Image: Rolex Daytona | Source: Gear Patrol

The Crown Jewel of Luxury Watches: The Rolex Daytona

The Swiss watchmaker is the creator behind some of the most iconic luxury watches the world has ever seen. When we hear Rolex, we imagine one of the most prestigious diver watch ever; the Submariner. Or the first dual timezone watch for pilots; the GMT Master II. But, the crown jewel of all Rolex masterpieces is undoubtedly the Rolex Daytona. First released in 1963, it’s not only a stereotypical luxury racing watch, it remains arguably the single most sought-after timepiece today.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, first designed in 1963, is aptly named after the Daytona Speedway Track in Florida. It’s a mechanical chronograph watch created to measure elapsed time and calculate average speed for racing drivers of the early 1960’s. Built expressly for racecar drivers, the Daytona is marked by a larger tachymeter scale on the bezel and its ability to measure speeds up to 400km/h. With three distinct generations; 1963, 1988 and 2000, the Rolex Daytona began its popularity thanks largely to one man, Paul Newman.

Rolex Daytona Series One

1963 – 1980’s

Characterised by a manual wind movement containing the Valjoux Caliber 72, many of the first Daytonas are distinguished by different bezel materials. Sub-dials in a single colour, contrasting with the colour of the main dial is a defining feature of the early watches. Some of the oldest with the four-digit model numbers are now some of the rarest. If it wasn’t for Paul Newman’s celebrity, however, the Daytona may have stayed just another Rolex. His revered status was not only felt on the race track but also onscreen – with Newman being one of the most successful Hollywood actors – his Rolex Daytona watch was on his wrist on and off the track, gaining widespread publicity for the style. He may be responsible for bringing the watch to the peak of popularity and cementing it as a cultural icon.

Rolex Daytona Series Two

1988 – 2000

With the original series in short supply by the 1990s, Rolex released series two in 1988. The updated series moved into the realm of self wound movements. A step up from the manual movement of the previous series, the automatic system introduced the highest VPH (vibrations per hour) chronograph movement on the market. Demand for chronographs was high and wait times for a Rolex Daytona were up to three years. Models were made in all steel and the Rolex Daytona gold, with prices starting at around A$6,000.

Rolex Daytona Series Three

2000 –

The latest Rolex Daytona, the Cosmograph Daytona, modernises the heritage and tradition of the legendary models. The new interpretation of the vintage pieces doesn’t change the original formula, they’re just made with contemporary materials. In 2000, Rolex launched the first Daytona with an in-house movement. It’s precise and still used in today’s Daytonas. The fully equipped watch is completed by 44 jewels, a 72-hour power reserve, and shock absorbers all powered by a Caliber 4130 chronograph.

Given the prestigious Rolex name and the rarity of many Rolex Daytona’s, it’s no surprise the watch features on our list of the best luxury watches to invest in 2021. Rolex fans will also enjoy reading about the most expensive Rolex watches of all time.

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