Rolex Daytona: Full Guide
One can never talk about the most iconic watches ever made without mentioning Rolex’s Daytona. Officially called the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, it’s a mechanical watch par excellence. It is manufactured to cater to racing drivers who want to measure elapsed time. Racers can calculate their average speed with the tachymeter scale on the bezel. As such, the Rolex Daytona watches can be considered one of the best racing watches ever made.
Rolex Daytona History
If you were to start tracking the Rolex Daytona through history, you’d inevitably arrive at the year 1962. The watch’s history can be traced back to 1962 when Rolex was named as the Official Timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway. To commemorate the occasion, Rolex introduced the Daytona reference 6239. This was the first chronograph from Rolex that was nicknamed Daytona and had a Cosmograph reference. Rolex Chronographs existed before this, but they had movements sourced from other manufacturers set inside well-known cases. In the 1940s, these movements were set in Rolex Oyster cases.
Paul Newman and the Daytona
Paul Newman has a long association with the Daytona. He is believed to have worn his Daytona every single day, on a leather strap, after receiving one as a gift from his wife, Joanne Woodward. That went on to achieve such cult status that the rarest Daytonas are now the ones with the Paul Newman dial.
This exotic dial is believed to have been equipped on only one in twenty units so there may only have ever been 2,000 to 3,000 Daytonas with this dial. For it to be an authentic Paul Newman dial, it must be among the vintage Daytonas from the original series with a four-digit reference number. The sub-dials have block markers instead of plain lines with crosshairs across each sub-dial. The Daytona is an expensive wristwatch; there’s no doubt about it.
When such history is attached, enthusiasts are willing to pay over and above Rolex prices to get their hands on one. Paul Newman’s Paul Newman, the watch that the actor himself wore, fetched $17.8 million in October 2017, making it the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction. No wonder auction houses across the globe always love a good vintage Daytona.
The Self-Winding Movement by Rolex
The company had used hand-wound movements in earlier models. The Daytona ref. 6263 and 6265 are particularly of note. They were produced between 1971 and 1988 with one of them being auctioned off in 2013 for almost 1 million Swiss francs. Rolex later introduced a self-winding Daytona in 1988 which relied on the Zenith El Primero movement. The modern Daytona watches feature a Calibre 4130 self-winding movement made by Rolex. It’s regarded among the gold standard for automatic chronographs.
The Daytona steel variants continue to be the most sought after with customers often being put on a waitlist as Rolex only manufactures a few thousand units annually. Anybody can buy a gold Daytona if they have the investment for it. You’d likely earn the respect of watch collectors if you were able to successfully hunt down an authentic steel Daytona without having to go through the motions of the waitlist.
Rolex continues to offer the Daytona in a variety of finishes. They include an all-steel model, steel and gold, yellow gold, white gold, Everose Gold, and Platinum. The platinum version was introduced to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Daytona, and it features an ice blue dial, a color that Rolex reserves for its platinum models. Even the solid Oyster bracelet is made entirely of platinum. It was topped off with a chestnut brown ceramic bezel to match the dial perfectly. It instantly became hit among collectors despite its significantly high price given the material used to fashion the watch.
Steel models are understandably the most attainable as the material is not as expensive as precious metals like gold and platinum.
Daytona Popularity Among Watch Collectors
There’s no doubt about the fact that the Rolex Daytona is an expensive wristwatch. However, it has stood the test of time. Rolex has improved it considerably over the past few decades, and its appeal to customers only appears to be increasing with each passing year. Watch enthusiasts will gladly wait as much as a year for the most popular Daytona Cosmograph models.
The Daytona joins that exclusive list of timepieces that have cultivated an iconic status of themselves over the years. It remains one of the most instantly recognizable watches ever made with Rolex refining the design with each iteration yet maintaining the silhouette. The performance of the chronograph receives much praise as well because the movement is just that good. It can hold its own against more expensive and intricate chronograph movements.
Most watch collectors would have at least one Daytona in their collection, if not more. That’s a testament to the Daytona’s appeal, and it shows no signs of dissipating any time soon.
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