6238 Rolex Pre-Daytona Chronograph in 14k Yellow Gold
If everything Cosmograph is what gets you turned on, and you happen to be an American, I’m sorry for what I’m about to do. Nothing else come close to this 6238. With dial marked simply as ‘Rolex Chronograph’, as opposed to a movie credit scroll of modernity, a smooth, scale-less bezel, and in 14k yellow gold, this has to be the ultimate motorsport chronograph for us yanks. See, the 14k alloy was used specifically for the US, which had different import tax standards for 18k yellow gold. There’s no other reason you’d use 14k gold, it’s technically inferior and less precious, but has a sort of pale brilliance that no alloy matches. Strange bracketed laws have created all manner of bizarre oddities like the Reliant Robin, window-less mansions in the UK, and this. This is definitely the best of the lot. While most estimate total 6238 production between 2500 and 3500 examples, it is estimated that fewer than 250 14k 6238s were made.
The 6238 is the last of an important and tricky era for Rolex, the last chronograph before Daytona was added to the dial or the final ‘Pre-Daytona’. Rolex wanted to find an in to the US market, and motorsport chronographs was the angle they chose. First they tried to call it the Le Mans, then they came the Florida branding. Despite being the foundation for the first Daytona in the 6239, it was produced simultaneously. This 6238 was made in three distinct series (this is a last 3rd series), with many variants of each dial style. There’s even a Rolex-only dial in the second series. The 14k gold cases are some of the most desirable. This one’s even on its ‘coffee-bean’ Jubilee, US made and not Swiss quality, but very desirable.
The simpler design speaks to a certain collector, one who’s been through vintage Daytona to find less really is more. One little fact I just love about the 6238 that no one really discusses, though, is that it’s a Bond watch. Really, Bond wore a (pre) Daytona, in one scene from Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with a unique red chronograph hand. That watch has been through auction a few times, and watches claiming to be it, which aren’t, have also gone to auction a few times. I most associate the 6238 with a vintage ad, one which I am reminded of frequently. It features a 6238 on the wrist of a driver’s hand, leather glove included. Above is the line ‘The Rolex Daytona isn’t for timing 3-minute eggs.’ I am reminded of it frequently because I do this often, sorry Hans. I think it is the most beautiful of all my egg timers, though. Mine is not as pretty as this one, though, which might be the most lovely American-connected Daytona that isn’t a Daytona, ever.
This example is a standout for its condition in all respects. The dial has just the slightest patina, no visible damage, all pips present. The champagne is slightly darkened, it’s lovely. The case too, where 14k is often prone to a little oxidation, this one has very little and all the edges are proud. Its movement has the correct ROW engraving on bridge for US import. It comes from a well-regarded Dutch retailer.