Many thanks go to: Giorgia Mondani, Fabrice Guéroux, L’Atelier du Temps.
The 41WATCH team has attempted to launch an extensive series of articles on mythical watches, tracing back their stories, analyzing the technical features that power them, and sharing any little detail that a watch lover would like hearing. The first of the series was a thoroughly descriptive article on the famous Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711. Thanks to all the positive feedback, we could not help but write this article on the Daytona saga. To be clear, there is plenty of existing literature on the topic, and our goal was certainly not to dig up what can already be read…
In this article, we will have gone through all of the models of every serie of Rolex Daytona ever produced, looking at them through a historical angle, and a thorough presentation of all the little technical differences that exist between each version. After reading this article, we hope you should be able to make a well-advised purchase, or at least, we hope there won’t be any more secrets. You will be able to spot a Pre-Daytona, know what a BIG RED is, how many different version of pushers exist, what an inverted six is, a floating dial, a Patrizzi dial, and even be able to tell the difference between an original dial and a service dial… All of these little details could trigger a significant difference in price between two apparently similar models with the same model number…And last but not least, models 6263, 6265, or even 16520, just to name a few, are not created equal in the eyes of a well-advised collector.
This article however does not aim to go in depth on market prices, which is a topic that we’ll be laying out in yet another article!
The iconic Rolex Daytona found its roots at the beginning of the 20th century, whose name was quickly associated with speed, and race cars in general. Daytona Beach, a race track in Florida, owes its reputation to one very audacious man, Sir Malcolm Campbell, an Englishman and a gentleman race driver who spent most of his life behind the wheel, and especially behind the wheel of his “Bluebird” with which he set the astonishing record (at the time) of 396km/h or some 247 miles / hr.
This new record didn’t go unnoticed to a certain Hans Wildorf, founder of Rolex, which got his gears turning to think of a potential partnering between this aristocratic race driver and the brand with the crown logo…
Hans Wildorf, who was undoubtedly a marketing genius, seized the opportunity as it came and asked Sir Campbell to become a “Rolex Ambassador”, having the same idea than what he had previously done when associating his brand name to exploits such as climbing Mount Everest or crossing the English Channel …
The date that will forever tie car racing to Rolex was in 1962 when Hans Wildorf officially became sponsor of the Daytona car race. A sponsorship that continues up to now, with the Le Mans Race.
The Daytona collection can be divided in 4 different phases:
During that time, hand-wound chronographs were constantly mutating, with different dials, movements, various subtilties on bezels, crystals, pushers and case backs.
The Geneva-based company’s first chronographs did not have any form of “Daytona” inscription on their dial, which is the reason connoisseurs speak about “pre-daytonas”, which are all hand-wound.
The first model which shows hints of the Daytona spirit, yet not the name, is model number 6238, launched in 1960, and which will be then discontinued in 1967. The watch was not waterproof, was produced in steel, and in 14K and 18K gold. This watch marks the beginning of the Daytona spirit, without bearing the name.
Produced from 1963 to 1969, the Rolex Chronograph, model 6239 is motored either by a 72B or 722 caliber, and eventually by a 722-1 caliber. This is the first of a long series of Cosmographs with all of the visual specificities of the “Daytona”, even though the watch has not yet been named as such. In fact, you can see on the printed commercial below, the 6239 model was initially called “Le Mans”, no doubt in reference to the famous French racetrack. One of the model’s distinctive features is the tachometer scale engraved on the metal bezel to enhance the dial’s legibility. The model was available at the time with a black dial and silver counters, and a silver dial and black counters. This watch differs from the 6238 model with a “sporty” look, and clear ties to the world of racing.
It wasn’t up until 1965 that a “Daytona” inscription would be seen on the dial, starting with models 6239. This model underwent various tweaks and adjustments throughout time, whether it be concerning its pushers, the marking on the bezel, or different dials.
The 6239 model had a bezel with 60 to 300 units per hour marking, which was eventually replaced by a 50 through 200 units per hour marking.
