WatchCentre meets our rigorous standards of inspection and quality control, checked by our highly trained personnel. You will have our guarantee on the authenticity of every watch sold and we give a one-year guarantee on all our vintage and second hand wristwatches.

Be Cautious with Modifications

Vintage watches with original parts are more desirable. Be wary of modified watches, as they might not only diminish the value but also raise questions about the watch's authenticity. Always ask about any replacement parts or service history.

Patience and thorough research are key. Vintage Daytona watches are significant investments, and ensuring their authenticity and provenance is essential for any collector.

Explore Our Selection of Vintage Rolex Daytonas

Explore Our Selection of Vintage Rolex Daytonas

For those inspired to delve further into this captivating tale or wish to secure a piece of this illustrious history, we boast a curated collection of Vintage Rolex Daytona watches. If, by chance, we don't currently stock the Rolex Daytona you've set your sights on, don't hesitate to reach out and enquire. With our expansive network and expertise, we’re exceptionally positioned to help source the desired model.

Explore Our Vintage Rolex Daytona Watches

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