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From 0 to 60: The Rolex Daytona
The Rolex Daytona is an exceptionally popular chronograph. Stainless steel models and vintage editions are especially highly coveted and tend to appreciate in value. In fact, Paul Newman's personal Daytona is the world's most expensive wristwatch.
An Iconic Chronograph
Swiss watch manufacturer Rolex introduced the original Cosmograph Daytona in 1963, one year after the first "24 Hours of Daytona" endurance race took place. The chronograph itself is named after the famed Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Rolex specially designed the Daytona with race car drivers and motorsport in mind, which is why it has always featured an extra-large, easy-to-read tachymeter scale on its bezel. As of a few years ago, the winner of the 24-hour race is also awarded a special Rolex Daytona with an engraved case back. These models are especially popular among race car drivers and watch collectors.
Standard Cosmograph Daytonas are also highly sought-after. In fact, this chronograph is among the most popular and bestselling Rolexes on Chrono24, bumping shoulders with the likes of the Datejust, Submariner, and GMT-Master. On the one hand, this high demand has seen these watches appreciate significantly in value; on the other, it also means years-long waitlists when purchasing from offline retailers. For example, the stainless steel ref. 116500LN with a ceramic bezel from 2016 comes with a wait time of up to 10 years. Fortunately, Chrono24 offers a way for you to get your hands on your dream Daytona in a fraction of the time.
The Rolex Daytona is available in stainless steel, gold, platinum, or as a two-tone model that combines stainless steel and gold. Insiders will tell you that two-tone editions are the most affordable entry point into the realm of Daytona owners. By contrast, stainless steel models are extremely popular and, therefore, often demand several thousand dollars more than their official list prices. While less highly coveted, gold and platinum Daytonas are the most expensive mint-condition versions due to their material value and boast perhaps the best value for money.
5 Reasons to Buy a Rolex Daytona
- Stainless steel watches that appreciate in value
- In-house caliber 4130 with a 72-hour power reserve
- A legendary chronograph with widespread brand recognition
- Rare vintage models that make a fantastic investment
- Coveted collector's model: the Paul Newman Daytona
Prices at a Glance: Rolex Daytona
|Reference number||Price (approx.)||Case and Bezel Material|
|6239||Between 60,000 and 205,000 USD||Stainless steel, stainless steel|
|6263||95,000 USD pre-owned||Stainless steel, Bakelite|
|116506||83,000 USD||Platinum, ceramic|
|116508||51,000 USD||Yellow gold, yellow gold|
|116519LN||35,500 USD||White gold, ceramic|
|116518LN||35,500 USD||Yellow gold, ceramic|
|116515LN||34,500 USD||Rose gold, ceramic|
|16520||34,500 USD pre-owned||Stainless steel, stainless steel|
|116500LN||26,000 USD||Stainless steel, ceramic|
|116503||20,000 USD||Stainless steel and yellow gold, yellow gold|
|116520||21,000 USD pre-owned||Stainless steel, stainless steel|
How much does a Rolex Daytona cost?
There seems to be an endless variety of Rolex Cosmograph Daytonas. Many collectors dream of getting their hands on one of the rare vintage models that can cost well over 115,000 USD. More recent two-tone editions occupy the other end of the spectrum, selling for as little as 15,500 USD. Brand new rose or yellow gold versions demand about 35,500 USD, while the extraordinarily popular stainless steel model with a black ceramic bezel changes hands for around 26,000 USD. The platinum Daytona with an ice blue dial and brown ceramic bezel tops the price range for current timepieces at approximately 83,000 USD.
