Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Rolex started making chronographs in the 1930s, but it was only in 1963 that a named product line was introduced: the Cosmograph. Although the following name never appeared on the dial; in early advertisements Rolex referred to this model as the ‘Le Mans’. Named after the famous race track in France. But to strengthen their position in the USA market (for the same reason they switched the depth rating from “meters first” to “feet first”), the Cosmograph was instead named after the racetrack in Florida: Daytona.
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 Daytona’s received little love after their release. The first Daytona’s (4 digit references) where manual wound whilst the demand of the Rolex clientele was focused on automatic wristwatches. Most Daytona’s languished in dealer displays for years. Due to the lack of popularity Rolex kept changing dial lay-outs and went on with experimenting different pushers & bezels, resulting in a lot of different models in small quantities. Noticed by the Italian collecting community that started purchasing these in the early 90’s as they spotted the potential. By this time, Rolex already switched to an automatic movement which was a Zenith El Primero-based calibre. The popularity began to grow and eventually led to the prominent place they have in the world of watch-lovers. The modern Daytona is the first model to be sold way above list price as they are hard to get but very wanted. The Zenith Daytona’s are rapidly increasing in price and the Valjoux-powered ones are dominating the auction world. For example, the world-record breaking Daytona owned by Paul Newman that still is the most expensive wristwatch ever sold. A big contrast with the $210 list price when it was first released!