A thorough review of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona’s History by Clément

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman

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!

Here’s a little history to start with:

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…

Photo of the Daytona Beach racetrack

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 …

Sir Malcolm Campbell, Daytona Beach, 1933

Old printed commercial for a Campbell Oyster model

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.

Summary of Contents :

The Daytona collection can be divided in 4 different phases:

  • Phase 1 : From 1960 to 1987, a hand-wound version of the Rolex Daytona Cosmograph

During that time, hand-wound chronographs were constantly mutating, with different dials, movements, various subtilties on bezels, crystals, pushers and case backs.

    • Phase 3 From 2000 to 2016, the 116520 versions of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, with a Rolex 4130 in-house movement

  • Phase 4 : Since 2016, current models 116500 with cerachrome bezels and the Rolex 4130 in-house movement
  • Phase 5 :2023 generation with ref. 126500

I - Phase 1 : The Hand-wound Cosmograph Chronos

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.

6238 Models

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.


An illustration of model 6238

6239 Models

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.

6239 models are equipped with 72 and 722 calibers

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.


Illustration of rare version with a "blue" label

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 « Paul Newman » Cosmograph Daytona

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.

6239 illustration with a Paul Newman dial © F. Guéroux

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.

6240 Model

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”.

First generation pushers called « Millerighe” ©F. Guéroux

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).

Rolex Daytona 6240 - ©F. Guéroux

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).

6241 model

Commercialized from 1966 to 1969, model number 6241 was equipped with basic pushers (non screw-down), and 72B, 722, and then 722-1 calibers.

Illustration of the 6241 model - ©F. Guéroux

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).

6262 model

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.

Rolex Daytona 6262 ©F. Guéroux

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.

6264 Model

Produced from 1970 to 1972, model number 6264 comes with non screw-down basic pushers and offered a 727 caliber, similarly to the 6262.

Rolex Ref. 6264 - ©F. Guéroux

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.

6263 model

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.

Voir la fiche produit

First generation pushers - ©F. Guéroux

Second generation pushers - ©F. Guéroux

Third generation pushers - ©F. Guéroux

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.

Illustration of Daytona ref. 6263 commercialized by 41Watch

Model 6263 existed in steel, 18K and 14K gold. Although not as pure, 14K has the characteristic of being more resistant, especially to scratches.

Illustration of a yellow gold 6263 - ©F. Guéroux

6265 Model

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)

Illustration of the various 6265 dials

The model comes with a steel bezel (different from bakelite on a 6263), graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour.

Pusher Third generation on a Gold 6265

6265 yellow gold

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

Daytona 6265 caseback

Illustration of a 727 caliber on a 6265 Daytona.

6269 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.

Illustration of a 6269 sold by Philips

The watch was sold with a yellow gold bracelet bearing model number 7205/8.

6270 model

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.

Illustration of a 6270 model sold by Christie’s

Model sold with a yellow gold bracelet, reference number 7205/8.

An overview of models, production dates, pushers, bezels, calibers, and materials

ReferencesYears of productionPusherBezelCaliberMaterial
62391963 à 1969Non vissésSteel72B / 722 / 722-1Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K
62401965 à 9169Srewed MK1 "Millerighe"Bakélite72B / 722 / 722-1Steel
62411966 à 1969Non SrewedSteel72B / 722 / 722-1Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K
62621970 à 1971Non SrewedSteel727Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K
62641970 à 1972Non SrewedBakélite727Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K
62631971 à 1987Srewed MK1, MK2, MK3Bakélite727Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K
62651971 à 1987Srewed MK1, MK2, MK3Steel727Steel, Gold 14K, Gold 18K
62691984 à 1987Srewed MK2, MK3Gold sertie de 44 diamants727Gold 18K
62701984 à 1987Srewed MK2, MK3Gold sertie de 28 diamants727Gold 18K

Life saving tips for collectors and soon-to-be collectors:

A) Pushers

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.

