The Rolex Daytona Series
In addition to being Rolex’s signature chronograph collection, the Cosmograph Daytona is, in fact, the world’s most famous chronograph watch. It is without a doubt the chronograph to which other luxury chronographs compare themselves to. Launched in the 1960s, let’s get a closer look at the three-part evolution of the Rolex Daytona series.
Part I: Rolex Daytona 62xx Series
Although Rolex already had several chronograph watches to its name, in 1963 the brand presented a new version dubbed the Cosmograph ref. 6239. With its new tachymeter engraved bezel and contrasting colors of the registers on the dial, this was the start of the Cosmograph’s journey. One year after its debut, the “Daytona” label joined the “Cosmograph” name. This was in honor of Rolex’s sponsorship of the famous endurance auto race in Florida. The Rolex Daytona designation eventually became a permanent part of the Cosmograph and today, the Rolex chronograph is simply known as the Daytona.
The first series of the Rolex Daytona watches were made from the 1960s until the late 1980s. They carry four-digit reference numbers, such as the ref. 6240, ref. 6241, ref. 6262, ref. 6264, ref. 6263, ref. 6265, ref. 6269, and ref. 6270 Along with their distinct look, another noteworthy component of these vintage Daytona references are the engines under the hoods, so to speak. Powered by a movement based on the Valjoux Caliber 72, the early Rolex Daytona models were manual-winding ones. While four-digit Daytona references are the most popular vintage sports watches today, during its time, these manual chronographs were a hard sell.
We can’t very well speak of the evolution of the Rolex Daytona without mentioning its most famous editions—the Paul Newman Daytona watches. These particular Rolex Daytona series come equipped with a dial initially named the “exotic dial” by Rolex. These were later more commonly known as the Paul Newman dial thanks to the famous actor owning one of these special-edition Daytona watches.
Part II: Rolex Daytona 165xx Series
Finally, in 1988, Rolex presented a completely revamped version of the Daytona with the ref. 16520. The five-digit Daytona reference hailed a new era with an automatic Rolex Daytona. This time, replacing the manual movement was the automatic Rolex Caliber 4030. The Caliber 4030 is based on the Zenith El Primero movement. However, it boasts many Rolex modifications such as a new escapement, a reduction in the beats per hour rate, and the removal of the date function.
From the late 1980s until the start of the new millennium, Rolex produced a variety of automatic Daytona watches including steel, yellow gold, and two-tone versions.
Part III: Rolex Daytona 1165xx Series
At the turn of this century, Rolex unveiled their first Daytona chronographs driven by an in-house automatic movement—Caliber 4130. The first editions of the 4130-powered Daytona models were the stainless steel ref. 116520, the yellow gold ref. 116518, the white gold ref. 116519, and the two-tone ref. 116523.
Today, the most current versions of the Daytona still run on the famous Rolex Caliber 4130 movement, including the platinum anniversary model ref. 116506 and the newest stainless steel model with the ceramic bezel, Daytona ref. 116500LN, which came out in 2016.
It’s impressive to think that although the Daytona had a slow start over five decades ago, today it enjoys its status as the leading luxury chronograph to own. It’s a Rolex story that will undoubtedly continue to write its own history for many more decades to come. For more luxury, feel free to view a great selection of used Rolex Daytona watches here at BeckerTime.