The watch came with two kind of alloy bracelets, a stretch rivet one (namely because of the visible rivets on the outer edge that hold together the hollow, folded links), and a non-stretch rivet, both manufactured under model number 6635. The rivet bracelet then became a “folded link” bracelet in 1968. Folded link bracelets are called this way because links are crafted by folding a piece of metal over itself multiple times.
The Rolex myth is partly derived from its charismatic clients, who sometimes unwillingly became ambassadors to the brand. The world famous “Paul Newman” dial is a direct allusion to Paul Newman himself, not only for being a successful actor, but also for being an accomplished racecar driver, and a watch aficionado. The “Paul Newman” dial, which was actually called the “exotic dial” by the brand, has a contrasting scale for chronograph seconds and is easily recognizable. If you're looking for a complete review of this iconic model, a a complete article about the 6239 "Paul Newman" is available (in French only)
The sale of Paul Newman’s own model raked in a hefty $17.8M at the Philips auction in New York. This is one of the highest sale records ever observed for a watch.
The « Paul Newman » dial is present on all generations of Daytonas from 1963 to 1978 which is to say model numbers 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 and 6265. This dial’s huge success is undoubtedly due to its rarity. It is estimated that less than 5% of dials manufactured for Daytonas were exotic dials. As a matter of fact, it was apparently not rare to see these models remain dormant at authorized dealers for several months, if not years! The exotic dial was manufactured over the years by Singer, one of Rolex’s official dial makers.
Commercialized from 1965 to 1969, screw-down pushers first appeared on model number 6240 in order to guarantee the watch’s waterproofness. This version of pushers is often called MK1 pushers, or “Millerighe”.
Introducing screw-down pushers made way for “Oyster” to be inscribed on the Daytona dial, which was not present on the Cosmograph which was equipped with basic pushers (non screw-down).
The screw-down crown is yet another piece backing the watch’s waterproofness. The crown’s diameter is 7 mm, compared with 6 mm for its earlier vesion. The 6240 model is equipped with 72B or 722 calibers, and later on with 722-1 calibers with 18000 alt/hour. The 6240 reference is further equipped with a bakelite bezel graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour. The bracelet is riveted for models 6635 or 7205. As mentioned earlier, the rivet bracelet will be later be replaced by a folded link bracelet in 1968 (ref. 7835).
Commercialized from 1966 to 1969, model number 6241 was equipped with basic pushers (non screw-down), and 72B, 722, and then 722-1 calibers.
The model is equipped with a bakelite bezel graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour. The watch was sold with a rivet bracelet on model numbers 6635 or 7205. The bracelet later evolved into the folded link version (bracelet ref. 7835).
Exclusively produced from 1970 to 1971, the 6262 version comes with basic non screw-down pushers and a new 727 caliber with 19800 alt/hour, giving it more accuracy than its predecessor.
The 6262 model is equipped with a steel bezel graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour. The watch was sold with a folded link bracelet under model number 7835.
Produced from 1970 to 1972, model number 6264 comes with non screw-down basic pushers and offered a 727 caliber, similarly to the 6262.
The model comes with a bakelite bezel graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour. The watch was sold with a folded link bracelet under model number 7835.
Produced from 1971 to 1987, this is undoubtedly one of the most famous and sought after Rolex Daytona. It is also one of the most produced, similarly to the 16520 series. This 6263 model comes with screw-down pushers (the pushers went under 3 different changes), and is equipped with a 727 caliber.
This model is further equipped with its famous bakelite bezel, graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour. The first series of 6263 were delivered with folded link bracelets under model number 7835, and later commercialized with the new solid links bracelet, under model 78350. A gold 18K bracelet was also known to be commercialized as a jubilee version in the American market.
Model 6263 existed in steel, 18K and 14K gold. Although not as pure, 14K has the characteristic of being more resistant, especially to scratches.
Model 6265 was similarly produced for a very long period, stretching from 1971 to 1987, with three versions of pushers, and a 727 caliber. If you're eager to learn more about this model, you can check our technical review of the Rolex Daytona 6265 "Big Red" (in French)
The model comes with a steel bezel (different from bakelite on a 6263), graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour.