- Stainless steel models have the potential to appreciate in value
- Two-tone watches starting at 15,500 USD
- Rare collector's watches: Paul Newman Daytona, Pre-Daytona
- Powered by the in-house caliber 4130 since 2000
- Daytonas with the Zenith El Primero (1988-2000) caliber are highly coveted
A Particularly High Performer: Ref. 116500LN
You can find the 2016 Rolex Daytona with the reference number 116500LN on Chrono24 for approximately 26,000 USD in mint condition and 23,500 USD pre-owned. These prices are more than 11,500 USD higher than the manufacturer's recommended retail price. However, purchasing on Chrono24 means receiving your Daytona quickly rather than potentially having to wait several years. This particular model has a black ceramic bezel, an Oyster bracelet, and a black or white dial.
Prices for Popular Vintage Daytonas
Vintage Daytonas are often much more expensive than their modern counterparts. This is in part due to the fact that models from the 60s, 70s, and 80s are extremely difficult to find today. What's more, select editions, such as the Paul Newman Daytona, come with unique stories that make them particularly interesting to collectors.
The main feature of the Paul Newman Daytona is its multicolored "exotic dial" with a contrasting minute track. Its subdials also feature unique Art Deco numerals. Another defining detail is the small boxes at the end of each subdial index. Beyond its so-called "exotic" dial, this model is no different than the standard Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6239. Watches with an exotic dial were slow sellers when they first debuted, so Rolex only produced them in limited quantities. Today, the Paul Newman Daytona is one of the most coveted vintage watches of all time, and prices over 235,000 USD are the norm. In 2017, Paul Newman's personal Daytona – a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward – sold at auction for the record price of 17.75 million USD, making it the world's most expensive Rolex.
You can purchase a "normal" Paul Newman Daytona for around 213,000 USD. That being said, it's not uncommon to see prices fluctuate up to and beyond 300,000 USD. If you can do without the special multicolor dial design, you will find the ref. 6239 costs as little as 61,500 USD or perhaps even less if you're lucky. In terms of technology, these vintage watches are identical.
Cosmographs with the reference numbers 6241 and 6240 are also worth taking a look at. The former is comparable to the ref. 6239 but has a Bakelite, or plastic, bezel. Set aside at least 184,000 USD for this rare timepiece. The ref. 6240 is even rarer and was the first water-resistant Daytona thanks to its screw-down push-pieces. Furthermore, it was the first model to have the word "Oyster" stamped on its dial. The Oyster case is especially robust and has been used for nearly every Rolex model since 1926. Like the ref. 6241, the 6240 has a Bakelite bezel and was manufactured in the 1960s. Prices for this extremely uncommon Cosmograph sit around 89,000 USD.
How much do newer stainless steel models cost?
More recent models like the ref. 116520 are significantly more affordable than vintage watches from the 1960s and 1970s. The 116520 was introduced at the turn of the millennium and was the first Rolex chronograph to feature the in-house caliber 4130. Up until then, Rolex had relied on modified movements from other manufacturers like Zenith or Valjoux. Unlike the current generation of Daytonas, the ref. 116520 comes with a stainless steel bezel. While this watch would have cost you about 10,500 USD in lightly used condition in 2015, today it demands some 21,500 USD. Never-worn pieces are rare since this model is no longer in production and, thus, demand a higher price of 28,500 USD.
Introduced in 2016, the ref. 116500LN has a ceramic bezel and a list price of 13,150 USD, just over its initial list price of 12,400 USD. Upon release, prices for this chronograph quickly ballooned to over 19,000 USD on Chrono24. As of 2019, prices for a never-worn watch have increased to 26,000 USD. You can save about 2,400 USD by purchasing a pre-owned timepiece instead. The ref. 116500LN has clearly performed well financially, and collectors consider it a safe investment option.
When it comes to value appreciation, the Daytona ref. 16520 takes it to the next level. This model debuted in 1988 and gets its power from a heavily modified Zenith El Primero movement. Prices for a used version of this Cosmograph Daytona climbed from 11,500 USD in 2010 to 13,000 USD in 2015. By the end of 2016, the 16520 was demanding around 18,000 USD. In 2020, this model reached its record price of more than 35,000 USD.
How much does a gold or platinum Daytona cost?
