The early pump-pusher Daytonas were something of an anomaly in the Rolex family, as they were watches that were not waterproof and as such could not be called “Oysters.” Ever the innovators in 1965 Rolex arrived at a solution for this. They fitted screw down elements to the pushers to prevent them from being activated when under water. Accordingly the word Oyster could now take its place of honor on the dial of these new Daytonas.
The very first screw-pusher Paul Newman Daytona is the model 6263 and it can be found with a black three-color Paul Newman dial, which are found typically in 2.085 and 2.197 serial number batches of the 6263s – how incredibly and wonderfully specific right? The three-color black dial is identical to the dials found in 6262 and 6264 including the flat printing of the “T swiss T” mark at their base with the exception of the word “Oyster” that was added to these dials to designate this new watch’s water proof status. It is for this reason that the word Oyster appears in non-serif font inconsistent with the serif font on the rest of the dial.
It is also the reason the word Oyster always appears under the words Rolex and Cosmograph and why they are known by the acronym black RCO dials. The Italians with their exuberant ability to bestow sobriquets refer to these dials as “Oyster sotto” or “Oyster beneath,” for obvious reasons.
How relevant is this? Is it just navel-picking, as the naysayers would have it? Well, one such RCO sold at the recent START-STOP-RESET stainless steel chronographs auction held by Phillips in Geneva for a staggering CHF1,985,000—a newly set world record for any Daytona. I don’t think the buyer is in doubt as to the relevance of this artefact in the context of 20th-century art.