Initially created for NASA to be considered for the first watch to be taken to space, being branded initially as the Cosmograph. This watch was not selected to go into space but soon found its calling in motor racing becoming the international timekeeper of the Daytona International, thus getting the name change to the Rolex Daytona.
The Iconic Rolex Daytona can you believe was once called the Rolex Le Mans.
There is so much history with the Daytona, changes to this model over the years have seen consent upgrades and eventually getting to the well known Daytona name.
100 years ago, on a very long flat beach in Florida called Daytona beach, they use to stage land speed attempts. The National association for stock car auto racing (NASCAR) built the Daytona International Speedway the birthplace of the Daytona 500 in 1936. They designed the track to have banked, higher turns on the track, this gave spectators a more generous view of the cars and allows the cars to generate more speed!
The first Rolex Cosmograph reference 4500 was designed in the late 1930s. This Rolex featured side by side sub dial lay out and pushers fitted at 2 and 4. The Daytona was popular with people from the medical sector and the motorsport industry. Ferrari sports car owner Enzo Ferrari would be seen wearing a Rolex Cosmograph.
Rolex decided in 1955 to release is what is known as the pre Daytona reference 6234. This featured a tachometer on the outer ring of the dial and a telemeter scale for distance timing on the inner ring of the dial. The dial had 3 sub dials which allowed you to count in seconds, minutes, and hours.
In 1963 Rolex released the reference 6239 This seen a big visual change in style as Rolex fitted the with a new look dial and bezel. The Bezel had the tachometer scale engraved on the bezel which created more space on the dial for better clearer visual look and the chrono zones where in black against a silver dial. The dial has Rolex Cosmograph printed on the dial.
Rolex advertised this watch all over the world and advertised this watch as ‘Rolex cosmograph the Le Mans watch’. This did not pay off for Rolex so they decided another branding option.
The word Daytona was first seen on the dial of the Cosmograph in 1965. This is when Rolex released the new dial ‘Exotic’ This dial featured a new outer track matching the sub dials which ran around the edge of the dial. The sub dial at 9 is marked with 15,30,45 this use to be 20,40 and 60 on their other dials.
Over the next 5 years Rolex kept producing new Daytona models with slight upgrades. We would see different dials combination with change of colours and markers and the introduction of screw down pushers fitted to the case. We even see a black plastic bezel fitted the Daytona reference 6240. Not all the versions of the cosmograph that were released around this time had the word Daytona printed on the dials.
Model 6241 was like model 6240, this had a black plastic bezel and went back to pushers that didn’t screw down. The main difference was the is the first Rolex Cosmograph to have the Daytona officially printed on the dial.
It always felt like Rolex kept making slight changes to the Daytona as they would continually bring out different models every year so there are plenty of examples to see.
Models 6262 and 6264 adopted push down pushers with a metal or plastic bezel giving customers a choice. The option of white and black dials with opposite sub dial choice was available from 1970 to 1972.
Models 6263 and 6265 then went to screw down pushers and again plastic or metal bezel options. Larger winding crown was added. Rolex offered this in all steel and steel and gold, but the main feature was that Rolex would guarantee the case to 100m water resistant.
Rolex improved the Daytona dramatically in 1988 when they released the 16500 range. I would have to say one of the most iconic watches ever made to this day. Available in 3 different options, all steel model 16520, steel and gold model 16523 and the impressive all gold model 16528. The case size went from 37mm to a much beefier 40mm. The acrylic glass had been replaced with a scratch resistant sapphire glass. The dial was available in white or black options with a lacquered finish, metal hour markers and the sub dial zones were in contrasting colours. All 3 models fitted with screw down pushers.
Rolex fitted there first in house chronograph movement , based on the Zenith El Primero 400, Rolex removed the date option and improved the escapement and balance by replacing these with newer improved parts. These new parts would allow the watch to reduce vibrations per hour from 36,000 to 28,800. Rolex eventually some how improved the world famous Zenith El Primero movement.
2016 model 116500 the Rolex of today.
Since 2010 Rolex had been fitting some models with Cerachrom bezels, this year they decided to release the new look Daytona with the Cerachrom bezel. The black ceramic bezel is extremely hard to scratch and would keep the watch looking less tired over usual everyday wear. The new improved in house watch movement had a longer power reserve ( 72hours ) and Rolex had built the movement so it can be serviced more easily. Rolex would offer a 5 year guarantee on the service life on this watch once purchased.