On Friday, December17, 2012, a Rolex Ref. 6236 “Jean-Claude Killy” manufactured in 1960 went up on the auction block. Estimated at $120,000-180,000, it fetched an astounding $638,500, which is a world record for the reference. The watch is referred to as the Jean-Claude Killy because Olympic gold medalist Killy, who won three events in 1968, wore this model of watch.
Up until last year the Jean-Claude Killy, which is a triple calendar chronograph, was one of the most complicated watches Rolex ever made. Last year, Rolex got back into the complications game when they released the Sky-Dweller, an annual calendar with two zones operating off a sophisticated bezel system and containing a new movement, calibre 9001.
Think about that: in over 50 years Rolex made less complicated pieces rather than trying to top themselves and the competition. When quite a few watch brands duke it out to impress with ever more complicated watches, Rolex decided to sit back and observe. But then again Rolex has always marched to the beat of their own drummer—and with great success.
The series of triple calendar chronos deemed the “Jean-Claude Killy” was produced for only 20 years starting in the 1940’s. Cased in stainless steel, yellow gold and pink gold, it includes references 4767, 5036, 6036 and concluded with the Ref. 6236. The Ref. 6236 can be recognized by the larger, more prominent bezel that is clipped to the main body of the case.
This particular stainless steel example features a two-tone dial and applied square and Arabic numerals, though other designs were produced. The outer date ring in blue perfectly frames the Day and Date windows at 12 o’clock and the Dato Compax layout. The “six” and “nine” are now closed, indicating it’s from a later production. Rolex collectors look for consistent aging on the dialand this watch’s typical short hour indexes with a luminous dot towards the outside have turned a warm beige- brown which matches with the luminous material on the hands.
Adding to the provenance, the particular example of the Ref. 6236 comes from the Gordon Bethune collection. He was the CEO of Continental airlines and responsible for one of the greatest turnarounds of a company of that magnitude in history. Moreover, he loves watches and was a savvy collector. You can hear Bethune’s thoughts on how to collect and his strategy in our interview here.
As we know, in this market especially, condition is king. This particular Ref. 6236 stands as an example to the others in its midst. Thick angled and faceted lugs hug a crisp case that still clearly shows the model and reference numbers, while the oyster bracelet with its clasp dated 3/59, the third quarter of 1959, seems to be original.
All and all we’ve got a super package of the 4 Q’s: quality of maker, rarity, condition and provenance all lining up in a row, a quadruple whammy! And that’s why this Ref. 6236 set off a fierce bidding war that lifted the result to a world record.