B) Bezels

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.

6265 Bezels

6263 Bezels

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"

C) Casebacks

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.

D) Bracelets

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...

E) How do you tell the difference between an original dial and a service dial?

a) Tritium service dials

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.

« Big Red » Daytona writing on an original dial

« Small Red » Daytona writing on a service dial
b) Luminova service dials

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.

"T Swiss T" inscription on a Tritium dial

"Swiss" inscription on a Luminova service dial (after 1998)

II - Second Phase: The 16500 Zenith model produced from 1988 to 2000

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 Zenith Caliber

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.

Illustration of the 4030 caliber derived from the Zenith 400 "El Primero".

The bezel

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.

    • Type 1: Present in the first series in 1988 and 1989.

Graduated from 50 to "200 units". It is one of the most sought-after bezels, and therefore one of the most sought-after series.

Tachymetric Bezel " 50 / 200 " Type 1
    • Type 2: Found in both 1989 and 1990 series.

Graduated from 60 to 400 "units", that can be recognized by its "225 graduation" which is not on the type 3 bezel

Tachymetric bezel « 60 / 400 » Type 2

    • Type 3: Found in both 1989 to 1990 series.

Graduated from 60 to 400 units.

Tachymeter Bezel 60/400 Type 3 from 1990 to circa 1998

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

Illustration of the bezel on model 16518

The dials :

The dials on the Daytona Zenith are particularly important for collectors. They significantly determine the model's value, depending on their rarity.

A) The floating Dial Cosmograph

The first 16520 series had many subtleties. The very first R and L series from 1988 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 very first versions of the white dial are named "Porcelain" for the reflections of the paint. Produced only for a handful of month, they justify a consequent price premium

Cadran "Floating" Daytona Zenith MK1 "Porcelaine"
Cadran "Floating" Daytona Zenith MK1 "Noir"

B) The "4-line" dial

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 (less than a year - circa 1989 for early L series)

A "4-line" dial form ref. 16520 produced by Singer

C) The Inverted Six

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 1994, i.e. the R, L, E, N, X, C, and S series. We can note two generations of Inverted 6 dial, which can be differentiated by texts variations (with and without serif)

Daytona "Inverted 6" MK3 dial Serif
Daytona "Inverted 6" MK4 No Serif

D) From 1994 to 1998 Series

We can note two generations of dials used between 1994 and 1998, after the inverted 6. The generation difference is due to the position of text above the two subdials. Note : Some MK6 dials have been used by Rolex until they ran out of stock and have been filled with luminova...right before the introduction of the MK7

Dial Daytona MK5
Dial Daytona MK6

E) The Patrizzi patina:

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.

Illustration of a Rolex Daytona 16520 with "Patrizzi" counters, powered by a Zenith caliber.
Illustration of a Rolex Daytona 16520 with "Patrizzi" counters, powered by a Zenith caliber.

F) How can you recognize a service dial on the 16520?

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)

Luminova dial found on model 16520 in 1998 and 1999 or service dial on earlier versions.


The bracelets have had their folding buckle and their " End-Links " evolve over time.

Illustration of the 78360 model bracelet used from 1988 to 1993.

Illustration of the 78360 bracelet with its 503 end pieces

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)

Illustration of a bracelet ref. 78390

Illustration of the 78360 bracelet with its 503 end pieces


Illustration of the engraving

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.

Daytona Ref. 16518 in yellow gold with a leather strap

The caseback:


Illustration of ref 16520 caseback

Overview of serial numbers and bracelets

YearFirst letter of serial numberRef. bracelet
1993X-S78360 / 78390

III - Phase 3: The reference 116520

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.

