6 minutes

Chrono24 Buyer’s Guide: Rolex Daytona

By Sebastian Swart
You can find more reviews, how-to videos, talks, interviews, and other content related to luxury watches on our YouTube channel.

About the Rolex Daytona 

Rolex first introduced the Cosmograph Daytona in 1963. The name was a clear nod to the famous Daytona International Speedway located in Daytona Beach, Florida. As the racetrack’s official timekeeper, Rolex designed this model with racing drivers and timekeepers in mind. The Geneva-based watch manufacturer equipped the watch with a stop seconds, 12-hour counter, 30-minute counter, and small seconds. 

Its dial has a symmetrical, three-subdial design with a tachymeter scale to help wearers determine speed and distance traveled. Rolex equipped early versions of the Daytona with the manual caliber Valjoux 72, which they later replaced with the Zenith El Primero. Since 2000, the Daytona has featured a specially-designed, in-house Rolex caliber.  

The Rolex Daytona: Rising Prices  

It’s hard to believe nowadays, but the Daytona wasn’t exactly a smash hit when it was first released. However, a link to Hollywood star and amateur racing driver Paul Newman paired with clever marketing from Rolex in the subsequent decades has ensured that the model is extremely popular today – so much so that those wishing to buy a new model from an authorized dealer can expect long wait times, sometimes extending to several years. Things are a bit better on the secondary market, but this increased accessibility comes with prices well above the watch’s official list price.  

There is a wide selection of pre-owned Daytonas available, and the model’s recent performance makes many of these interesting from an investment point of view. As a general rule, however, you should always exercise some caution when buying used luxury watches. Be sure to gather plenty of information about the seller and the specific watch before making your purchase. 

Rolex Daytona 116520 with a black dial
Rolex Daytona 116520 with a black dial

Rolex and the Daytona International Speedway 

As mentioned, the iconic Rolex timepiece is named after the Daytona International Speedway, which first opened in 1959. The racetrack’s most well-known event is the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race of the NASCAR Cup Series. The track’s next race – the Coke Zero Sugar 400 – will take place on August 28, 2021 at 7:00 PM ET. If you are the lucky owner of a Rolex Daytona (or any other chronograph, for that matter), why not time some laps from the comfort of your own home? Check out our tips for using your chronograph correctly here.  

The Rolex Daytona Ref. 116520 

The most popular Rolex Daytona on Chrono24 is the ref. 116520 with a stainless steel bezel. You can choose between a black or white dial for this 40-mm timepiece. The in-house caliber 4130 has been powering the reference since 2000. It has a power reserve of 72 hours and so-called KIF shock protection to shield the balance and escape wheels from jolts and impacts. Thanks to its patented Parachrom hairspring, the movement is also resistant to magnetic fields. The ref. 116520 is nearly identical to its predecessor, the ref. 16520; however, if you take a closer look at the dial, you’ll notice that the running seconds has been moved from the 9 o’clock to the 6 o’clock position.  

This Daytona reference in mint condition will set you back around $37,500 regardless of the dial color. This represents a nearly three-fold increase in price over the past five years. Used prices come in around $23,400, which is double the price from five years ago. 

The Daytona ref. 116520 with a white dial is very popular on Chrono24
The Daytona ref. 116520 with a white dial is very popular on Chrono24

Two-Tone Daytona 

Are you looking for a two-tone Daytona made of gold and stainless steel? The eye-catching ref. 116523 may be the watch for you. Rolex equips this variant with its fair share of 18-karat gold. The bezel, crown, push-pieces, middle links on the Oyster bracelet, hands, indices, and subdial rings are all made of this precious metal. Here you can choose between a white, black, gold, blue, or silver dial.  

Two-tone Daytona models are not nearly as popular as their stainless steel counterparts, making prices much more modest. For example, an unworn watch with a white dial sells for just shy of $20,000, while a black-dial version will set you back around $25,000 on Chrono24. Used, both versions cost between $17,500 and $19,000. Prices for the other dial colors are very similar. Generally speaking, these watches have been increasing in price for years and aren’t getting any cheaper. 

