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If you're told to think of Rolex chronographs, you'd be forgiven for thinking of one watch: the Daytona.
While other brands were swept away in the racing-inspired furor to develop a chronograph in the 1920s and 1930s, Rolex concentrated on perfecting their Oyster cases and perpetual movements. But as the 1930s closed and the Oyster Perpetual solidified Rolex's reputation as a watch for sportsmen of the aquatic type, Rolex shifted its attention to developing a watch for those taking to the road. By 1937 the Rolex catalog featured as many as five chronographs, all driven by Swiss-made Valjoux movements, which would power all of their chronographs until 2000.
It wasn't until 1955 that Rolex released its expression of the chronograph that would later be considered the dawn of the Daytona line, the Reference 6234, whose dial bore both a telemetre and tachymetre track. Producing roughly a few thousand pieces from 1955 to 1961 (roughly 2300 in stainless steel and far fewer in precious metal), the Ref. 6234 ushered in a new era for Rolex as well as an evolving design mentality that would gradually become the hallmark for racing chronos worldwide.
In the early 1960s, Rolex released the Ref. 6238, which modernized the look of the chronograph. Opting to delete the telemetre track and add baton hands, faceted applied markers, and luminous hour plots, Rolex zeroed in on an expression that spoke more to the needs of racing enthusiasts. The Ref. 6238 is widely considered the progenitor of the Daytona, not only because it preceded it, but also because it captured elements that would be essential to almost every subsequent chrono that bore the moniker. For these models, Rolex slightly modified the stock Valjoux 72 movement, dubbing it the Calibre 72B and later the 722.
Interestingly, the 6238 also enjoys a bit of celebrity - James Bond, then played by George Lazenby, wore a silver-dial Ref. 6238 in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. As the story goes, some of the items from the film were liquidated and the production assistant scooped up the watch. That same watch would go on to sell at Christie's in 2003 for roughly $41,000.
While the 6238 would remain in production until 1967, Rolex minted the first Cosmograph Chronograph model in 1962, characterized most notably by the fixed steel bezel bearing the engraved tachymetre. This feature would become the hallmark of the Daytona in only a few short years.
There is something subtly alluring about the Reference 6238. Caught in a kind of limbo - neither the first Rolex chronograph nor the 'iconic' Daytona model - it serves as a kind of ear marker of Rolex's evolving design language. This example is in very honest condition, sporting just the right amount of patina.
It's no doubt that Ref. 6238 is part of the Daytona lineage that would make a lovely addition to any vintage Rolex collection.
Stainless Steel case is approximately 35mm (excluding the crown). Rolex Reference 6238. Valjoux 72 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Mid 1960s.
Overall Condition: The watch is in very good condition over all, with light wear markings consistent with age and use. The steel case shows no signs of over-polishing; holed lugs remain thick and sharp with original bevels in tact. Polished bezel shows some light wear marks, with one noticeable scratch near 11:00. Rolex dial is in good condition over all, but shows some light wear from 9 to 11:00. Luminescent hour plots have aged with time to a dark cream color, with the 1, 4 and 5:00 markers showing some degradation. Baton hands show some light oxidation; minute hand lume is partially missing. Signed Rolex crown and screw case back.
Includes 19mm Rolex stretch-rivet bracelet (Ref. 6635/57 c. '65) with signed clasp and two 19mm nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.