The Rolex Daytona

Not only has S&R charted the rise and rise of Rolex, the king of watches, but we’ve also watched the increasingly stellar performance of the Rolex Daytona. The Rolex Daytona watch emerged as the must-have Rolex, with long waiting lists for new models outlandish performances at auction, including the Paul Newman Daytona which holds the record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction. Learn more about the iconic Paul Newman Daytona here.

Cosmograph or Daytona?

If you’re wondering exactly what type of chronograph you have, there are a few facts that will help you navigate the finer details of the Rolex Daytona. Officially, the Daytona models are the ‘Cosmograph’, and you’ll find this beneath the Rolex logo at 12 o’clock on most of the Daytona dials. It took the ‘Daytona’ name in the early 60s, when Rolex became the official timekeeper of the Daytona Speedway in Florida. In Rolex terms, ‘Daytona’ is the globally accepted name of the ‘Cosmograph’. 

The Cosmograph before the Daytona

In the Second World War years, Rolex released a number of chronographs, ref 3335, in Oyster cases, but they did not perform well. From 1954 to 1961, ref. 6234, known as the Oyster Chronograph, was produced with a silver or black dial. While it was too early to have the word ‘Daytona’ on the dial, this model also didn’t feature ‘Cosmograph’.

With around only 2,000 ever made, the ref. 6234, can sell for £20,000 today. In the 60s, the ref. 6238 saw a collaboration with Tiffany Co, with the brand marked on the dial with ‘Cosmograph’ still omitted. Ref. 6238 was one fixed size of 36mm. However, the casing was either steel, 14k, or 18k yellow gold. Dials were typically silver, back or dark grey, although there were a limited number with a blue red multi-scale. Again, today, the ref. 6238 would fetch around £20,000.

1962 - A change for the Daytona

In 1962, Rolex became the official timekeeper of the Daytona Speedway. This marked the start of big things for the Cosmograph, even though it took a while to build momentum. The black-dial Cosmograph ref. 6239 is one of the first to note the Cosmograph model name under the 12 o’clock logo also the first to have the exotic dial, which became known as the ‘Paul Newman’ dial. Exotic dials could have included ‘Daytona’ in red text as well as Art Deco-style Arabic indices dot markers. While ref. 6239 is the model that Paul Newman wore, other references produced after the 6239 Paul Newman dials can attract five figures or more.

Throughout the 1960s, there were several Rolex Daytona's released, including ref. 6240 with a ‘Solo- dial – with ‘Daytona’ ‘Cosmograph’ on the dial but not ‘Oyster Cosmograph’. Ref. 6241 with a Paul Newman dial, released in 1965/66, were in production until 1969. With only 3,000 ever made, the ref. 6241 can fetch resale prices of hundreds of thousands. A ref. 6263 in yellow gold, first produced in 1969 until 1987, could see a resale value of around £60,000 as only 2,000 were produced.

Daytona in the 70s

Ref. 6262, produced in 1970/1, is very rare, so can command resale prices of over £100,000. Sometimes, mis-stamped on the back as 6239 when Rolex reused old cases, the production term was startlingly brief making the 6262 something of a rarity. The ref. 6264 is equally rare, with only 1,700 made in steel. Produced for only 3 years, the 6262 is valued at six figures.

Answering the quartz question in the 1980s

By the 1980s, watchmakers all over the world were dealing with the threat from quartz watches. Rolex took on the technology of the time by slowing things down with a self-winding Zenith El Primero movement. The idea was to reduced 36,600 vph down to 28,800 vph so that it would boost the power reserve. Naming the calibre 4040, this movement sought to build greater lengths of time in between services, in order to compete with quartz watches. The 4040 is also a COSC-certified chronometer, with Rolex boosting the case size up to 40mm.

Setting the scene with the 16520

Ref. 16520 included the automatic movement of the calibre 4040, and the Zenith El Primero was produced from 1988-2000. Rolex has largely stuck to this design concept since the late 80s, with certain models boosting porcelain dials, such as ref. 162528.

Daytona since the Millenium

Demand for Rolex Daytona watch consistently outstrips supply. Rather than increasing production numbers, Rolex instead included an in-house movement. Known as the calibre 4130, the automatic chronograph movement improved the power reserve to 72 hours. The model numbers added a one to their beginning, with the 16520 becoming the 116520. These post-millennium models are still reasonably priced on the pre-owned market.

The luxury watch market has exploded over the last decade, with waiting lists for Rolex watches prohibitively long pre-owned options often the quickest way to get your hands on a Rolex watch. The idea of collecting watches has also grown in popularity. This means that producers only have to change a small aspect of the watch in order to create something that’s worth adding to the collection. For Rolex, they have changed dial bezel details, using ceramic, and have added an engraved tachymeter to some models. They have even created a two-tone version of the Daytona with Rolesor gold steel construction throughout case bracelet, or by using Rolex’s own Everose rose gold body, on ref. 116515. The ref. 116506 Platinum Daytona has both a platinum casing bracelet, a brown ceramic bezel an ice blue dial. One to watch, its price is available on request. 

The Rolex Daytona may have started life as a well-regarded Swiss chronograph, but it has entered popular culture as the watch to have. Outstanding craftsmanship a healthy dose of Hollywood glamour have combined to create a very special watch.

Pre-owned Rolex watches at Suttons & Robertsons London Jewellers 

Sometimes, it can be hard to find the Rolex model that you are looking for brand new. Here at S&R London Jewellers, we offer a great selection of pre-owned Rolex watches for ladies and gents. Browse our pre-owned Rolex watch collection online today, or feel free to visit us in store to view our range in-person. 

We are also renowned for our collection of pre-owned luxury watches from world leading brands such as RolexTUDORTAG HeuerGucciBvlgariBreitlingCartier and more. Discover all pre-owned watches for ladies and gents at S&R London by clicking here

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