When you first develop an interest in luxury watches, the diversity of established brands, historic manufacturers, and independent watchmakers can seem overwhelming. Most of us only come across a fraction of what the market has to offer from advertisements or social connections. The entry point into the world of watches for many novice collectors is a popular model from one of the industry giants.
Whether that timepiece is really their dream watch is another matter. Is the brand too ubiquitous and not individual enough? Does the watch align with their personality? Is their true dream watch just out of their budget? You’ve probably had similar thoughts at some point and may have even questioned whether a different timepiece might suit you better. This series of articles will introduce some surprising alternatives to the industry’s most popular models. Who knows, you may even be inspired to look outside the box when buying your next watch.
Alternatives to the Iconic Rolex Daytona
In this installment, we’re taking a look at alternatives to the legendary Rolex Daytona. The first question to ask is whether or not there are any proper alternatives for one of the most – if not the most – iconic watches of all time. That’s up for debate, but there are some sports chronographs out there that just might do the trick, especially if you want a different look or are on a tighter budget. We have selected a number of watches that definitely give the Daytona a run for its money.
Omega Speedmaster Racing
The first alternative is the Omega Speedmaster Racing. There are a number of watches in the Speedmaster line-up that can hold their own against the Daytona in terms of iconic value. Over the years, Omega hasn’t forgotten the Speedmaster’s racing roots. The Speedmaster was introduced in 1957 as a sports chronograph for the growing amateur motorsport market – hence the name Speedmaster. Although the Speedmaster’s story took a dramatic turn in 1969, Omega never stopped producing Speedmaster Racing models.
The most recognizable element of this watch is its racing dial, which was first introduced in 1968. The gray dial features an orange chronograph hand, a white small seconds counter and hands, and orange chronograph functions. The inspiration for its second track came from the checkered racing flag. This unique aesthetic still serves as the basic design for the current Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer (ref. 318.104.22.168.01.002).
The current Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer features the automatic Omega Caliber 9900, a METAS-certified movement that is among the best modern chronograph calibers. At $9,300 (approx. €8,300), it is much more affordable than the $14,000 (approx. €12,500) you would have to pay for a new Daytona.
Another great option is the brand new Breitling Chronomat that debuted in April 2020. The Chronomat name dates all the way back to the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Chronomat was really etched in people’s memories. That model was hugely popular and a big success story for the brand.
Breitling tends to draw on their rich history when developing new models, creating the perfect link between past and present. The beautiful new Chronomat received the same treatment. This watch is the ideal combination of familiar good looks and modern-day production technology.
The brand reintroduced the famous Rouleaux bracelet, which was traditionally paired with the Chronomat. The watch is outfitted with the in-house Breitling BR-01 chronograph caliber. This movement is used in a number of Breitling watches and has made quite a name for itself in a short amount of time.
The stunning good looks, wide selection of dial colors, and the $8,850 (approx. €7,900) price tag make the stainless steel version a serious Daytona contender. You could even buy another watch with all the money you’d save!
Tudor Black Bay Chrono
The third Daytona alternative is the Tudor Black Bay Chrono. Tudor has struck gold with their Black Bay series. Yes, Tudor has undeniable links to Rolex, but the move to find a unique aesthetic rooted in the brand’s past has made this collection of watches hugely successful.
The Black Bay series is inspired by Tudor diving watches from the 1950s. You will definitely see a lot of Rolex similarities, but those obvious connections were much more prominent back in the day. While Rolex has moved forward and updated the look of their timepieces, Tudor has embraced the popular retro 1950s style in a wide selection of Black Bay models.
The Black Bay Chrono is the series’ chronograph. It was first introduced at Baselworld 2017 and is instantly recognizable by its typical Tudor details, such as Snowflake hands and a large winding crown.
The Black Bay Chrono is powered by the automatic Tudor caliber MT5813. It is an in-house modified version of the Breitling B01 base movement that also powers the Chronomat. In addition to a great retro look, you get a very good modern movement. At $5,500 (approx. €4,920), the Black Bay Chrono is a fantastic option to consider if the Rolex Daytona is beyond your budget.
More Options to Consider
While the three previous options are more affordable than the Daytona, they could still stretch your budget. Thus, we wanted to select some other sports chronographs that have a less hefty price tag. The first is the 41-mm TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16. This list would not be complete without a Carrera. At $4,400 (approx. €3,900), it costs significantly less than a Daytona.
Another option is the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono, a modern remake of a classic model from 1968. This watch has a great retro look and an attractive price tag of $2,250 (€1,995). The third more affordable option is the Sinn 158 Chronograph. It is a great contemporary-looking sports chronograph from the Frankfurt, Germany-based brand and costs around $2,900 (€2,590).
If you are looking for alternatives under $1,200, the Seiko SSC365P1 may be worth a closer look. This solar-powered watch is made from lightweight titanium and costs about $400 (€360). A great mechanical option within this price segment is the modern-looking LIV GX-Auto Chrono for just under $1,000 (€900).
Last but not least, the Unimatic Modello Tre is a very stylish alternative. Released in limited numbers and a range of different configurations, the Modello Tre is a hot commodity among watch enthusiasts. With price tags around $650-800 (€600-700), this watch is a fine and affordable Daytona alternative.
There you have it: a selection of alternatives to the iconic Rolex Daytona. Which would you choose? The Daytona or one of the more affordable alternatives?