Did you hear the one about one of the most important and collectible vintage Rolex Daytonas that isn’t technically a Daytona? Welcome to the crazy world of collecting vintage Rolex with a look at the Big Eyes Rolex Daytona…
Since collecting vintage Rolex watches became a hobby, spearheaded by the Italians, there has been one watch that seems to have always been elevated above all other creations from the House of Wilsdorf; the Daytona. Whether it is the watch’s association with the dangerous world of motor racing, it being worn by the screen icon Paul Newman or its dolce vita connotation with Italy, it’s a watch that has transcended normal market performances and become its own microcosm of collecting and in many cases investing. And books – plenty of books have been written (I’m the co-author of one of them myself) and I have no fewer than four large-format tomes dedicated to Rolex’s iconic chrono sitting on my desk at present. And today we are taking a lot at one of the most popular iterations out of the hundreds that exist, the 6263/5 Big Eyes Daytona. We are proud to also be able to offer a great example in our shop.
In the late 1960s Rolex unveiled the references 6263 and 6235. Essentially they were the same watch but the references were differentiated by the bezel type. The 6263 had a black plastic tachymeter and the 6265 was fitted with an engraved steel tachymeter bezel. The watches were classic Oyster cases but were fitted with the new waterproof screw down chronograph pushers that had debuted on the 6240 and were also used in 1970 on the Tudor ‘Home Plate’ chronographs.
The waterproof pushers flanked the large size 700 series winding crown, which gave the watches a more robust and sporty look and feel on the wrist – much more so than the earlier pump-pusher chronos from the 50s and 60s. The 6263/5s that were produced in the 1970s were waterproof to a depth of 50 meters with Rolex doubling that to 100 meters in the early 1980s.
Details. It’s all in the details. Those books I mentioned earlier go into minute detail about the extreme number of variations of Daytonas that were produced. The 6263/5 was in production from 1969 until 1988 and across those 19 years there were numerous tweaks in dial layout even without considering the special order dials and other unique curiosities. One variation that has always captivated collectors is the Big Eyes. Found predominantly in watches with 3 million serial numbers, the Big Eyes dials get their name due to the slightly larger sub dials on the dial. According to the King of Daytonas and publisher of the Ultimate Rolex Daytona book, Pucci Papaleo, the hour registers are slightly larger due to a thicker rim on the outer edge of the concentric circles on each sub register.
The funny thing about this Daytona is that it’s not actually a Daytona. OK, it IS a Daytona but it doesn’t actually have the legendary ‘DAYTONA’ text on the dial. There are a couple of theories as to why this might be, although nobody can be absolutely sure. The most commonly held belief is that they were from a run of test dials for the 6263 and 6265 and another is that there wasn’t room due to the large sub dials for the dial to be visually appealing. Either way, they are very cool! These dials were supplied on watches dating roughly between 1972 and 1975 and have a couple of important details.
The designation ‘ROLEX OYSTER COSMOGRAPH’ (ROC) is placed further down the dial towards the middle of the dial with heavy serifs on the fonts and the ‘R’ in ROLEX being written in a particular font only seen on early 6263s and 6265s. And the secret telltale sign? The ‘T SWISS T’ designation at the bottom must almost touch the bottom edge of the hour totalizer at six o’clock – a slight kiss! There are a number of similar dials to the Big Eyes, but it’s an important distinction in the Big Eyes dial that doesn’t exist on other variants.
The Big Eyes, when present in any book or auction, is a highlight and worthy of serious consideration from both collectors and scholars of the vintage, manual wind Daytona. Can the watches get any cooler? Well, yes they can if the dial is blessed with turning tropical; more precisely the sub dials, which can turn any shade of brown from deep chocolate to aubergine.
We are delighted to offer you a stunning 6265 that we acquired from only the second owner of the watch. Look at the case – stunning isn’t it? And the Big Eyes dial looks incredible on the wrist. The slightly larger sub dials have a disproportionate effect when you wear the watch, in a similar way that the Maxi dial Subs feel so much bigger due to a slight increase in size of the hour plots.
And when you catch the dial in natural sunlight you are treated to sub dials that have turned a gentle brown. Like many great things in life it’s a subtle colour change, but it is there as one of the most exquisite aesthetic touches that the connoisseur can enjoy on a vintage watch. And on a vintage Rolex Daytona? It’s the end game!