A Brief History of the Rolex Daytona - Part I ¶
In terms of great collectible watches, Rolex has the market cornered. One of the most successful and most recognized watch brands in the world, Rolex has made a name for itself providing impeccable quality and rugged design in the mid-to-high-end luxury watch market. Vintage Rolexes in particular have become some of the most sought after collectibles. And king of the collectible Rolexes is the legendary Daytona chronograph (or Cosmograph in Rolex-speak). Seeing how the Daytona is celebrating its 50th year, I thought it would be fitting to give a brief history of the model and why it has become such a significant watch for Rolex.
The Daytona today is one of Rolexes most popular sport models, and their only chronograph. Watch geeks know of the (in)famous wait lists to purchase a stainless steel example. But many people are unaware of the cachet and pedigree of the Daytona, let alone why it has become a super-collectible. So in this week’s blog I will be profiling the history of the Daytona while showcasing the three examples we have here in store (two in stainless steel, one in white gold).
Rolex had made chronographs for many decades, but few have commanded as much attention as the Daytona. The Daytona emerged in the early 1960s with reference 6239 as a more sporting model that was distinguished by an external tachymeter scale on the bezel and an “Oyster” case (with a screw-on back and screw-down crown). Previous sport chronographs (now mostly referred to as “Pre-Daytonas”) had their tachymeters printed on the dial. The prominence of the tachymeter allowed for easier timing of speeds, and the Daytona was targeted at sports car drivers and racers (hence the moniker, referring to the Daytona Beach racetrack).
From 1961-1991 the Daytona featured a manual-wind Valjoux 72 column wheel chronograph movement. These manual wind examples are the most sought after, and the rarest of all is the so-called Paul Newman series. The Paul Newman refers to an early (1960s-1970s) Daytona that has an “exotic” dial, with a solid coloured dial offset by contrasting subdials and outer minute track. It got the nickname because the famous actor / racing driver supposedly received one as a gift from his wife, though this myth has been called into question in recent years (however Newman did wear the watch for many years up until his recent death). The Paul Newman is the rarest of all Daytonas for one simple reason – nobody wanted it.