The Rolex Daytona holds a special place in our hearts. It’s the reason why Operandi Firenze exists in the first place!
During his travels in Florence, Operandi’s founder, Jeff, damaged his precious Daytona. The watch got jostled and scratched while it was inside a watch roll from a famous luxury brand.
As any watch lover knows, that amounts to a heartbreaking betrayal. At that moment, Jeff vowed to never let such a thing happen again, for himself or anyone else. After months of rigorous development and engineering, the innovative Operandi Firenze watch roll design came to be.
But we digress - this post is about the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, an iconic racing watch and one of the most popular models in the Rolex catalog.
Why is the Rolex Daytona worth the hype? What makes this watch so unique? And, how much should you expect to pay to get one? If you want the answers to these questions, keep on reading our Rolex Daytona review!
What’s the Rolex Daytona All About?
The story of the Daytona starts in 1962 when Rolex became the official timekeeper for the “24 hours of Daytona” sportscar endurance race.
The race aligned with the release of the brand’s first Cosmograph chronograph watch, the ref. 6238. This original Cosmograph had a simple design and low production numbers, so it wasn’t very popular at the outset.
But then, in 1963, Rolex released the ref. 6239, a revised version of the 6238. The 6239 featured two unique traits that made it stand out from its competition: a different color on the subdials and a transition of the tachymeter scale from the dial to the steel bezel. These two changes improved its legibility and gave it its signature character.
The first Cosmograph with the name Daytona on the dial came out in 1964. Since then, the design of the watch has not changed significantly. The next significant change for the Daytona came in 1988, when the first self-winding model came out, the ref. 16520. The watch featured the caliber 4030, which was based on Zenith’s famous El Primero chronograph movement and had all the benefits of an automatic vs. a manual wind movement.
What Makes the Daytona Cosmograph Special
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona holds a special place in Rolex’s catalog, being the only chronograph watch the brand produces. Apart from that, there are a few other factors that make the Daytona special and desirable among watch fans.
As we mentioned above, the original design of the Cosmograph was bland and unoriginal, which didn’t sit well with watch collectors at the time. But, the changes that came with reference 6239, like the symmetrical dial and the red “Daytona” writing in the middle, gave the watch a distinctive look and style.
Additionally, Rolex is known to maintain a design philosophy within each watch “family.” This means that a Daytona from the ‘60s or ‘70s will not look vastly different compared to the latest model. This policy ensures that Rolex watches remain instantly recognizable and timeless while also being excellent for a one-watch collections.
Whenever you think about what makes a Rolex watch special, you must consider the brand’s reputation and desirability. After all, Rolex is one of the best luxury Swiss watch brands, and easily the most identifiable brand worldwide.
If you combine the high demand for any Rolex watch with Rolex’s low production numbers, you end up with very exclusive timepieces. Also, the Cosmograph Daytona is the only chronograph watch in Rolex’s collection. Since the chronograph has such a unique and complicated design and caliber, its production is even shorter than other Rolex models.
The Daytona has always featured top-grade movements, from the Valjoux 72 in the original to the caliber 4030, a modification of Zenith’s El Primero caliber, to today’s in-house caliber 4130. The 4130 is a high-end automatic movement with impeccable accuracy.
The Oystersteel in the case and the Cerachrom bezel give the watch the necessary durability to survive any task you put it through. The screw-down crown and pushers also provide a decent 100 m water resistance, enough to withstand your daily activities.
Noteworthy Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Models
Daytona ref. 116500LN
The Daytona ref. 116500LN is the current steel version of this legendary timepiece. It came out in 2016 and features all the newest technical specifications from Rolex, including the new Cerachrom bezel, which gives the watch a unique look and immense durability.
The watch comes with either a white or a black dial and packs Rolex’s latest in-house chronograph movement, the caliber 4130. The 4130 is an upgrade to the 4030 from previous decades, with a large 72-hour power reserve.
