With Danica Patrick being in the news as the first women to win a Sprint Cup pole position at the Daytona 500 and bringing a lot of eyes to the event, we’ll take a look at the watch named after the famed race track –The Rolex Daytona. The Rolex Daytona chronograph is one of the world’s most copied watches because of Rolex’s attention to detail, the watch’s functionality, and its timeless balanced look.
Rolex has attempted to “stop time” since 1937 with the introduction of their “Oyster Chronographe,” a watch that essentially had two pushers and two subdials to count elapsed minutes and hours. Rolex did not invent the chronograph and was in fact late in the game as other watch companies had other chronographs in production. Like other companies at the time, Rolex utilized a Valjoux movement rather than developing an in-house movement – a decision Rolex rested with for over 50 years until 2000 when Rolex developed their own chronograph movement in-house. Still to this day, the Daytona chronograph has a top pusher to start and stop the stopwatch and the second pusher to reset and no date function.
The Rolex Daytona did not get its Daytona moniker until the mid-1960 when the tachymeter scale moved from the watch dial, to an outside bezel. The tachymeter bezel is used to measure the speed of a vehicle between static 1 mile or 1 kilometer posts. The late 1960’s also saw a variety of exotic dials, including the famous Paul Newman dial that was seen in the film “Winning.” The Paul Newman art deco style dial was produced in short quantities in 1970 and is frequently copied an inserted in genuine and fake Daytona watches to increase their value.
The modern Rolex Daytona has three subdials for measuring elapsed seconds, minutes, and hours, and has screw down pushers introduced in the 1960 to insure water resistance when using the chrono functions under water. Until 2000, Rolex utilized either a Valjoux or a Zenith chronograph movement. The watch case used in the late 1990’s with a Zenith movement and the Rolex’s inhouse movement is virtually identical. An easy way to tell the difference between a Zenith and an inhouse movement is to look at the subdials. The subdials on the Zenith movement are in the same plane as the winding crown and hours/minutes pinion. The Rolex inhouse movement has subdials that are slightly higher than the winding crown.
The modern all-stainless Daytona has been sold at a premium because of their rarity. Because of Rolex’s long history with producing chronographs, the Daytona has grown to mythic proportions, just like the race track and race drivers who win the pole position. The next big question is whether Rolex will update the Daytona with a 50th anniversary edition. No one knows except Rolex.