On June 21st, 2017 the hammer struck at Christie’s Rare Watches and American Icons auction, and for the eye-watering price of $871,500 a collector snagged a Rolex Daytona Ref. 6264. The watch in question has the sought-after “Paul Newman” dial design made famous by the iconic actor, has a gold case and, more notably, has a “lemon” dial, nicknamed for its yellow hue. Here’s the thing: Most gold Daytonas, even relatively rare Paul Newmans with black- or champagne-colored dials, sell for hundreds of thousands less. Why? Only a handful of lemon dial reference 6264 Paul Newmans are publicly known to exist.
It all sounds very impressive except a month earlier, at Phillip’s auction in Geneva, somebody spent $3.7 million on another seemingly identical watch. It was a Rolex Daytona. Same gold case, same lemon dial. But this watch is a reference 6263, which means it has screw-down pushers (instead of the 6264’s pump-pushers) and only three of them are known to exist.
Welcome to the high-dollar world of vintage Rolex collecting.
For the last several years, vintage Rolexes across the board have risen in value. Just four years ago a similar 6264 and 6263 sold for $406,542 and $880,293, respectively. “The first Rolex to ever bring one million at auction was in 2011,” says Eric Wind, a vintage watch specialist at Christie’s. “Since then many have sold for one million and prices have skyrocketed for many pieces.”