Early series were commercialized with folded bracelet links under model number 7835. From 1977 onward, the watch was introduced to the market with a 78350 bracelet. The "Paul Newman" version only existed with a white dial on this specific model
The 6269 model is an 18K yellow gold version with a 44 diamond bezel. The model is equipped with second and third generation screw-down pushers.
This watch was produced from 1984 up until 1987, and was powered by a 727 caliber.
The watch was sold with a yellow gold bracelet bearing model number 7205/8.
The 6270 model is also an 18K yellow gold watch produced from 1984 up until 1987, with second and third generation pushers, a 28 diamond bezel (emerald cut) and a 727 caliber.
Model sold with a yellow gold bracelet, reference number 7205/8.
|References||Years of production||Pusher||Bezel||Caliber||Material|
|6239||1963 à 1969||Non vissés||Steel||72B / 722 / 722-1||Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K|
|6240||1965 à 9169||Srewed MK1 "Millerighe"||Bakélite||72B / 722 / 722-1||Steel|
|6241||1966 à 1969||Non Srewed||Steel||72B / 722 / 722-1||Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K|
|6262||1970 à 1971||Non Srewed||Steel||727||Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K|
|6264||1970 à 1972||Non Srewed||Bakélite||727||Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K|
|6263||1971 à 1987||Srewed MK1, MK2, MK3||Bakélite||727||Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K|
|6265||1971 à 1987||Srewed MK1, MK2, MK3||Steel||727||Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K|
|6269||1984 à 1987||Srewed MK2, MK3||Gold sertie de 44 diamants||727||Gold 18K|
|6270||1984 à 1987||Srewed MK2, MK3||Gold sertie de 28 diamants||727||Gold 18K|
It is very important to take into account the fact that models with basic pushers (non screw-down) such as 6239, 6241, 6262 and 6241 could have been serviced by Rolex and hence have had their pushers changed to more recent screw-down versions. There's been a lot written about it, especially dates of production, when Rolex changed the pushers following production. The certainity of these information is to be taken with extreme caution: it is solely based on observation and have never been given out by Rolex.
Watches with steel or bakelite bezels may have undergone changes for various reasons, whether it be because the bezel needed a replacement, or sometimes even because the owner wanted a change in style (from bakelite to steel for example). There exists, for steel and bakelite versions, respectively 5 and 4 bezels. The steel bezel can be summed-up with 3 versions
1. 60 to 300 with the engraving « 300 », « 275 », « 250 », « 225 »
2. 60 to 300 with the engraving « 300 », « 250 », « 225 », « 200 »
3. 60 to 200
La lunette bakélite est graduée de 50 à 200
As for the 3rd generation bezels, there exist 4 versions. As for the the bakelite bezels, there exist 3 different generations.
One should know which versions are from Rolex servicing. For the others, it is very difficult to know the years... at best, we can follow the production years. It was frequent that Rolex would use available spare parts during production.
The last ever produced bezels are the most important, since they've equipped the last watches produced AND used during servicing... On a steel bezel, we can easily spot the difference, with the "7" being straight, without a dashed line. For "serviced" bakelite ones, the "S" of "Units" is rounded at its ends, instead of being an inverted "Z"
Rolex being an industrial company with different suppliers, and some logistics constraints and specificities, it is certainly not rare to see mismatching years on casebacks and the watch itself. For example, it is very frequent to see 6240, 6241, and 6242 engraved on a Daytona model number 6239. This would not necessarily stem from a change during Rolex servicing, but rather from assembly depending on caseback availabilities at the time. This is very important to take into account in order to avoid confusion in the minds of collectors. Old stock casebacks have been used to assemble newer generation watches in order to optimize production costs.
Deducing from observation, we can find "anachronic" casebacks, following:
Casebacks from 6239, 6240, 6241 & 6242 on ref. 6239.
Casebacks from 6240, 6239 & 6241 on ref. 6240.
