The History of the Rolex Cosmograph part I : the pump pushers

Apr 14, 2009,05:42 AM

The legend says that the Daytona fever started in Italy in 1985, when a magazine published on its cover the photo of G. Agnelli on his boat, wearing a classic 6263 with silver dial. A simple photo that would breathe new life into a model that for 22 years had never really found its public (M. Pisani).



The production of the Rolex Cosmograph began in 1963 with the reference 6239, initially powered by the Valjoux 72B of the previous models (ref. 6238).


Rolex ref. 6238 (Photo: PremiumWatch)


The watch is characterized by a round case (again similar to the 6238), a tachometric scale engraved onto the bezel and counters in a different colour than the dial (black on light coloured dials, silver on black dials). This colour contrast fulfilled the need to check time more easily in bad visibility, for example during motor races. The twinlock 6mm crown, pump pushers ref. 24-p3 and tropic 21 plexi are the same as on the 6238.


Cosmograph ref. 6239 with black dial (Photo WorldofTime)


Cosmograph ref. 6239 with silver dial (Photo: A. Shear)


Cal. 72B (Photo: A. Shear)


The oldest examples have a bezel for speed measurement with graduations of up to 300 units per hour; which was replaced by a 200 units per hour bezel in the mid 1960’s.


The inscription DAYTONA on the dial - initially aimed only at the North American market - appeared on a Rolex advert in 1964, when the production began. Rolex was sponsoring an automobile competition on this famous circuit and the legend says that an example in stainless steel was given to all the participants and a gold version to the winner of the race.


1960’s North American Rolex ad


1966 Rolex Cosmograph booklet


Before 1967, the DAYTONA inscription was at the top, under COSMOGRAPH with letters of varying size. In 1967 it appeared on the counter at 6 o’clock. On the earliest black dials, the inscriptions were white or grey and red on more recent examples. The two s sometimes present on the 6239 dial indicate that the dial, though belonging to a model in steel, had indices applied in gold, the standard of manufacture for all gold cases.


In 1965, the cal. 72B is replaced by the improved cal. 722 (that will become cal. 722-1 in 1967). The reference 6241 is introduced the same year, with a black acrylic bezel:


Cosmograph ref. 6241 (Photo nbTimes)


In some cases, the black color of the dial or of the subdials has turned to brown because of heavy sun exposure: these tropical examples are sought after by collectors:


Tropical Cosmograph ref. 6239 (Photo nbTimes)



In 1966, the case of the cosmograph is modified and becomes slightly asymmetric, for an easier winding.


In 1970, the movement is upgraded for the last time with the introduction of the new cal. 727 (21600 bps) and references 6239/6241 then become references 6262/6264 until 1972.


cal. Rolex 727 (Photo: A. Shear)


here’s the original early 1960’s booklet of the Cosmograph ref. 6239:



And here are several Cosmographs featured together in a 1960’s Rolex catalogue:



Stay tuned for part two, that will focus on the models with screw down pushers.



Acknowledgements: Marcello Pisani


This message has been edited by DrStrong on 2009-04-14 05:43:54 This message has been edited by DrStrong on 2009-04-20 01:38:49 This message has been edited by DrStrong on 2011-01-24 00:45:50

More posts: 6238623962416263DaytonaPre Daytona

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Quickly quickly

 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : April 14th, 2009-05:51
I can't wait much longer gives us part 2 :0) Great report as usual Thank you best Damian

I am working on it Damian [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-00:42
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Very nice post, Jeff

 By: amanico : April 14th, 2009-06:58
Can't wait to read your Part II, my friend. What made me laught, but also think is what M . Pisani wrote about this model which wasn't a successful one for years and years. Suddenly, it became an icon... Strange how a Legend can start, and live. Best, Nic... 

Thanks Nicolas !

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-00:44
Marcello has been the first historian of the Comosgraph and I have enjoyed reading his articles in Italian magazines when I started collecting watches. Cheers Jeff

Great work Jeff, Thank you :-) [nt]

 By: kaiserfranz : April 14th, 2009-07:44
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You're welcome...

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-00:45
thanks for the kind words ! Jeff

Excellent post Jeff - a great deal of original work. Interesting and loved

 By: 219 : April 14th, 2009-14:20
the photos of the movements - shows the high quality of the Rolex finish. Andrew H

Thanks Andrew ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-00:45
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Loved the history lesson...Thanks Dr. Strong...and the Legend goes on...

 By: p@p@ : April 14th, 2009-23:07
here are some pics of the latest iteration (April-2009) of this "legendary and iconic" Rolex model...Enjoy! ppcollector...  

Great article...

 By: dxboon : April 14th, 2009-23:07
...and I love the photos of the movements!  There's so much to discover in looking at these vintage Rolexes!   Fantastic! Thanks, Daos

Thanks Daos [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-01:00
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This is Brilliant!!!

 By: Oztimelord : April 15th, 2009-00:33
Jeff, What a great effort. Looking forward to part two. Maybe you also do a part three focusing on exotic dials. Regards Rene

Thanks Rene

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-01:02
yes I have in mind something specific about exotic dials... and I realize that I have not mentioned the 6239 in gold...maybe you have some informations to share with us ? Cheers Jeff

Some more pics of the 6239 in Gold

 By: Oztimelord : April 15th, 2009-18:28
Jeff, Here are some more pictures. The 6239 in gold came in 14ct (for US market) and in 18ct. The only other sighting of a standard dial gold 6239 is in John Goldberger's book ' 100 Superlative Rolex Watches' page 238. From my understanding, most 18ct Gol...  

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. [nt]

 By: Davo : April 15th, 2009-03:17
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Thanks ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 15th, 2009-09:49
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Very nice works. Can't wait to see the rest

 By: PoyFR : April 15th, 2009-08:56
More or less we all have been around it, but to see a compile history with such precision is amassing. Thank you.

My pleasure Bernhard ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 16th, 2009-01:00
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Thanks Jeff...

 By: drsh : April 16th, 2009-01:08
for an excellent article! I am re-discovering my interest in Rolexes and your article was timely, informative and interesting. Like the rest here, i wait eagerly for Part 2!! cheers! sh

Part 2 is cooking...;-) [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 16th, 2009-01:54
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Great Work Jeff !

 By: quentin : April 17th, 2009-04:54
Many thanks and "bon WE"

Thanks Quentin [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 17th, 2009-13:07
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Thanks Jeff for another great job...

 By: E.J. : April 18th, 2009-02:39
like always my friend!. It´s really a pleasure read all these kind of hard jobs, and be able to admire all this marvels with this History behind them. thanks again. best Emilio

Thanks for the kind words Emilio ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : April 18th, 2009-04:28
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 By: eparisini : January 21st, 2011-05:28
I'd like to see the photo of G. Agnelli on his boat, wearing a classic 6263 with silver dial


 By: Baron - Mr Red : January 21st, 2011-06:04
and not only that, a thanks to you for dragging this superb article back again. It has made me take off my beater and put on my 6239!!

Dear baron

 By: eparisini : January 21st, 2011-08:18
i love this tread too!