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Good Things Take Time: The 16-Year Wait for The Rolex Daytona 116520

May 2, 2018

BY Paul Altieri

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The last of the full stainless steel Daytona watches before the new steel and ceramic Daytona ref. 116500LN took its place, the Rolex Daytona 116520 was in production for 16 years. It is an important reference in Rolex’s archives since it debuted the brand’s first in-house automatic chronograph movement. While the Daytona ref. 116520 is no longer in production, it is still highly sought-after in the secondary market. Let’s find out why.

The Rolex Daytona 116520 Took 16 Years To Develop

The Rolex Daytona 116520 Took 16 Years To Develop

The Design of the Rolex Daytona 116520

When one thinks of a Rolex Daytona, more likely than not the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116520 comes to mind thanks to its quintessential design. Sporting a 40mm stainless steel case outfitted with the duo of screw-down pushers bordering the screw-down winding crown and a tachymeter engraved steel bezel, the 116520 is an absolute classic.  

In keeping with the sleek look of the steel Rolex chronograph, the dial choices of the Rolex Daytona ref. 116520 are black or white, each housing the familiar 3/6/9 layout of the three subdials. Just a side note, because of the then-new movement inside, the positions of the subdials changed slightly compared to the preceding Daytona ref. 16520—which used a Zenith-based movement. The running seconds and the 12-hour counter switched positions so that the former now sits at 6 o’clock.

Along with the subdials, there are the luminescent indexes and hour markers. It’s interesting to note that the face of the Daytona is so different than other Rolex sports watches not only because of the trio of registers, but also because it doesn’t have the round lume plots, Mercedes-style hands, and date window and Cyclops magnification lens à la Submariner, GMT-Master, Explorer II, Yacht-Master and so on.

Completing the exterior of the Daytona ref. 116520 is the ever-reliable Oyster bracelet, but this time with solid center links instead of the hollow ones like in older models. There’s also the more robust clasp with the Easylink extension system to allow for a 5mm lengthening for a more comfortable fit.

The Daytona ref. 116520’s Rolex Caliber 4130

After almost four decades of relying on base movements—the Valjoux for the manual Daytona chronographs and the Zenith El Primero for the automatic Daytona chronographs—Rolex finally unveiled an in-house chronograph movement in 2000.

The Rolex Caliber 4130 automatic chronograph movement includes a vertical-clutch construction rather than a lateral clutch one, which provides precise starts and stops of the chronograph seconds hand without any jittering, along with improved timekeeping accuracy. Furthermore, compared to the earlier Caliber 4030’s 54-hour power reserve, the Caliber 4130 offers a 72-hour power reserve due to a larger mainspring barrel.

An ultra reliable, durable, and serviceable mechanical movement, the Caliber 4130 continues to be used by today’s Rolex Daytona watches.

Although Rolex manufactured the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116520 for 16 years, throughout its production run, it remained one of the hardest Rolex watches to find at official boutiques. Demand for this iconic chronograph always outpaced supply and now that Rolex has ceased to make it entirely, supply in the secondary market is thinning out too. If you ever find the opportunity to add the first in-house movement powered Daytona watch to your collection, it would be a smart move to go for it!

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