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ROLEX BLOG

Big Red Rolex Daytona 6263

October 1, 2015

BY Paul Altieri

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A closer look at the vintage Cosmograph Daytona 6263

With its starting point in 1963, the Cosmograph collection from Rolex is arguably one of the most popular and respected lineups of watches from the brand’s catalog. And, the “Big Red” Rolex Daytona reference 6263 is one of the most sought after vintage timepieces of the Rolex Cosmograph.

Big Red Daytona 6263

The Big Red Daytona 6263 is one of the most popular vintage watches that people seek.

A Vintage Chronograph

The new-generation Daytona chronograph by Rolex was named Cosmograph by the brand to distinguish itself from the standard chronographs already on the market. It was a collection built with race drivers in mind as Rolex already had an established relationship with the sport of motor racing. Although referred to as the “Daytona” today, the original 1963 Cosmograph was not; it was only in 1965 that we saw the “Daytona” name first appear on the dial.

Big Red Daytona 6263

The Daytona line was made with racers in mind.

Among the motor-racing-inspired Daytona watches, the ref. 6263 is an important and exceptional watch that is as much at home on a wrist today as it was back in the 1970s, underlying the timeless appeal of a Daytona.

The Big Red Daytona 6263

In this particular model of the “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 the crisp light dial sets the tone for the watch’s look, allowing the three black sub-dials and iconic red “Daytona” insignia to pop. Contrasting colors – either light dials with dark counters or dark dials with white counters – was important to the Daytona collection for practical and aesthetic reasons. In terms of practicality, inversely colored sub-dials allowed for easier readability for the wearer, while speaking aesthetics, the contrasting elements were a departure from the existing monochromic Rolex chronograph dials. It is a classy vintage sports watch.

The subtle luminescence markers sit towards the outer edge of the dial at the end of the silver indexes. On the stainless steel case we find the black tachymetric bezel with black insert contrasting white graduations for clear legibility. The stainless steel Oyster bracelet topping off the piece completes the masculine allure of the 6263.

Big Red Daytona 6263

The pushers are important and were modified to prevent accidental taps or pushes.

In the original 1963 Cosmograph, Rolex used pump pushers and later the brand introduced screw-down chronograph pushers to the 1965 models to avoid accidental tampering. This ref. 6263 is indeed also equipped with the screw-down chronograph pushers, as well as a waterproof screw-down crown. The increased waterproofness made way for the presence of the label “Oyster” on the face of the watch. The “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 is powered by a manually wound chronograph movement as Rolex only introduced an automatic movement to the Daytona collection in 1988.

Technical, sporty and most importantly a true vintage masterpiece, the popularity of the “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 is a testament to its ageless charm. An important player in Rolex’s illustrious heritage, the 6263 is a quintessential sports watch.

A Closer Look at the Vintage Cosmograph Daytona 6263

There are icons among icons. It is fair to say that within the pantheon of the greats, some watches reign supreme. The word iconic is grossly overused in the watchmaking industry, but few would argue it does not apply to models such as the Rolex Submariner, Datejust, or Daytona. But within each of those families, there are superstars. There are references that stand head and shoulders above the rest. These models’ influence echoes down the ages. In my opinion, the Rolex Big Red Daytona 6263 is one of those pieces.

With its starting point in 1963, the Cosmograph collection from Rolex is arguably one of the most popular and respected lineups of watches from the brand’s catalog. And, the “Big Red” Rolex Daytona reference 6263 is one of the most sought-after vintage timepieces of the Rolex Cosmograph. Wild as it may seem, given this sporty chronograph’s humble beginnings, these pieces now trade in the six-figure realm. But where did this unbelievable rise to supremacy start, and what exactly has propelled the Rolex Big Red Daytona 6263 to the top of the watchmaking mountain?

A Vintage Chronograph

Rolex’s new-generation Daytona chronograph was named Cosmograph by the brand to distinguish itself from the standard chronographs already on the market. It was a collection built with race drivers in mind as Rolex already had an established relationship with the sport of motor racing. Although referred to as the “Daytona” today, the original 1963 Cosmograph was not. It was not until 1965 that we saw the “Daytona” name first appear on the dial.

Among the motor-racing-inspired Daytona watches, the ref. 6263 is an important and exceptional watch that is as much at home on a wrist today as it was back in the 1970s, underlying the timeless appeal of a Daytona.

But in those days, the mainstream was a little behind the curve when it came to racing chronographs. While these were incredibly popular with people in and around the sport, it took a while before the man on the street knew about the Daytona and desired one for his own wrist. Luckily, the 6263 (“white” dials in particular) had a memorable and aesthetically pleasing visage that would make them appealing to a wider demographic than just motorsports enthusiasts.

A Cult Classic

In this particular model of the “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263, the crisp light dial sets the tone for the watch’s look, allowing the three black sub-dials and iconic red “Daytona” logo to pop. Contrasting colors – either light dials with dark counters or dark dials with white counters — were important to the Daytona collection for practical and aesthetic reasons.

