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Introduced in 1963, the Rolex Daytona has been linked with icons such as Paul Newman and Sir Malcolm Campbell. As the Submariner conquered the deep sea, so did the Rolex Daytona on land. Designed for professional racers, it features a precision chronograph and tachometer bezel which allow accurate measurement of land speeds of up to 400 miles per hour. The Cosmograph Daytona symbolizes Rolex's historical ties to the world of motorsports.
The newest edition of the Rolex Daytona family with the Cerachrom black bezel and platinum PVD treatment was introduced this year in 2016 at the Basel Swiss Watch Fair. The current retail price is $12,400 but there is a long waiting list to buy one.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona first emerged in 1963 a watch for professional drivers and included several functions to help the wearer keep perfect time. The Daytona watch joined the ranks of other successful professional watches such as the Submariner and Milgauss, solidifying Rolex as the go-to brand for sports watches. Through the decades, Rolex has thoughtfully refined the Cosmograph Daytona into the impressive collection of stylish and highly functional Daytonas that are seen on the market today, leaving a fascinating history in its wake.
Originally named the Rolex Cosmograph, the Daytona was initially designed for use in space, in an attempt to become the official watch of NASA astronauts. The Cosmograph provided an extremely accurate reading and a large, easy to read dial, making it the perfect match for space exploration. But unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and in 1964 Rolex turned its sights towards Daytona, Florida and the emerging world of motor sports (Rolex 24 at Daytona). It was a natural fit and the Cosmograph found its new home among the exciting, high speed world of professional racecar diving. As a result, the cosmograph was renamed the Cosmograph Daytona and has been an iconic symbol of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
One of the most well-known Daytona Rolex enthusiasts was actor Paul Newman who, in 1972, was gifted a Rolex Daytona by his wife shortly after he discovered his love for racing. It’s rumored that Paul Newman’s connection to his favorite Daytona was made shortly after he appeared on the cover of an Italian magazine, launching reference 6239 into notoriety. Models with the same dial as reference 6239 have been fondly nicknamed the “Paul Newman” dial and offer distinguishing features such as exotic art deco-style subdials with block markers. Another notable difference between the Paul Newman dial and other Daytona models is the unique positioning of the seconds subdial at the 9 hour marker. The Paul Newman Daytonas went out of production in the early 1970’s, making them extremely rare and highly coveted today. Consequently, the price for a Rolex Daytona Paul Newman can easily be in the hundreds of thousands.
The Paul Newman dial is included in the original 4-digit Daytona series that were introduced in the 1960’s. These watches featured a manual quartz movement and were produced in limited quantities until the late 1980’s, making them extremely rare today. A handful of the earliest 4-digit models did not come equipped with a screw-down crown or side pushers and were built with a manual Valjoux calibre 72 Rolex chronograph movement. Later models from the original series included Oyster functions and were equipped with an updated calibre 727 manual Valjoux chronograph movement. This movement was redesigned by Rolex to include custom features that enhanced its accuracy in the fast-paced world of professional driving. Along with this update came the appearance of the name “Oyster” on the dial. You can learn more about Rolex Daytona Paul Newman's here.
Sales for the original manual movement did not meet Rolex’s initial expectations. As a result, an updated 5-digit version was introduced in 1988 that included an updated Zenith El Primero automatic movement. The custom-made movement was built with 28,000 vph and provided greater resistance to temperature variations and shocks to provide a more precise and reliable reading. Today, Daytonas with a Zenith El Primero movement have begun to grow in popularity, thus making them a wise choice for those who are interested in investing in their first Daytona.
The most recent update to the Daytona watch was made in the year 2000 with the introduction of the 6-digit model that included a Rolex-made and certified calibre 4130 automatic movement. By this time, the Daytona had become an incredible success, and the addition of the new 6-digit model with its expertly crafted automatic movement had earned it a place as one of the most highly sought after Rolex watches.
Now that we’ve explored the fascinating history of the Cosmograph Daytona, let’s take a look at the incredible features that create its iconic style.
One of the most notable features of the modern Daytona is the ceramic bezel with an engraved tachymeter scale that works in conjunction with the three subdials to measure driving times as well as calculate the average speed and distance traveled. The subdials can be controlled with the use of the side pushers and operate with a pleasing audible “click”. The top winding pusher starts and stops the seconds hand, and the bottom winding pusher returns the seconds hand and subdials back to their starting positions. The pushers wind down when not in use to protect the watertight seal of the intricate winding down system.
The Cosmograph Daytona is available in several materials and dial options, making it easy for the wearer to choose the perfect watch to suit their individual style. A wide array of color choices are available for the dial including Rolex black, white, ivory, champagne, pink, mother of pearl, chocolate, ice blue, and steel. These all blend seamlessly with materials that are of the highest quality to meet the standards that Rolex brand is associated with.
If the Rolex Daytona stainless steel model wasn’t already a show stopper, the newly introduced two-tone model would be sure to please even the pickiest of buyers. In the 1930’s Rolex introduced their patented Yellow Rolesor which paired resilient stainless steel and luxe 18 karat yellow gold. This combination adds a flare of sophistication to the Cosmograph Daytona. Newer models incorporate an upgraded and highly resistant 904L stainless steel into their Yellow Rolesor that is known for known for being corrosion proof and extremely easy to polish and maintain. Several decades after the introduction of Yellow Rolesor, Rolex unveiled dazzling Everose, a highly durable material that adds a modern flare to the Rolex Daytona rose gold watch. The cosmograph Rolex Daytona gold model is also available in other luxurious materials such as rare platinum and 18 karat white gold.
Made with only the finest materials, All Daytonas come equipped with an Oyster bracelet that is constructed with flat 3-piece links and a folding Oysterlock safety clasp. The bracelet also features an Easylink extension link that allows the wearer to adjust the length up to 5mm for a comfortable fit. Its substantial and masculine styling is perfectly in line with the sporty design of the Cosmograph Daytona.
Since the introduction of the Daytona there have been a number of different references introduced. Below is a list of some of the different references.
Since 1962, some of the top racing icons have gravitated to the Daytona International Speedway to compete in the Rolex 24. This 24-hour grueling marathon can get the best of even the most seasoned racers. This year, Filipe Albuquerque, João Barbosa, and Christian Fittipaldi took home the honors.
If you would like to learn more about the "Rolex Daytona", it's history, facts, when it was launched, as well as other important facts like current models and early vintage models, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolex_Daytona.
See also: Best-sellers & classic timepieces | New / unworn top watch models | Racing Watches