A Brief History of the Rolex Daytona - Part II ¶
Collectability in watches is directly correlated to rarity. The fewer examples out there, the higher the premium to purchase one. The Paul Newman Daytona is collectible because it was never popular when new, and very few were produced and sold. Most people thought of it as an ugly Rolex; then as now Rolex enthusiasts were a staunchly conservative bunch who didn’t like unusual design. There are many stories of dealers who were heavily discounting Daytonas to try and sell them; the Valjoux equipped versions retailed for two to three times the price of a similar Omega Speedmaster with a Lemania movement, which had the extra marketing of being chosen by NASA for use in the space program.
Over the decades the design evolved gradually. In the mid 60s screw-down pushers replaced the traditional pump-pushers to increase the water resistance. The Paul Newman exotic dials were dropped in the early 1970s, leaving only the more sober silver and black dials. But from 1961 to 1991 the Valjoux 72 calibre movement remained, as did the relatively small 37mm case size.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that people began to view the early Daytonas as collector’s pieces. Prices of early Paul Newmans began to steadily increase, a trend that has continued to this day. Soon later references began to go up in value as well. By the 1990s the Daytona was becoming a hit for Rolex, after years of being their unloved model. In 1991 a new version was introduced, featuring a larger 40mm case and more modern details as well as a modified automatic-winding Zenith El Primero chronograph movement. The 16520 became one of the most sought after Rolexes, and soon waiting lists emerged for the stainless steel examples.
The phenomenon of the Daytona waiting list was due to several factors. The stainless steel references were produced in limited quantities and only a few were allocated to each dealer. Combine that with the newfound popularity of the Daytona, as well as a relatively attractive price for a high-end chronograph with genuine pedigree, and you ended up with a waiting list that could stretch into several years (five years at one point) to purchase a new example at an authorized dealer. Things had come full circle for the Daytona, now they could not produce enough to meet demand and prices remained high. It had now become a collectible in its own time, and the go-to watch for collectors looking for a modern investment-grade piece.
In 2000 Rolex introduced an update version of the 16520, now referred to as the 116520. The main difference was the introduction of Rolex’s first in-house chronograph calibre, the 4130. Up until 2000 Rolex had purchased chronograph movements from outside suppliers (first Valjoux/ETA, then Zenith) and modified them for their own use. The 4130 was their first in-house complication and was well received for its simplicity. Where the Zenith El Primero was a complicated design that was difficult to service, the new movement was a clean-slate calibre that introduced a lot of innovations to improve performance while simplifying the mechanism and allowing for easier servicing. Next week, I will profile the three Cosmographs we have in stock - two stainless steel 116520s, and one 18K white gold 116509