The legendary Rolex 6236 “Jean-Claude Killy”
Among vintage Rolex watches, there are a select few that are intimately associated with a particular person — the Daytona “Paul Newman”, the Explorer “Steve McQueen”, and the Submariner “James Bond”. The story behind how these watches got their famous names is often a point of contention that can spur up passionate debate among Rolex scholars and it is no different with the family of Rolex Oyster triple calendar chronographs, also known as Dato-Compax models, collectively referred to as the “Jean-Claude Killy” watches.
The famous French alpine skier, Jean-Claude Killy, dominated the slopes in the 1960s with a trio of gold medals won at the 1968 Winter Olympics and a host of other accomplishments during his illustrious career. He was also a prominent Rolex ambassador, starring in so many of the brand’s ad campaigns, and has been a member of the company’s Board of Directors for over 40 years. In all of the time that he has been linked to Rolex, Killy has apparently never been photographed wearing a Dato-Compax — neither in his advertising shots, nor his personal life. However, it has been reported that he did indeed own one at some point. Whether or not Killy did or did not own or wear a luxurious vintage Rolex timepiece, a full calendar chronograph doesn’t deter from the fact that it is his name that is firmly attached to that particular collection.
Rolex Triple Calendar Chronograph 6236
The five references that make up the vintage Rolex Dato-Compax “Jean-Claude Killy” set include the 4768, 4767, 5036, 6036 and the 6236. These timepieces are among some of the most complicated ever manufactured by Rolex, boasting a triple calendar along with the chronograph function. The sporty yet, elegant Rolex “Killy” chrono calendars were first presented in the 1940s and remained in production until the early 1960s.
Photographed here is the ref. 6236, the last reference among the five, made by Rolex from 1958 until 1962. Compared to its four predecessors, the 6236 sported a larger bezel that was part of a three-part case construction and some dial design modifications. The manual wound movement powering the Rolex triple calendar chronographs was the Cal 72C mechanical movement with 17 jewels.
The dial housed within the 36mm Oyster case of the Rolex 6236 provides a wealth of information to the wearer, but its design is beautifully balanced for a watch face that’s harmonious rather than busy. The date is indicated by the outer track of blue Arabic numerals while the day and month are read off two windows flanking the Rolex coronet. The three subsidiary dials are embellished with engine-turned motifs and sit the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions around the luminous hands.
This particular 6236 was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal where the author recounts the story of how I purchased it for $350,000 from a former golf caddy who found it on a golf course during his youth. A watch so legendary that it was selected to be part of John Goldberger’s influential tome, 100 Superlative Rolex Watches, the Rolex Oyster 6236 triple calendar chronograph is certainly a prized piece among my personal vintage Rolex collection.