Summary of the serial numbers as well as the bracelets with the datecode in the folding buckle

YearFirst letter of serial numberBracelet model/Buckle code (x3)
2000P78490 / AB
2001P-K78490 / DE
2002K-Y78490 / DT
2003Y-F78490 / AD
2004F78490 / CL
2005F-D78490 / MA
2006D-Z78490 / OP
2007Z-M78490 / EO
2008Z-M-V78490 / 78590 / PJ
2009V78590 / LT
2010Random78590 / RS
2011Random78590 / Random
2012Random78590 / Random
2013Random78590 / Random
2014Random78590 / 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 hands

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

Illustration of the dial with "Slim" hands

The hands became wider from mid 2004 to 2014, and are now known as "Fat Hands":

Illustration of the so-called "Fat" hands dial

The watch's bezel is engraved as of 2004 with the serial number at 6 o'clock.

The various certificates

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.

Illustration of certificates dating before 2008

Illustration of the guarantee card’s new format

Illustration of model 116520, the first chronograph with a Rolex Manufacture movement.

The caliber

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.

Illustration of the Rolex 4130 caliber found in the 116520


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.

Illustration of a black dial

Illustration of the white dial

On the early series of 16520 white dials (especially on P & Y series), the varnish turned to a yellowish version, giving the "Panna" nickname.

Illustration of a "Panna" White Dial

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).

Illustration of the dial nicknamed “APH”

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:

  • 1 = Stern
  • 2 = Beyeler
  • 3 = Singer
  • 4 = Lemrich
  • 5 = Fluxkiger (factory bought by Patek Philippe in 2004)

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.

Illustration of the back side of the 116520 black dial produced by Beyeler

IIllustration of the back side of the 116520 white dial produced by Beyeler

Les lunettes

Apart from small variations according to the period, the tachometric dial of the steel 116520 Daytona hasn't evolved for the steel version.

Illustration of the bezel on the 116520

The gold version of the bezel has a different typeface

Illustration of the white gold bezel on the 116509


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.

Illustration of a 24-P402 push button


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.

Illustration of the crown found on the 78490

Illustration of the folding clasp on the 78490

The bracelet has evolved in 2008 with the V serie. It is now equipped with the "easy link" system, and a new folding clasp.

Illustration of the crown on the 78590

Illustrating of the 78590’s folding clasp


Illustration of the engraving

Le fond de boîte


Illustration of caseback on ref 116520

Special Series

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.

Illustration of the engraved back of a 116520 case given to the winners of the Daytona race

The winning celebration of Le Mans with a Daytona

Caseback of a Daytona sold by Philips in 2009

Illustration of the certificate given the a Winner 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.

IV - Phase 4 : Model number 116500LN

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:

Illustration of model 116515 on alligator strap

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.


Illustration of the chromalight in the dark

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.


Illustration of the Daytona 116500LN

Caliber: this generation has the same caliber than the previous generation, being the Rolex 4130.

The 4130 caliber found in model number 116500.

The serial numbers are now randomized, so it has become impossible to determine a model's production date without checking the warranty card.

Illustration of ref 116500LN White Dial "Full Set"

Phase V: The new references 126500 (2023)

Unveiled at the Watches & Wonders watch fair in 2023, reference 126500 introduces a new in-house caliber: the 4131 with patented "Chronergy" escapement made of nickel-phosphorus, offering increased reliability (Its predecessor, reference 4130, was 23 years old... a record!). The case is slightly redesigned while retaining a diameter of 40MM. The dial sees its indexes refined (similar to reference 16520).

The bezel remains in ceramic but is surrounded by the same metal as the watch case (we can see a reference to the old generation 6263 with bakelite bezel...). For many, the modifications are a bit light while speculations were rife about the changes that could have been made in light of the model's 60th anniversary. It should be noted that reference 126500 comes in different alloys in the same way as the 116500, i.e. 3 for Rolesor (126503), 9 for white gold (126509), 8 for yellow gold (126508), and 6 for platinum (126506). A special mention, however, goes to the 126506, which for the first time features a transparent case back (!)

Illustration of the new reference 126500
The caliber 4131 equipped in this new reference 126500

What will come next on the Rolex Daytona?

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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