In terms of practicality, contrasting sub-dials improved readability for the wearer. When it comes to aesthetics, the panda or reverse panda setups gave these chronographs a distinctly sporty, dynamic look that separated them from the rest of the Rolex catalog. The arched, bright red “Daytona” text above the 6 o’clock sub-dial was the final flourish that pushed this piece into the realm of the exceptional. Like few other pieces on the market, the Rolex Daytona looked ready for business.

It was a stark and emboldening departure from the existing monochromic Rolex chronograph dials. The design tropes popularized by the Rolex Big Red Daytona 6263 have endured. Nowadays, perhaps the watch appears less arresting or eye-catching than it did in its early days. Perhaps, in many ways, that is why it has become so sought after. As far as sports chronographs go, it is a quiet classic and one that will forever echo a golden era of track-based exploits and watchmaking ascension.

A Thoroughly Modern Watch

The subtle luminescent markers sit towards the outer edge of the dial at the end of the silver indexes. We find the black tachymeter bezel insert on the stainless steel case, with contrasting white graduations for clear legibility. The stainless steel Oyster bracelet affixes this watch to its wearer’s wrist and hammers home the tough, masculine allure of the Rolex Big Red Daytona 6263.

While we associate the Big Red 6263 with the very earliest days of the Daytona’s existence, Rolex had been making chronographs for quite some nice, and the Cosmograph collection itself was hardly wet behind the ears. Significant changes that massively informed and benefitted the Rolex Big Red Daytona’s memorable aesthetic had already been made to the core of the Cosmograph collection.

Upon release in 1963, the original Cosmograph used pump pushers. These were abandoned in 1965 (the same year the Daytona name stuck), and were replaced with screw-down chronograph pushers to avoid accidental tampering. Consequently, reference 6263 is also equipped with the screw-down chronograph pushers, as well as a water-resistance-bolstering screw-down crown. The increased water-resistance meant that Rolex could add the Oyster label to the dial. This was a significant step in the definition of the Daytona’s identity and one that has seen it sit comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of Rolex’s professional models throughout the years.

The “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 is powered by a manually wound chronograph movement as Rolex only introduced an automatic movement to the Daytona collection in 1988.

Technical, sporty, and most importantly a true vintage masterpiece, the popularity of the “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 is a testament to its ageless charm. An important player in Rolex’s illustrious heritage, the 6263 is a quintessential sports watch. While it commands fearsome sums on the pre-loved market these days, its deepening legend and continued popularity seem to suggest those prices will only head in one direction in the coming years.

Daytona 6263 Wins

Choosing just one Rolex reference out of the dozens that I’ve worn and admired over the years is no easy task. In the end, it was a toss-up between the so-called “Steve McQueen” Explorer II ref. 1655 and the “Big Red” Rolex Daytona ref. 6263. Ideally, I’d pick one Rolex at each price point, and in a perfect world be able to afford both – perhaps down the road. But for me, if we’re talking about a ‘grail watch’ right at this moment, the Daytona 6263 wins by a wide margin.

Vintage Rolex Big Red Daytona 6263

The Rolex Daytona ref. 6263 “Big Red”

The first time you strap on a Rolex Daytona 6263 you may become a bit trepidatious about the 37mm size. Ditto the fragility of some older Rolex references – the Big Red debuted in the early 1970s. Neither one turned out to be an issue. Nor did it pale in comparison to the much more famous and expensive reference 6263 Paul Newmanversion.

The Daytona with its black dial, black acrylic bezel, and just a touch of red is an inherently racy design, while the Daytona is the ultimate driving watch, so the ref. 6263 turned out to complement the car a number of super cars. The contemporary stainless steel Daytona with Cerachrom ceramic bezel (reference 116500LN) draws heavily on the design of the 6263, which sports screw-down chronograph pushers and the ‘Daytona’ name in red, as does the new model. Even the Cerachrome bezel calls to mind reference 6263.

By the way, not all Rolex 6263 watches with the Daytona name in red are called “Big Reds” – this nickname refers to models with the famous name in an extra-large font. Taken together with its white sub-dials, the Rolex 6263 has a modernist look that truly bridges the gap between modern and vintage.

Rolex Daytona 6263 Big Red Vintage

The Rolex Daytona 6263 “Big Red” would be the ideal watch to pair with a Porsche 911 or Ferrari of a similar vintage. But a Huracán is hardly a poor pairing. The ref. 6263 was one of the select group of Rolexes picked to be part of the recent Bobs Watches and SothebysDrivers Collectionsale, and though it wasnt a Big Red, it still brought lots of style – especially paired with a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta By Scaglietti.

Big Reds arent exactly easy to come by of course, and a similar auction is your best bet of acquiring one these days. They usually carry estimates of about $30,000$50,000, which may seem like a lot until you compare it with a Paul Newman model. 

Vintage Rolex Daytona 6263 Big Red

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