25 years after the debut of the Cosmograph, Rolex finally ushered in the automatic Daytona era. Prior to that, all Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watches were manual-winding ones, which kept some customers away. While there are gold, two-tone, and platinum versions, stainless steel Daytona chronographs are the most popular options. Join us as we explore the trio of automatic stainless steel Daytona references.
It was in 1988 that Rolex unveiled a new generation of Daytona chronographs. Rather than the hand-wound movements of previous Daytona models, the new ones ran on an automatic caliber. This move quickly pushed the Rolex Daytona to the forefront of luxury chronographs, where it has stayed since.
The first automatic stainless steel Daytona watch was the ref. 16520. Equipped with a 40mm stainless steel Oyster case, matching steel Oyster bracelet, and sapphire crystal, it was an instant hit. The black or white dial variations of the stainless steel Daytona ref. 16520 featured the characteristic trio of subdials in a contrasting color.
The Daytona ref. 16520 models are often called the Zenith Daytona due to the movement within. The Rolex Caliber 4030 driving the first automatic Daytona was, in fact, a modified version of the famous Zenith El-Primero chronograph caliber.
Although the automatic Daytona watches were a great success, Rolex thought it was high time to have their signature chronograph collection run on an in-house movement. Therefore, in 2000, Rolex launched the latest version of the Daytona powered by the Rolex 4130 Caliber manufacture movement. It took Rolex five years to develop the 4130 Caliber and it boasts a vertical clutch rather than the more standard horizontal clutch. The new construction resulted in not only a more accurate time keeping instrument but also smoother motion of the chronograph hand. Plus, there was an increase of power reserve from 54 to 72 hours.
Amongst the slew of other metal options was the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116520. It kept its iconic 40mm steel Oyster case, steel Oyster bracelet, and pair of screw-down pushers flanking the winding crown. There were, however, a few modifications to the dial, including silver outlines on the subdials. Also, because of the new movement, the small seconds register moved from 9 o’clock to 6 o’clock.
In 2007, Rolex unleashed the Cerachrom ceramic bezel on the GMT Master II. Prized for its look, as well as, its resistance to fading and scratching, the Rolex ceramic bezels are simply stunning. Over the ensuing years, Rolex began outfitting their popular sports models, such as the Submariner, Deepsea, and Yacht Master with the Cerachrom bezel. The Rolex Daytona mens watches also received one, but only on more precious models such as a platinum and Everose gold Daytonas.
But finally, in 2016, the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116500 also got the Cerachrom ceramic bezel. And Rolex enthusiasts everywhere rejoiced! On both the black dial and white dial versions of the Daytona ref. 116500 sits a black ceramic bezel engraved with the tachymetric scale. Beating at the core of the Rolex’s newest stainless steel Daytona is also the unbeatable Caliber 4130.
The evolution of these automatic stainless steel Daytona references show a perfect illustration of how the Swiss watchmaking giant constantly seeks to improve their products. In turn, Rolex fans everywhere can enjoy the best luxury watches money can buy.
British “Speed King” Sir Malcolm Campbell broke five land speed records on Florida’s Daytona beach. He was the first man to break the 300 miles per hour barrier. Also, he did so wearing a Rolex Oyster. In fact, Rolex Daytona history shows Rolex’s vision was aligned with the Chronograph as a “must have” for the sports watch enthusiast. Because as auto racing grew, so did the need for a timepiece which could measure speed and time laps.
Rolex had been producing wrist chronographs since the early 1930’s. However, by the end of the decade, they launched the first Oyster Chronograph with an Oyster water resistant case and a tachymeter scale on the outer dial. This was the first step in developing a robust and precise tool watch useful for the auto racing world.
|1963||Rolex introduces the first Cosmograph with a Tachymetric scale engraved on the bezel.|
|1965||Rolex adds screw-down push buttons and a metal bezel with a black plastic insert to the Cosmograph (Reference 6240).|
|1966||Rolex produces the first “Daytona” variant of the Cosmograph as a Reference 6241 available in stainless steel, as well as 14 ant 18 ct. gold. Both the 6240 Cosmograph and the 6241 Cosmograph Daytona would be produced until 1969.|
|1970||Rolex introduces two new Cosmograph Daytona models – Reference 6262 and Reference 6264 (available in stainless steel, 14 and 18ct gold). Reference 6262 had a graduated bezel with 200 units per hour.|
|1971||Rolex introduces the Cosmograph Daytona References 6263 and 6269 with screw-down push buttons.|
|1988||Rolex introduces the new Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona Chronometer Reference 16520 in stainless steel featuring a 40mm case and sapphire crystal. and the new Zenith El Primero 400 based Rolex caliber 4030.|
|1992||Rolex introduces the new Reference 16518 Daytona in yellow gold with a leather strap.|
|2000||Rolex introduces their new entirely in-house produced chronograph caliber 4130 and with it launches the Cosmograph Daytona Reference 116520 in stainless steel. A white gold model, (Reference 116519) yellow gold model (Reference 1166518), and bi-metal (gold and stainless steel Reference 116523) all receive the new in house chronograph caliber.|
|2011||Rolex introduces a new Daytona Reference 116515with a pink gold 40mm case and a Cerachrom bezel.|