The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, introduced in 1963.
One of our Rolex favourites was designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers, allowing drivers to perfectly measure average speeds up to 400 kilometres or miles per hour, as they choose. An icon eternally joined in name and function to the high‑performance world of motor sport.
The story does actually begin, how most don’t know with a very famous racer, Sir Malcom Campbell, also known as The Speed King. In Blue Bird race cars, Sir Malcom Campbell set records in Europe and at a racetrack in then a small known Florida city called Daytona Beach. He set many of these records driving on the beach sand, rather than a traditional track. His exploits caught the attention of Hans Wilsdorf who wanted him as the Rolex Ambassador. Rolex even produced a Malcolm Campbell model in honour of the icon.
The next important figure in the Rolex Daytona story is William France, Sr., a Daytona Beach fan again. William France grew up racing rather than going to school, and moved to Daytona in 1935. When Malcolm Campbell left for the Bonneville Salt Flats, William was responsible for taking over and managing the racetrack as well as making and breaking new racing records there. He continued the Rolex tradition as well the legend of fantastic racing.
The evolution of the Daytona Speedway in many ways reflects the love Rolex has always had for the sport. By the 1960s, Rolex was inextricably linked with the Daytona raceway and by the 1960’s it was worn by such legendary racers as Junior Johnson and of course maybe the most talked about Paul Newman, who reportedly wore his Daytona every day from 1972 until his death in 2008, given to him by his wife Joanne Woodward. Paul wasn’t just an actor but also an outstandingly successful race car driver. His Daytona accompanied him on his races. In the 1980’s collectors gave the nickname “Paul Newman” to this style of Daytona, which can be recognised chiefly by the contrasting coloured seconds scale along the dial’s periphery.
In order to be considered a “Paul Newman” Daytona, the watch must be a Reference 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 or 6265. The sub dials will have block markers instead of lines, and must have cross hairs across the sub-dials that meet at the centre. The seconds sub-dial is placed at 9 and is marked 15, 30, 45 and 60. The dial of a Paul Newman watch originally came in four colour combinations. Since the early 1970’s, the watch has not been produced, so it has become a rare collector’s item.
1988 became a breakthrough year in the history of the line, when Rolex started to produce the new Oyster Cosmograph Daytona, starting with the reference 16500 series. This watch was a revolution in many ways; Rolex increased the case size from 37mm to 40mm, replaced the plexiglass for sapphire, but most importantly the movement was changed. The Daytona was now powered by caliber 4030, the first automatic movement ever to make it into the Daytona. To further increase the reliability of this movement, Rolex reduced the beats per hour, replaced the escapement and balance wheel, and removed the date function.
More recently over the last two years the Cosmograph Daytona can be purchased with an Oysterflex watchband, Rolex has proven that they see rubber straps as a watchmaking material that will stand the test of time.
Rolex now has some of the most amazing models and variations since the original. What do you think?
Today the Daytona is more alive than ever from celebrities and racing drivers, this now legendary watch has sealed its legacy with coming to life on that beach in Florida. Will you look as cool as Newman did wearing one?
Take a look at our Daytona models we carry and contact us to source any model you have your eye on.