Rolex started making chronographs in the 1930s, but it was only in 1963 that a named product line was introduced: the Cosmograph. In some early advertisements, Rolex referred to the watch as the ‘Le Mans’ after the famous race track in France, although the name never appeared on the dial. After a few years, the line was officially renamed Cosmograph Daytona, after the racetrack in Florida.
The most noticeable difference between these Cosmograph (Daytona) models and earlier Rolex chronographs, was the tachymeter scale (used for measuring distance and speed) that was moved from its traditional placement on the dial to the bezel. Furthermore, the dial was updated with the introduction of contrasting sub-dials.
It’s hard to imagine now, but Daytonas received little love after their release. Most Daytonas languished in dealer displays for years and were only started to get noticed by Italian collectors and dealers in the late 1980s. Nowadays, Daytonas are among the most sought after Rolex models, fetching prices from $15,000 for modern ones to many millions for rare vintage references. A big contrast with the $210 list price when it was first released!