It happens at times, in the field of watch collecting, that a timepiece previously unknown to the market is discovered and upsets what is until then considered an unmovable tenet by market and scholars alike. It is of course an extremely rare occurrence, but when such a hidden treasure appears on the market it never fails to stir the hearts of collectors and to amaze scholars. For example the history of Patek Philippe minute repeaters was rewritten in 2011 when a previously unknown reference, 2419, was discovered. With this lot, Christie's is proud to rewrite the textbooks about Rolex Daytona as it introduces to the public the only example of reference 6263 with black non-oyster sotto Paul Newman dial.
Until yesterday, it was believed that black Paul Newman dials mounted on reference 6263 were all and necessarily distinguished by the different disposition of the designations: instead of reading, as in all other dials, Rolex/Oyster/Cosmograph, a correct black 6263 Paul Newman should read Rolex/Cosmograph/Oyster. From this feature come the nicknames RCO and Oyster Sotto —"Oyster below", in Italian. The Oyster Sotto Daytona is unquestionably considered as one of the ultimate goals for the Daytona collector. An extremely small number of such pieces have been produced: the Paul Newman dial was discontinued shortly after the introduction of reference 6263, so only low serial numbers were, if a client so requested, fitted with a Paul Newman dial. It is estimated that little more than 10 examples were made, and all of those that have appeared on the market feature the unusual Oyster Sotto configuration. Then there is this watch that sold for $479,705 —buyer's premium included— at Christie's in Geneva yesterday.
The present timepiece is a true game-changer, as it qualifies as the only 6263 with original black Paul Newman non-Oyster Sotto dial. The risk of dismissing this horologic treasure as a "melange" of a 6263 case with a dial originally intended for another reference is very high, but nothing would be more wrong. All the details of the present dial are consistent with those of a "normal" Oyster Sotto dial. The graphics of the numerals, the font of the Rolex designation, the sunken subdials style, the step at 6 o' clock, the angular Singer hallmark on the back of the dial, absolutely everything is exactly as it should be on a black Paul Newman dial, the only difference being indeed the Oyster designation.
An in depth study of the dial shed some light about the origin of such a disposition. At the time, when wristwatch collecting did not exist and there was a degree of flexibility in the realization of the timepieces, it was not unusual for Rolex to use a leftover piece intended for a certain reference on the subsequent reference. The most common example of this habit can be seen in many case backs which bear a reference number different from the one of the watch they are mounted on. In this case, however, a similar situation happened with the dial maker Singer. UV examination of the dial shows a halo around the designation, which is unmistakable indication that the designation was originally different. However, the manufacturing details and style are undeniable proof that it was Singer itself who manufactured the dial. It can be deduced that the present dial was originally intended for a non-oyster case, probably a 6264, but it was subsequently adapted by Singer to the style of reference 6263. The reason why this dial is the only one to present the Rolex/Oyster/Cosmograph designation instead of the normal RCO will probably never be known with certainty, but a good assumption is that Singer made a mistake when adapting the dial. There are other examples of this manufacturing habit: one is illustrated and thoroughly explained in the "bible" of Rolex Daytona: Ultimate Rolex Daytona, by Pucci Papaleo, pp. 64. Another example was sold by Christie's in the legendary Rolex Daytona: Lesson one thematic auction in November 2013, lot 20.
Not only this timepiece can be considered the holy grail of Daytona collecting for its uniqueness and importance, but it further amazes even the most seasoned Rolex collector with it superb condition: the case was hardly ever polished, if ever, and retains fully its proportions. The black bezel is virtually mint. The dial is breathtaking: without the slightest hint of oxidation or scratches it showcases all of its features at their best: the red outer divisions, the engine turned subdials, the step on the outer track, the luminous accents, the black matte background and, of course, the revolutionary designation, all of these details are in "textbook condition". Aptly so, for a watch that indeed rewrites textbooks.