Casebacks from 6241, 6239, 6240 & 6242 on ref. 6241
Casebacks from 6262, 6239 6241 & 6264 on ref. 6262
Casebacks from 6264, 6239, 6241 & 6262 on ref. 6264
Casebacks from 6263, 6265 on ref. 6263
Casebacks from 6265, 6263 on ref. 6265
Theses observations are based on several experts and collectors. But it's possible to find more with time. Rolex was less regarding (or organized) than today about spare parts.
Concerning bracelets, clasps have often been replaced for ease of use, and safety reasons. Similarly, you may very well find some Daytona models, originally sold with rivets or folded links, which were later equipped (by Rolex) with solid links. The bracelet being sensitive to usage, even if the genuine one can increase its value, it can be recommended to have a solid bracelet on the watch. Riveted or folded bracelets can give out a displeasant surprise to collectors willing to wear their watches...
First off, it’s important to understand that original dials for first generation Daytonas have tritium indexes with radioactive content. Tritium lasts only (for light reflecting purposes) about 20 years. Tritium on early generation Daytona indexes is therefore no longer active. There are several types of service dials, from Tritium to Luminova. On an original dial, DAYTONA writing is bent to hug around around the 6 o’clock counter. Tritium service dials have a slightly different “Big Red” inscription, which collectors call “Small Red” because of the letters being tighter together and in smaller fonts. d’origine, l’inscription Daytona incurvée qualifiée de « Big Red » dépasse des indexes de 11h ainsi que de 1h dans le petit compteur.
Due to a change in legislation, service dials from 1998 onwards have “SWISS” written on the 6 hour hand. The indexes are Luminova and are rechargeable in the daylight.
Introduced in 1988 with a starting price of 3,130 CHF, this generation will be featured in the catalogue for 12 years until the year 2000. The model is redesigned from top to bottom with, and for the first time, an automatic winding system and a sapphire crystal which guarantees water resistance up to 100 meters.
The model is powered by a caliber no. 4030, derived from the Zenith 400 "El Primero" which earned it the nickname "Daytona Zenith". The caliber was modified by the brand bearing a crown in order to increase the power reserve from 42 to 52 hours, and at the same time reducing the number of alternations per hour from 36,000 to 28,800 and a frequency of 5 to 4 Hz.
The alterations completely redefine the movement design by modifying a range of elements such as the oscillating mass, wheel profile, balance springs, balance bridges and a multitude of other elements. It can also be observed that the system goes from racket to Microstella.
The Tachometric Bezel is now exclusively made of steel. It will have undergone several upgrades, referred to as type 1, type 2, and type 3.
Graduated from 50 to "200 units". It is one of the most sought-after bezels, and therefore one of the most sought-after series.
Graduated from 60 to "400 units".
Graduated from 60 to 400 units.
Type 3 font slightly evolved on A & P series : the spacing between the letters of "Units" is larger. This bezel has been also used on the 116520 model.
The tachymeter scale’s font is different on some gold models : ref. 16518 for yellow gold, and ref. 16519 for white gold on leather bracelet
The dials on the Daytona Zenith are particularly important for collectors. They significantly determine the model's value, depending on their rarity.
The first 16520 series had many subtleties. The very first R and L series from 1987 to 1989 featured a dial with the word "Cosmograph" separated from the text "Officially Certified" for a very short period of time. This is what we call the " Floating Dial Cosmograph ".
The "4-line dial" is chronologically folllowing the floating dial. As opposed to other dials on the "Zenith" Generation, the « Officially Certified » writting will not appear. Manufactured by Singer, its period of production has been very short (about a year - between 1989 and 1990, which are L & E Series)
The famous "inverted 6" which is highly sought-after by collectors can be found in the small hour counter. We can then see that it is placed like a nine. The "inverted six" is present on the first series of dials from 1988 to 1993, i.e. the R, L, E, N, X, C, and S series.
There is a growing demand from collectors for the so-called "Patrizzi" dials which are subject to a significant price difference on the 16520 market.
Some black dial series (especially those mounted on 1993 to 1995 models) showed an oxidation on the counters that turn brown or even dark brown; this is known as the "Patrizzi" patina, named after Osvaldo Patrizzi, the famous Italian collector who gave his name to this phenomenon. The Patrizzi patina can be explained by a light layer of varnish, which causes the oxidation phenomenon to occur and is now much sought-after by collectors.
