The Rolex Daytona is one of the most famous and exclusive watches worldwide. A journey into their past shows the unique history of the Daytona, which makes it one of the most popular watches for collectors and lovers.
Before the Daytona’s success story began, Rolex was more familiar with the waterproof three-by-eight models Datejust, Day-Date, Submariner and GMT-Master. The Rolex Daytona first had to fight for her primacy in the Rolex family. The namesake is the 24 Hours of Daytona (Florida), which is one of the most challenging and difficult races in motorsport. For the demanding requirements of the racers, a clock was to be developed, which allowed a second precise and precise time measurement. Rolex made the specially designed for motorsports chronograph ago for the first time in the 1930s, but not yet officially under the name Daytona. A telegram from the British Sir Malcolm Campbell, at that time one of the most successful racers testifies to the quality and functionality of the Rolex chronograph:
Today, the so-called Pre-Daytonas among collectors are highly sought after: they did not yet bear the name “Daytona”, but a simple “chronograph” on their dial (reference 6234, built in 1955-1961). At that time, the Pre-Daytonas cost about $ 200 and were more likely to be the storekeepers – other manufacturers had already become much more successful on the chronograph market. Today, the rare timepieces are traded with a black or silver dial in a stainless steel case from € 20,000.
The first Rolex Daytona
In 1962, the Swiss manufactory became the official timekeeper of the prestigious race at the Daytona International Speedway. As a sign of this direct connection, appeared in 1963 for the first time a Rolex chronograph officially under the name Rolex Daytona (reference 6239). For optimal readability in extreme situations, the tachy metric scale on the bezel was particularly large. The winners of the race were allowed to carry a Daytona home next to the trophy.
Even the American actor Paul Newman wore a Daytona in the late 1960s, including in the popular movie “Indianapolis – risk life and death” (original: “Winning”). Also privately a passionate racer, the star with the blue eyes was often photographed with a Rolex Daytona on the wrist. Although he was never an official Rolex ambassador, the models he wore received the unofficial name “Paul Newman Daytona.” Today they are among the most sought after collector’s watches. Characteristic of a “Paul Newman” is that totalizers (sub-dials) and Minuterie, ie the outer ring of the dial with minutes display, the same contrasting color, sometimes in addition with red scales.
In 1965, Rolex replaced the previous model with the first 6240 Daytona version with bolt-on pushers and black lunettes with acrylic inlays. The new Rolex Daytona with its dependable waterproofing can be interpreted as the completion of the Oyster concept. Accidental operation was henceforth impossible and prevented so that in such a case, water penetrated into the interior of the clock. Just five years later, the 6240 was taken out of the assortment. This makes it very rare today and expresses value. This was followed by the references 6265 and 6263 with the two dial variants black and silver.
The first Daytona with automatic movement
Rolex responded quickly to the development of the market: From 1988, the Rolex Daytona with the Zenith El Primero was further developed into an automatic watch. The legendary work has been built almost unchanged since 1969. The Swiss manufactory modified the work according to their ideas, had it certified as a chronometer and renamed it caliber 4030 – the Rolex Daytona (reference 16520), as we know it today, was born: It got the usual rings around the auxiliary dials and the housing has been enlarged from 36 to 40 millimeters. The demand for the Daytona with automatic lift was so great that the delivery per licensee was limited to just a few watches. From then on watch fans had to wait in part for years for their Rolex Daytona and the price rose. This was the myth of Daytona born.
Own manufactory for the Rolex Daytona
In 2000, Rolex’s own manufacturing plant 4130 replaced the modified Zenith El Primero. The new reference 116520 came with elegant silver-rimmed totalizes, a solid Oyster lockband and a clasp milled from a steel block. The small second of the new Daytona was moved from nine to six o’clock.
To date, the Rolex Daytona is one of the most popular watch models of the Swiss luxury manufacturer.