A Brief History of the Rolex Daytona - Part III ¶
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After producing the Zenith powered 16520 models for 10 years, the Rolex Daytona was updated with a new in-house chronograph calibre dubbed the 4130. The 116520 remains in production today, virtually unchanged since 2000. And the waiting lists remain as well, with buyers waiting anywhere between 6 months to two years for delivery at most North American dealers. The stainless steel version is available with one of two dials – white or black. Here at Matt Baily’s we have both examples in stock, as well as the 116509 in 18K white gold.
Daytonas like these are notable for their consistency. Style has remained virtually unchanged for the last 20 years, which isn’t a bad thing as the overall design is very good. At 40mm it is a reasonable size for most wrists, and has developed a following among savvy women as well as men. Like most sport Rolexes it is well proportioned, with a relatively slim profile and a nicely matched Oyster link bracelet. They wear bigger than the 40mm size would suggest. As with any modern Rolex the finishing is impeccable throughout; the case is machined and polished with the utmost attention to detail, the dial has fine applied details and metal subdial surrounds, and the screw-down pushers are finely crafted and can be manipulated easily with a light touch.
The bracelet is a highlight; the Oyster link has always been a comfortable, durable and stylish metal bracelet, but for many years it had a light and cheap feeling. The Daytona was one of the first models to introduce the new “super” Oyster bracelet with solid links, solid end pieces, and a milled (rather than stamped) clasp. It has a nice weight and excellent feel, with nary a sharp edge to be found, and the clasp is amazing. Nowadays the super Oyster is standard on most models, but up until a few years ago it was only available in the upper end of the Rolex range.
The weak point of the Daytona is legibility. While the dial and hands are impeccably crafted, they are difficult to read. The black dial in particular has very poor contrast between the polished markers and the glossy black surface. The 18K white gold variant is slightly better in this regard due to its signature red subdial hands, minute track, and sweep seconds hand – these are only available on the white gold model to distinguish it from the lesser stainless steel versions. But on a watch like a Daytona complaints about legibility are moot. It doesn’t diminish the pedigree or the importance of the model, and it certainly doesn’t affect their value as an investment.
The 4130 movement is a finely crafted design that meets Rolex’s high standards of quality. The automatic rotor is imperceptible and silent (compare that to the massive momentum you feel on the rotor of the Valjoux automatic calibre), the chronograph functions are tight and accurate with a light pusher action, and the movement has a healthy 72-hour power reserve. The real highlight of the 4130 is how accurate the chrono is - it starts and stops with absolute precision, unlike some lesser chronographs that tend to jump slightly when you start them.
The 18K white gold reference is distinguished by a few subtle details. As previously mentioned it features red hands; in addition the dial is a semi-gloss slate grey colour rather than a glossy black and features applied Arabic numerals that are unique to gold variants. It also features a unique tachymeter bezel with slightly different engraving. And as with any gold watch the weight is satisfying, the case and bracelet have a nice solid heft that can’t be matched by a steel watch. For my (imaginary) money, I’d happily take the white gold example over the stainless steel – it may not be a collectible like the steel Daytonas, but it is a subtle and satisfying piece that is distinct without being ostentatious.
The Daytona has become a living legend among watch connoisseurs, a collectible right our of the box and an investment grade watch. Very few companies can boast such strong popularity and interest in a particular model, certainly not with the sort of long-term strength that Rolex has shown with the Daytona over the last 30 years. Vintage Daytonas have moved into the stratosphere of watch collecting, and values were quick to recover from the market drop caused by the US recession. Nowadays a good Paul Newman will easily surpass 100 000$, rarer examples can run twice as much, and the most sought after (like one Paul Newman RCO dial with ‘tropical’ patina) are going for nearly half a million. While it is impossible to predict future market activity, it’s probably safe to say that out of all the Rolex lineup the Daytona has the highest likelihood of being a future collectible, given the history and pedigree we’ve seen since it was introduced in 1961. If you are interested in purchasing one of our Daytonas please contact me at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.