There are legendary wristwatches in the timepiece market; and then there are icons born of ingenious micromechanics, flawless aesthetics, incomparable functionality, and an aura of mystique that makes it matchless. One such chronograph recently celebrated its 50th anniversary: the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
A Variety of Modern Watches Currently Offered By Rolex
Rolex introduced its Professional series of wristwatches in 1953, which included the Explorer for explorers and mountaineers, and the Submariner designed exclusively for deep sea diving.
Rolex Daytona Race
In 1963 a new chronograph was introduced to the Professional series designed to celebrate the profession of race car driving: the Cosmograph – later named Daytona after its official designation as the Official Timepiece of the Daytona International Speedway in Florida. The invention of the Cosmograph name by Rolex indicated that this newly-introduced model was a leap in craftsmanship and design for the company, and the results revealed unprecedented engineering and artistry in timekeeping design.
Vintage Rolex Daytona 6239
One of the most noticeable innovations came through the contrasting color schemes between the counters and the dial, with either black on white, or white on black, allowing easier readability. In addition, the tachymeter scale – permitting wearers to measure average speeds over a given distance – inscribed around the circumference of the bezel gave the dial a more pronounced aesthetic.
Daytona Watch Movement
The manually-wound mechanical movement of Rolexes had always been praised for their precision and reliability, and the introduction of new dials further enhanced the mass appeal of the Cosmograph. One specific dial that earned considerable attention was the one preferred by Paul Newman, a dial made famous due to the Hollywood star and race car enthusiast wearing that particular Daytona model regularly.
Rolex Daytona 6265 FAB Movement
In 1965 new modifications were introduced, including screw-down pushers, instead of pump pushers from the original, further solidifying the waterproof Oyster concept. The names “Oyster” and “Cosmograph” appeared inscribed on all of the dials, and a black Plexiglass insert for the tachymetric bezel made visibility even more profound. Initially “Daytona” was inscribed on some dials exclusively within the U.S. market, before eventually making its way on the dial of every Cosmograph model. The Oyster Cosmograph also became available in an 18 carat yellow gold version with the now iconic “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” on the dial.
The Cosmograph Daytona took a major innovative leap in 1988 by becoming self-winding. Quartz watches had most recently become available in other timepieces, but Rolex stuck with the intricate mechanical movements it had been producing since its formation. They chose the most reliable chronograph movement (Zenith El Primero) they could find and then replaced nearly 50% of the mechanics with components designed exclusively for the Cosmograph Daytona. Aside from technical ingenuity, the newly-designed features brought out the immediacy and elegance of its aesthetics. The Oyster case was increased from 36 to 40 mm, shoulders were inserted to help protect the crown, the tachymetric bezel was made wider, new hands, new hour markers, and new counters within banded circles all became part of the newly-introduced model.
The Daytona 116520 Introduced in 2000
Never one to rest on its laurels, Rolex entered the new millennium with its newest 2000 model, and the results did not disappoint. With a clear nod to the traditional aesthetics of the 1988 Cosmograph Daytona (distinctively solid lines and designs that perfectly balanced form and functionality), the truly groundbreaking achievements made with the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona lie within the mechanics underneath.
Rolex Reference 116520
The Calibre 4130 marked a new achievement in self-winding chronograph movements, which was specifically designed for the Cosmograph Daytona and manufactured exclusively in-house. This new movement marked an unprecedented achievement in engineering and design, producing a self-winding chronograph unequaled in durability, efficiency, precision and reliability. The engineers behind the Calbre 4130 were able to cut the mechanism components by 60%, increasing space and making it possible to support a larger mainspring that helps extend power reserve from 50 to 72 hours.
Daytona 116520 Bracelet
Another major advancement in the 2000 model was the Parachrom hairspring, a part designed and manufactured exclusively by Rolex that further enhances the precision of the Daytona by increasing resistance to outside disturbances like magnetic fields, temperature variations, and the thousands of shocks it goes through on a daily wearer, while staying 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring.
Now, 50 years after its arrival, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona has become the first in the Professional series to be featured in platinum, one of the rarest and most precious of metals. The dial comes with an ice blue face, and the newly-introduced Cheracrom bezel has even more resistance properties and a balanced aesthetic that has continually defined the legendary Cosmograph Daytona over the decades.