Daytona “Paul Newman”
The “Paul Newman” Daytona doesn’t refer to a particular model but a specific dial that Rolex originally called an “exotic” dial. This dial featured a contrasting color on the seconds track, as well as large art deco numerals on each of the subdials.
The specific Daytona worn by Paul Newman was a ref. 6239 that sold for a staggering $17.75 million. Still, the Paul Newman dial can be found in many models from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Daytona ref. 16520 "Zenith"
In 1988, to combat the quartz crisis, Rolex released its first automatic version of the Daytona, the reference 16520. This watch featured the caliber 4030, which was essentially a Zenith El Primero caliber with a few significant modifications.
The most important one was the reduction of the beat rate to 28,800 beats per hour which gave the watch a much larger power reserve. Bulk orders of El Primero calibers from Rolex were also partly why Zenith avoided bankruptcy during that period.
Daytona “John Mayer”
The Daytona ref. 116508, also known as the “John Mayer”, belongs to the family of solid precious metal Daytonas. It has a solid gold case and bracelet with a uniquely gorgeous green dial. There are also two other options, one in white gold with a blue dial and one in Everose gold with a matching dial.
In one interview, John Mayer talked extensively about his collection of Daytonas and drew the public’s attention to this particular reference. After the interview, the watch became an instant hit, and it still is an excellent investment watch, according to experts like Pejman Ghadimi.
Daytona Ice Platinum
2013 marked Daytona’s 50th anniversary, and Rolex came up with a unique timepiece to celebrate the occasion. The ref. 116506 has an all-platinum case and bracelet and features two unique ice blue dial options and a brown Cerachrom bezel.
This combination took the watch community by storm, and the watch became an instant success. The timepiece is still part of the Daytona catalog and has the highest retail price of all the Daytonas available.
The rainbow Daytona was arguably the most controversial watch that Rolex ever released, although it's been loved by many celebrities. It originally came out in 2012, in yellow and white gold, with an Everose gold option released in 2018. Its unique trait is the rainbow-colored diamonds that are set into the bezel.
Its limited quantities and eccentric design immediately gave the watch its cult status and made it highly desirable. If you want to get your hands on one, you’ll need to look into the second-hand market, where prices can easily surpass six figures.
How Hard Is It to Get a Rolex Daytona?
The Rolex Daytona sits in a peculiar place among other Rolex watches. It has built a reputation that makes it highly coveted, but its annual production is much smaller than other Rolex models like the Oyster Perpetual.
This makes the watch extremely hard to find from an authorized dealer. They often save the most desirable models, like the Daytona, for their high-profile or long-standing customers. If you want to get your hands on one, you’ll need a strong relationship with an authorized dealer or you’ll have to sign up for a very long waitlist.
Other options include the second-hand market, where you can find some vintage Daytona models, although they will cost a pretty penny. You may also be able to find brand new recent models but at a high markup.
How Much Should I Pay For a Rolex Daytona?
The recommended retail prices for a Rolex Daytona start at $14,550 for the ref. 116500LN, but can reach up to $75,000 for the more intricate ones like the ice platinum. However, you probably won’t be able to find one for retail unless you have a strong relationship with your authorized dealer.
A more viable option for most people is the secondary market, but prices can skyrocket due to the demand for these timepieces. For instance, the ref. 116500LN can easily fetch double or triple its retail price. Also, popular vintage models like the “Paul Newman” dials from the ‘70s can creep into six-figure territory depending on their condition.
The Starting Line of Our Journey
The racing-inspired Rolex Daytona holds a special place in many people's hearts, including our founder. After all, it was the watch that kickstarted our journey at Operandi Firenze. Our passion for your luxury watches' safety motivates us to craft the best watch rolls possible.
We use the highest quality Italian leather and rigorously test all our products. That’s how we’re able to offer a watch roll that combines the artisanship of a luxury leather bag with superior security and ease of use. Consider getting one of our premium watch rolls, so you never have to worry about the safety of any of your precious timepieces!
So, go out there, find the starting line of your own luxury watch journey, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the time!