This model number has indexes and hands in Tritium (radioactive) with the inscription T Swiss Made T at 6 o'clock from 1988 to 1998. Tritium has a permanent shine and has a lifespan of 20 years, so it is no longer active today.
During revisions, it is possible that the Rolex workshop replaced them (after 1998) by a Luminova dial, which is recharged by day-light. The dial will then have the inscription "Swiss Made" at 6 o'clock. This is also the case for the hands. To be sure they are genuine, you can put them under light and then in a dark room : if they do not shine, the Luminova is not active, thus being genuine.
NB : The last series of 16520 (1998 and 1999) have Luminova dials with the inscription "Swiss Made" (Series U & A). A dial can be considered as "service dial" if it's anachronic with the serial number of the case (ie : tritium dial with no inverted six on a 1988 watch)
The bracelets have had their folding buckle and their " End-Links " evolve over time.
AAs of 1993, the bracelet bears the part number 78390. It now has a buckle with a safety lock, similar to the Submariner. Last series of this bracelet (1999/2000) have Solid End Links (SEL)
The Oyster case is equipped with screwed pushers, completely water-proofed (ref. 24-P402)
The first "sports" version of the Daytona to be commercialized on another bracelet than a steel one is introduced with ref. 16518 in 1991 on a leather bracelet. The font on the tachometric bezel is unique to this reference (also on ref 16519 in white Gold). It is visible today on modern Daytona ref. 116500 with ceramic bezels.
The ref. 16518 introduced also the first "racing" dial, with arabic numbers.
|Year||First letter of serial number||Ref. bracelet|
|1993||X-S||78360 / 78390|
It was not until March 23rd 2000 at Baselworld and the introduction of model 116520 that the Daytona chronograph was equipped with a caliber that was entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. We are referring to the 4130 model. This generation will last 16 years, with an official price of 5 179€, and will be withdrawn in 2016 with a retail price of 10 950€.
The second difference (being very noticeable) with the 16520 is visible on the dial. The seconds counter found at 9 o'clock on the 16520 is now at 6 o'clock on the 116520. The indexes are larger than the 16520 model and the counters are now silver plated.
|Year||First letter of serial number||Bracelet model/Buckle code (x3)|
|2000||P||78490 / AB|
|2001||P-K||78490 / DE|
|2002||K-Y||78490 / DT|
|2003||Y-F||78490 / AD|
|2004||F||78490 / CL|
|2005||F-D||78490 / MA|
|2006||D-Z||78490 / OP|
|2007||Z-M||78490 / EO|
|2008||Z-M-V||78490 / 78590 / PJ|
|2009||V||78590 / LT|
|2010||Random||78590 / RS|
|2011||Random||78590 / Random|
|2012||Random||78590 / Random|
|2013||Random||78590 / Random|
|2014||Random||78590 / Random|
NB: Each change in production would be followed by a "transition" period, where you could find a bracelet from the previous year compared to the case.
The model will have undergone few major changes; however, we can observe that the hands are thinner for the P to F series (from 2000 to 2004), what we now call "Slim Hands":
NB: "Slim Hands" have been randomly seen on F or D Series
The hands became wider from mid 2004 to 2014, and are now known as "Fat Hands":
The watch's bezel is engraved as of 2004 with the serial number at 6 o'clock.
The Rolex certificate was changed from paper format to credit card format in 2008. The papers are not always "punched", especially in the United States. The papers do not always specify the color of the dial on the watch at the time of its initial sale. The papers below are a U.S. version that mentions the dial's color.
The 290-piece caliber is C.O.S.C. certified with a 72-hour power reserve. IIt offers 28,800 alternations per hour at 4Hz.
The Genevan company filed multiple patents during 2000 for the creation of a balance spring made of an innovative and exclusive alloy leading to increased precision, which equips the 4130 caliber. Its color was changed to blue circa 2005.
