As with, say, vintage race cars, when it comes to collector value in watches, the “who” is often just as crucial as the “what.” Sure, there is always appeal for a great piece of vintage track weaponry, but if you add in a notable driver, some race wins, or even a legendary racing team … baby, you got a stew going. In this case, the stew is being offered by Christie’s and their Watches Online: Discovering Time, and its headline lot – aka. the broth and potatoes – is a Rolex Daytona ref. 6265 that was owned and worn by racing legend Carroll Smith.
Those of you not up on your American racing history might think I got the last name wrong, but I meant Smith and not Shelby, though Carroll Smith did work with Carroll Shelby as part of the team that prepped the winning GT40s for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in both 1966 and 1967. Those of you who have seen the recent Ford vs. Ferrari (or have read A.J Baime’s simply superb Go Like Hell) will know that the GT40 program of the late 1960s has become one of the most hallowed stories in the history of American road racing, especially in Europe, and most specifically against Ford’s then-bitter rival, Ferrari.
While Shelby would eventually become something of a household name for anyone even remotely into cars and racing, Carroll Smith was undoubtedly cut from a similar cloth. His career started in racing as a driver, and then, he worked with Ford and Shelby in developing the cars that would eventually win four years in a row at Le Mans. The watch in question was a gift from the Cuddy Racing Team in 1973 following the L&M F5000 Championship Series, and the caseback reads “Carroll Smith, 1973, L & M Series, Cuddy Racing.”
Smith, who passed in 2003, would continue to support various racing teams with his extensive engineering knowledge (including Ferrari’s F1 team in the late ’70s), become a published author, and even return to vintage racing. He was the real deal, and this is some fortunate bidder’s chance at owning his Rolex Daytona.
With a panda dial, a steel tachymeter bezel, and what looks to be worn but cared for condition, this 6265 represents a racing watch icon (the Daytona) that was owned and worn by a racing legend of the same era (Smith). The time in which the Daytona became part of the iconography of motorsports is the same “golden years” era of racing in which Carroll Smith played a considerable role.
Those interested in a vintage Daytona with legit racing provenance can find more details in lot 115 of Christie’s sale, which is online and running until October 13. With an estimate of $ 150,000 – $ 200,000, the lot includes two of Smith’s books and, for the qualified racing-obsessed collector, one hell of a story.