Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Brief story of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Recommended Posts

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona


Paul Newman watch


Rolex started to release its chronograph watches since 1937 by using Valjoux movement, but it didn’t cause great market impact also sales was not hopeful at the time and even the later extended decade years.




In 1960, Rolex redesigned its chronograph and changed over its name as Oyster Cosmograph Daytona (ref.6239, used Valjoux movement), most significant difference in appearance is directly imprinting tachymeter onto the outermost circle on bezel rather than the conventional way of on dial.


Cosmograph inherited varieties complex functions of modern professional sporty watches, including oyster water-proof design, integral chronograph movement, oyster deployment buckle and the instantly readable average lap speed design on bezel, so the speculation among racers immediately goes viral, thus Rolex named this series as Cosmograph Daytona on basis of the racing resort in Florida - the Daytona Beach.


Another more credible version of the derivation of Daytona is: when the time assembled Oyster Cosmograph chronograph was exactly the opening of American Daytona racing event, so Rolex decided sending out Cosmograph to rival the designation of appointed timing instrument and so acquired the selection, therefore for commemorating this achievement Rolex named the series as Daytona.


Early Rolex Cosmograph Daytona all have the special color which is also the Exotic dial we called by these days: white dial with three black subdials, or black dial with three white subdial, moreover the markers inside the subdials are pretty noticeable by the square marks.


Features of later chronograph watches different with modern Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona also contains: manually winding movement (1988 ref.16520, used EL Primero automatic movement of Zenith), stainless steel non-Oystercase, non-screw-down pushers (later 6263 and 6265 both used screw down pushers), and crown is also not the same triplock crown as later’s.


All the Daytona watches with these features are called as Paul Newman watches, collectable value is way higher than later models. Therefore, we can always see someone claims only ref.6239 and ref.6241 is the lineal Daytona Paul Newman.


The reason why Daytona with Exotic dial is called Daytona Paul Newman, the saying still varies on different opinions to date. Most romantic and widespread discourse is that Paul Newman starred in the movie Winning in 1969 wearing Rolex Daytona (Paul Newman).


However, writer of “the best of time: Rolex Wristwatches” Dowling and Hess had a different statement that: Paul Newman didn’t wear Daytona, but the name attributed to a film poster that Paul Newman wearing Daytona, once the poster was out, firstly got the attention of Italy watch fans and ending up with a snag up of this model, afterwards carried on a worldwide Daytona fever.


More interesting thing: Paul Newman has never officially admitted or negated these rumors, after all, these rumors made this story full of mystery and attraction.


By all possible means, one thing for sure is that Paul Newman indeed was truly in love with Rolex Daytona, and used to wear Daytona on numerous occasions. Countless stars on this planet, however, how many of them can really create this much told story like the way of Paul Newman and Rolex Daytona did?


Topic back to the Cosmograph Daytona watch itself, even though Rolex already have the ability to produce self-made movement, the 1988 facelift launched Daytona Ref.16520 somehow used the industry-famous EL Primero chronograph movement produced by Zenith. In order to achieve a more stable and precise chronograph performance, Rolex particularly changed the EL Primero movement of originally oscillation by 36000 vph to 28800 vph, and sales and expert evaluation of future market also confirmed that Rolex’s unique foresight for marvelous movement and their unique fine tuning capability, and by the way, Ref. 16520 was extremely popular, especially after 1990s, sporty watch was on the rise around the worldwide, with more intense sporty feeling and speedy model of Rolex, Daytona 16520 had become one of the minions and caused an irresistible hot wind of panic buying.


Even at 2000, Rolex released a new redesigned the successor model of Ref.116520 by using self-made Caliber 4130 movement, the buying wave was still eagerly gone up among watch fans, has formed up a never ever happened grand situation that the new watch model Ref.116520 was barely to get even simply a piece, especially stainless steel version.




New come out Daytona 6239 in 1970, can not be regarded as best-selling watches though, and later launched 6263 and 6265 in 1976 also faced up a slowly sale score. These elaborately decorated Valjoux72 watch, features a militant look and exceptionally reliable to use, but only when it’s on sale, people are willing to spend money on. By analysis the reasons, guessing the main problem should be ascribed to the emergence of quartz and automatic watches. People who bought the watch didn’t have the patience to manually wind it day by day.




However, Rolex did not mean standing still. Just right about the same year, automatic Daytona was exhibited in display window at Basel. Models respective are 16520, 16523 and 16528 (a different case material), all applied with 4030 movement and further improved water resistance up to 100 meters.

4030 came from Zenith’s EL Primero movement which has begun to re-production in 1986, but the high quality EL Primero movement at that time still did not get too much satisfaction of Rolex。


Firstly, as far as the Rolex artificer was concerned, 36000vph balance wheel was way too high, so accuracy of 1/10 second chronograph may not be successfully indicated at the small watch dial. Secondly, the infamous rumor about the imperfect date display and also the placement lead an aesthetic compromise on vision.


So resulted in a thorough makeover of 400 movements by Rolex artificers, the final product only were reserved less than half of Zenith components. Biggest improvement was naturally the train wheels, oscillation of balance wheel slowed to 28800 vph. Although the second hand ran a click per 1/8 second on this new watch, outermost indices still have set up 5 frames per second, in favor of people’s usual view way. For other aspects, Rolex also made a great effort on, some Rolex commonly used and proven to be as quite reliable device were installed in 4030 movement. Changed hairspring to particular Breguet hairspring, 4 Microstella screws were fixed at inside edge of balance wheel to accord with time. Diameter of balance wheel was slight larger than original Zenith’s, outer end of hairspring clamped in a triangular pin to protect end of hairspring stay where it’s. Other improvements include the iconic alloy Rolex rotor, polished and brushed screws and so on.


Smart watch fans rapidly felt its charm. At an extended period since its release, it has always been in high market demand especially in mid-early 1990. The stainless steel version 16520, we can often see some fans would like to spend twice the price to purchase one.


Persisted in self-producing movement, somehow used other factory’s work. No matter how thoroughly they changed the movement, just can’t get rid of the shadow of Zenith. In the history of more than 80 years of watch making experience, Rolex has been using other company’s movement, only one exception, the Zerograph watch made in 1938 (model 3346), which can’t find the regular subdials at this watch, second hand also not like other chronograph watches staying at a certain index. But due to its rareness (only one or two were made), its value can reach up to 40,000 or 50,000 dollars.


New chapter of Daytona should begin in 2000. Early before this time, rumors of Rolex will finally produce its own movement has been spread for ages. But as usual, Rolex keeps silence on rumors neither denied nor affirmed.




Difference between 16520 and 116520


Dial difference: subdials at 6 and 9 position are exact the opposite way on two models, hour indices and hands are in different thickness.


Case difference: lug polish is better and sheen, solid bracelet links, looks higher quality, particular the mid row, solid design makes it less chance to wear out. A 16520 weighs 125.95g, whilst the 116520 weights 142.68g, the 16.73g difference is the weight of mid link, but taking turns by these two watches, due to the improvements of the 116520 clasp, the extra weight won’t cause any discomfort.

Clasp difference: from the appearance, the new clasp has a better feel of integration, especially after removing the gap of end link, makes it look more coherent.


Movement difference: is the first Daytona to use Rolex self-made movement, using its own 4130 movement rather than applying with the reformed Zenith 4030, which can be regarded as the biggest step forward of new Daytona, 116520 is truly a watch entirely made by Rolex, somehow we can say it do has compensated the regret 16520 had (using other company’s movement).

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...