The Rolex Unicorn to Headline Phillips' Daytona Ultimatum Auction
On May 12, auction house Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, will hold a themed auction dedicated to one of the most collectible wristwatches, the Rolex Daytona.
The Daytona Ultimatum auction of 32 pieces will be headlined by the white gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, reference 6265, also known as “The Unicorn.”
Rolex first introduced the Cosmograph Daytona in 1963 having started its sponsorship of the annual 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race the year before (the race is currently known as the Rolex 24 at Daytona). Designed as a robust mechanical chronograph, meant to be worn and used every day, the watch became popular when Paul Newman was seen wearing one: a reference 6239 fitted with what the brand called an “exotic” dial.
The reference 6239 was the first model in Rolex’s iconic Cosmograph "Daytona" series, produced around 1963 until 1970, and was the firm's first chronograph with a tachymeter scale engraved on the bezel, designed to help instantly and clearly measure speed. Newman’s watch was sold by Phillips in New York last October for $17.7 million, setting a world record for a wristwatch sold at auction — the previous record, $11.1 million, was held by a Patek Philippe reference 1518.
Over the years, the Daytona has subtly evolved with functional improvements, but its main aesthetic features have remained consistent. The most valuable Daytona watches are those of the first series which were manual rather than the automatics or self-winding Rolex chronographs that followed. This original series has a four-digit reference number, while the sub dials are made of acrylic.
Until the discovery of the white gold reference 6265 eight years ago by seasoned watch collector John Goldberger, it was thought Rolex had only produced manually wound Daytonas in stainless steel or in 18k yellow gold, with 14K yellow gold examples delivered to the American market.
Little is known about the Unicorn, expect that is was manufactured in 1970 as a special order and delivered to a German retailed in 1971. At the time of production, it was very likely the most luxurious Cosmograph offered by Rolex. “Our best guess, based on other unique pieces that have resurfaced, is that it was a special order, placed on behalf of one the boutique's most exclusive clients—someone with means, obviously, and enough influence that Rolex would deviate from its modus operandi,” says Phillips. Service marks left on the caseback between 1971 and 2010 suggest the watch returned to Rolex on several occasions, and in some cases, to Rolex Geneva.
“I never dreamt I would one day sell this watch, and I have known about this watch for long enough to realize what it means to John Goldberger ( to have come to this decision. I am therefore honoured to have been entrusted with the sale of such an extremely important piece, the only white gold manual winding Daytona known to the world. This watch will be remembered for all the good it will do when it is sold for the benefit of Children Action,” said Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant of Bacs & Russo.
The Daytona Ultimatum auction will also include a Pintabian Rolex Daytona Reference 6265, the John Player Special Rolex Daytona 6241, and the Ricciardo Panda Rolex Daytona 6263 (photo right).
In 2013, Christie’s held the first Rolex Daytona-themed auction and this featured 50 timepieces all of which sold to raise a total $13.24 million.>