Just like with classic cars, provenance is key to determining the value of a vintage watch. Understandably there’s a flutter of excitement in the collecting community after news surfaced that a vintage Rolex Daytona that belonged to Carroll Smith, the legendary automotive engineer and author, is up for grabs at an online auction hosted by Christie’s Watches this month.

The Steel Daytona Ref. 6265 circa 1973 was, according to the Christie’s online catalogue, gifted to Smith by Cuddy Racing team at the 1973 SCCA L&M F5000 Championship Series. His name and the team’s name are engraved on the steel caseback. The Rolex Daytona is a chronograph with a tachymeter scale bezel that was launched by the Swiss watchmaker in 1963 and was named so because Rolex was the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway.

The Daytona chronograph – with its tachymeter bezel that allowed users to measure speed when the distance between two points was fixed – was popular with race car drivers and motoring enthusiasts in the 1960’s and 70’s. The most famous example, undoubtedly, belonged to Hollywood star Paul Newman. A racing enthusiast himself, a Daytona gifted to Newman by his wife Joanne Woodward, famously sold for $17 million a few years ago.

The Rolex Daytona Ref. 6265 was gifted to Smith in 1973
Image Credit: Christie’s

Smith was a race car driver, engineer and author. He worked with the legendary Carroll Shelby and the Ford Motor Company on the GT40 Le Mans program. Smith reportedly oversaw the preparation on the cars that won the 1966 and 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, the compelling race inspired the 2019 film Ford vs. Ferrari. After his stint with the Ford, Smith would also work in Formula One, he briefly consulted with the Ferrari team. He also wrote a few books that were received well within the automotive community. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2003 in California.

The caseback has been engraved with his name and that of Cuddy Racing Team
Image Credit: Christie’s

According to Mike Fossner, Christie’s Watch Specialist, the real attraction of this watch lies in the fact that ‘it was used for the purpose it was designed for’ at the highest level of motor sport. The watch is being offered for sale as part of ‘Watches Online: Discovering Time’ and will be sold along with two of his books Prepare to Win (1975) and Drive to Win (1996). The pre-sale estimate of the watch is $150,000-200,000 and bidding ends in 9 days.