Elegant and eye-catching: the two-tone Daytona ref. 116523 with a black dial
Elegant and eye-catching: the two-tone Daytona ref. 116523 with a black dial

The Daytona 116500LN With a Ceramic Bezel 

Rolex introduced the ref. 116500LN with a black and white dial in 2016. This watch was the first stainless steel Daytona to feature a black ceramic bezel, vastly altering its appearance. The new mix of materials gives the watch a much more modern look while maintaining the model’s classic aesthetics. The white-dial version received another visual update with black rings around its subdials, lending it a look bordering on the famous panda design of its vintage predecessors.

The 40-mm case is identical to that of the previous model. Again, the in-house caliber 4130 powers the timepiece. This reference is particularly suitable for Daytona purists who appreciate the model’s vintage character but want to enjoy modern technology. 

A mint-condition ref. 116500LN with a black dial demands around $35,000 on Chrono24. The version with a white dial is slightly more popular and costs about $38,500. Used, both watches will set you back roughly $35,000. Considering the watch’s official list price of $13,150, the Daytona has proven to be an excellent performer. 

Market prices for the ref. 116500LN with a black or white dial far exceed the MSRP
Market prices for the ref. 116500LN with a black or white dial far exceed the MSRP

Daytona 6239 Paul Newman 

Any article about the Rolex Daytona wouldn’t be complete without a few lines on the Daytona Paul Newman. This watch is by far the most popular vintage Daytona out there.  

The most famous Paul Newman Daytona is the ref. 6239. The Hollywood star was gifted a copy of this reference by his wife Joanne Woodward in the 1960s. Newman regularly wore the watch, including during his numerous car races. The ref. 6239 Paul Newman has a so-called white “exotic dial,” complete with three black subdials and Art-Deco-style numerals. Like all vintage models, the Paul Newman is smaller than current Daytonas. The watch measures just 37 mm in diameter and has a lug-to-lug distance of 19 mm rather than the 20 mm of later versions. 

The Valjoux caliber 722 is the beating heart of the Daytona Paul Newman. The movement is based on the tried and tested Valjoux 72, which was widely used at the time. The 722, however, features a Microstella balance, which was designed to ensure a longer service life and increased precision. Rolex delivered the watch on a standard Oyster bracelet. 

Paul Newman's top watch: the Daytona ref. 6239 with an "exotic dial"
Paul Newman’s top watch: the Daytona ref. 6239 with an “exotic dial”

Prices for the Daytona ref. 6239 vary greatly depending on the watch’s condition and accessories. However, average prices have risen by about 30% since 2019. You should expect to pay upwards of $230,000 for a copy in good condition. The ref. 6239 was also available with a standard dial. These watches sell for prices starting at around $58,000.  

Another interesting Daytona reference is the 6241, which is technically identical and looks confusingly similar to the Paul Newman Daytona. The main difference is that the 6241 has a bezel made of Bakelite, a synthetic material frequently used in the past. Expect to see prices between $110,000 and $230,000 for this watch, depending on its condition and accessories. 

The Valjoux caliber 72 powers the Daytona 6239
The Valjoux caliber 72 powers the Daytona 6239

Prices, Performance, and Recommendations  

As you’ve probably gathered from this text, prices for the Rolex Daytona are only moving in one direction – up. Stainless steel versions from the 1990s and 2000s are extremely popular and still relatively affordable. Whether the watch is powered by a Zenith El Primero or in-house Rolex movement isn’t usually that important. Since these watches are out of production, prices are purely speculative. Collectors and enthusiasts are willing to lay large sums on the table to call one their own. 

When it comes to the current ref. 116500LN, all you have to do is look at the MSRP to get a sense of how prices are performing. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s a wise move to pay more than double the official list price or not. That being said, these models aren’t expected to decrease in market value anytime soon. 

If you have your sights set on a vintage model like the Paul Newman ref. 6239, be sure to proceed with caution. High potential profits can attract dubious dealers who attempt to piece together a run-of-the-mill Daytona from the same era into a Paul Newman. If you are willing and able to spend over $230,000 on a watch, we recommend seeking expert advice and using a trusted escrow service for the purchase. Regardless of which Daytona you choose, financially speaking, developments are looking positive. 

Read more

Five Chronographs That Are Cheaper (and Better) Than the Rolex Daytona

Rolex Daytona: If you like this watch, you might also like…

The Zenith El Primero, Omega Speedmaster, and Tudor Black Bay Chrono: Are any of these legitimate Daytona alternatives?


About the Author

Sebastian Swart

I've been using Chrono24 for years to buy and sell watches, as well as for research purposes. I've had an infatuation with watches for as long as I can remember. As a …

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