There are also very few models, by any manufacture, that are as collectable as the Rolex Daytona. As we saw above, the watch runs the price gamut from the reasonably attainable to the utterly incredible, and everywhere in between.
Cost is obviously based on the comparative rarity of the model in question along with its current popularity on the pre-owned market.
The first of the Zenith Daytonas, seeing in the introduction of a self-winding caliber, marks the usual entry point into the club. The ref. 16523 especially, the historically less popular Rolesor model, can be had with a budget that just creeps into five figures. The blend of gold and steel has long been a signature look for Rolex, and many in the know are predicting the reference will experience a price rise in the near future as more collectors turn their attention to Daytona models from the late 80s and early 90s.
Already a big favorite is the all-steel version, the ref. 16520. Again, there are plenty of these available as a vintage purchase, but prices are generally about twice as much as for the two-tone.
Such is the way with watch collecting, and particularly Rolex, it is the manually-winding first generation models, which used to do nothing but gather dust for years on end, that now represent the most sought after and bruisingly expensive editions.
In all, there were eight separate references fitted with hand-wound movements. Of those, the most plentiful and easily found is the ref. 6263, produced from 1971 to 1988—the year the Daytona went through its automatic transformation. Available in steel and both 14k and 18k gold, it also came in a variety of dial colors and featured an acrylic bezel. It ran alongside its sister reference, the ref. 6265, which was fitted with a metal surround. However, just because there is a relatively ample supply of them, this is not the place to go looking for a bargain. You will still need to dig deep to secure either.
Of all eight, the rarest model of them all is open for debate, but it is usually agreed that the shortest production run belongs to the ref. 6262, made from just 1969-1970. Containing a new variant of the Valjoux 72 caliber that upped the frequency from 18,000vph to 21,600vph, the steel editions crop up from time to time, but the gold variants are incredibly difficult to track down.
Which brings us to the minefield of the Paul Newman Daytonas. Six of the Valjoux-run models received Panda dials, what were formally known as ‘exotic’ dials, a black or white face with an outer track that matched the contrasting sub dials and with a distinctive font to its numerals, along with other subtle detailing.
They were, if anything, even less popular on their release than the standard models. Today, they are many collectors’ grail watch and some sell for, literally, millions.
For reference, only models 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 and 6265 were ever fitted with such a dial by Rolex and are legitimate Paul Newmans. It is an important point to make as it is believed there are now more fakes in circulation than the real thing, it being not especially tricky for forgers to take a standard watch, install an exotic dial and sell it for a huge markup. Spotting the real thing versus a counterfeit is an art form in itself and requires some serious research—so if you are in the market for one, be prepared to do your homework.
Among the other especially collectable models of the Daytona are those with the slightest discrepancies to their dials. The ‘Oyster Sotto’, meaning ‘Oyster Underneath’ in Italian, simply has the word ‘Oyster’ below the ‘Cosmograph’ script on its face. Extraordinarily rare, examples very occasionally surface at auction and sell for eye-watering amounts.
Also scarce but nowhere near as expensive are two particular versions of that first of the Zenith Daytonas from 1988. The first has the 6 printed upside down on its 12 hour sub dial, so it looks like a 9. Known colloquially as the ‘Inverted 6’, these dials also had four dash markings between the numerals on its minute totalizer, rather than the more usual three. Whether it was a mistake or not, the ‘defect’ was corrected after a few years, leaving the Inverted 6s a desirable but attainable find.
And the Patrizzi Daytonas were a fleeting number of the steel ref. 16520s, with the black Mark IV dial made between 1994 and 1995. Rolex at the time (but I presume not long after) were using an organic varnish called Zapon which, as it turns out, didn’t provide enough coverage to protect the dial. Over time, the silver outer tracks of the stopwatch counters have oxidized and turned a chocolaty brown as they react to UV light. Even better for collectors, the effects don’t stabilize and continue to change color, making each model unique. Patrizzi dials sell for significantly more than the standard, entry level Daytona.