As legislation changed, and indexes were no longer composed of tritium (a radioactive element) which continuously glows in the dark, but instead of superluminova that recharges itself after being exposed to light. Last series of Daytona 116520 (circa 2014 to 2016) have a dial with a blue chromalight index in the dark.
A dial with chromalight index on a Daytona from before 2010 can be considered as a service dial.
The steel version exists with a black or white dial. The indexes as well as the hands are invariably made of gold.
On the early series of 16520 white dials (especially on P & Y series), the varnish turned to a yellowish version, giving the "Panna" nickname.
Some of the latest series of dials are nicknamed APH because of the "COSMOGR APH" inscription given the small space before "APH", there is no actual plausible explanation except that this was generally observed on the latest series. However, we can easily say that this new inscription corresponds to new dials using "superluminova" (as opposed to Luminova).
The reverse side of the dials has various markings that provide reassurance about their authenticity, as they serve to identify the manufacturer and the production date. Here's how to interpret the number on the back:
We can see that these 116520 steel dials below are made by Beyeler as shown by the number 2. This is easily explained by the fact that the Rolex factory bought the Beyeler dial in June 2000, which corresponds to the first year of production for model 116520.
Stern was mainly involved in creating dials made of semi-precious stones, meteorite, mother of pearl, and pavé diamonds.
Apart from small variations according to the period, the tachometric dial of the steel 116520 Daytona hasn't evolved for the steel version.
The gold version of the bezel has a different typeface
The 116500 generation is equipped with screwed on pushers 24-P402 as well as an Oyster Triplock 24-704 crown measuring 7mm in diameter for a perfect seal.
The first series of bracelets bear the model number 78490. The bracelet evolved with the 78590 where we can note a change in the folding clasp. The bracelet has a polished shiny central link and satin polished exteriors. It is originally constructed with 13 links.
The bracelet has evolved in 2008 with the V serie. It is now equipped with the "easy link" system, and a new folding clasp.
Rolex remains very active in motor sports, with extensive sponsorship of the most prestigious races. Winners receive a copy of Daytona with a special engraving on the back of the case. It's the case for the Daytona Race in Florida, or the 24 hours of Le Mans.
These certificates are widely counterfeits. It is highly recomended not to buy one without the original certificate, as well as what can be found with a Rolex Comex.
This new generation of Rolex Daytona introduces a new material : ceramic. Ceramic has the property of being scratch-resistant, a weak point for previous generations.
Rolex first used the Cérachrom ceramic bezel on the pink gold Daytona model 116515 in 2011:
Then on the splendid platinum version model 116506 in 2013 with its chocolate bezel:
The "sportive" typeface of this bezel appears for the first time on ref16518 in 1991 (Daytona Yellow gold with leather strap).
Unlike previous generation, lThe indexes and needles are made of "Chromalight", recognizable by their blue coloration in the dark. It even "shines" for a longer period.
The steel version ref 116500LN is introduced at Baselworld 2016 with a retail price of 11 350€. It can be either with a white dial or a black dial. Bracelet has ref. 78590. The only variation between the two models below being the dial.
LCaliber: this generation has the same caliber than the previous generation, being the Rolex 4130.
The serial numbers are now randomized, so it has become impossible to determine a model's production date without checking the warranty card.
There is much speculation around the possible changes that are to be brought to the Rolex Daytona model. Nowadays it is obvious that the Rolex Marketing Department has a desire to bridge the future with the past… The new Daytona dial on the model 116500LN is somewhat similar to the Paul Newman dial…Daytona markings in red are very reminiscent to earlier mythical versions…So, what could we possibly see next? New editions of PN dials? Will we ever see the date on a Daytona dial (purists would certainly hope not…)? Maybe it’d be possible to see a Daytona with a dial larger than 40 mm? What is certain is that no one is able to tell for the time being…and that the Daytona model is a legend in itself, which will continue to drive price records at auction places…For a reason: There is not a watch in the world that has attracted as many enthusiasts. If there were only one to remember, and to keep, it would definitely be this one!
Stay tuned for new articles on more mythical watches.
By Clément C.
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