The Rolex Daytona ref. 116502 costs about 51,000 USD in mint condition and 48,500 USD pre-owned. This timepiece features an 18-karat yellow gold case, gold bezel, and green dial. Its official list price sits at 39,000 USD. Versions with different dial colors are less popular and, therefore, less expensive. Even those with diamond indices demand only 41,500 USD new, making them much more affordable than the Daytona with a green dial.
Gold Daytonas on Oysterflex bracelets – a type of bracelet made of thin metal inserts covered in elastomer – come with the added benefits of a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel and a lower price tag. These gold chronographs sell for around 35,500 USD in mint condition. Pre-owned pieces cost a few thousand dollars less. This price range is also home to the Rolex Daytona Chocolate (ref. 11615LN), which comes with a chocolate brown dial.
A highlight within the Rolex Daytona collection is the platinum reference 116506 with an ice blue dial and chestnut brown Cerachrom bezel. Prices for new examples sit around 83,000 USD. You can find pre-owned models for 78,500 USD.
Another exquisite model is the Rolex Rainbow ref. 116595RBOW. This limited-edition gold timepiece premiered in 2018 and is an extremely rare sight on the market. Its main feature is the rainbow of baguette-cut sapphires that adorn its bezel and dial. If that wasn't enough, Rolex also decorates the case with brilliant-cut diamonds. New, the Rolex Rainbow requires an investment of some 325,000 USD.
How much does a rare Pre-Daytona cost?
So-called "Pre-Daytona" vintage watches are highly coveted among collectors and are quite difficult to find. This is because these timepieces were produced before 1963 and only in relatively limited numbers. Even though Rolex first trademarked the name "Cosmograph" in the early 1950s, only the word "Chronograph" appears on the dials of Pre-Daytonas.
However, these watches never became a real hit since other manufacturers had already made a name producing chronographs, including Heuer. Moreover, in a rare move, Rolex opted to go with a caliber from a third party instead of their own. Gold editions with the reference number 6234 can cost up to 120,000 USD. Prices for the stainless steel versions fall between 35,500 and 83,000 USD.
A Racing Chronograph
Rolex's designers developed the Daytona with race car drivers in mind. The original version included a chronograph function that can measure periods of up to 12 hours. Its dial is tidy and easy to read, with a 30-minute counter at 3 and small seconds at 9 o'clock. A tachymeter scale on the bezel enables the wearer to measure average speed over a certain distance. Unlike other manufacturers, Rolex engraved a much larger scale on the bezel, which was made of stainless steel at the time.
Daytonas from the 1960s are powered by the manual Valjoux caliber 72. Production of these hand-wound watches ended in 1976 when Rolex introduced the first automatic Daytonas. The Swiss manufacturer announced further improvements to their chronographs at Baselworld 1988, including automatic chronographs with the caliber 4030. This movement is based on the Zenith El Primero, which ticks at 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph).
However, Rolex's watchmakers disliked the El Primero's higher frequency of 5 Hz and its date display. As a result, they completely reworked the Zenith caliber, with their design engineers ultimately rebuilding almost half of the movement's components. For example, they lowered the balance frequency to 28,000 vph and replaced the conventional balance spring with the famous Breguet overcoil. Rolex also implemented their regulation system with four Microstella nuts, which are located on the inner side of the now larger balance wheel. This is unlike most standard movements that come with a regulator. The steel versions were the most sought after, resulting in incredibly long waitlists – a fact that remains true to this day.
A New Caliber for a New Millennium: The 4130
The Daytona with reference number 116520 garnered quite a bit of buzz at Baselworld 2000. This stainless steel watch features the automatic in-house caliber 4130. Rolex had debuted this caliber, their first in-house chronograph movement, only a year earlier in the gold version of Daytona. The 4130 is 30.5 mm in diameter and 6.5 mm thick. It features 44 ruby jewel bearings, and its balance wheel oscillates at 28,800 vph. Outfitted with a stop-seconds mechanism, the small seconds display's hand comes to a halt whenever the time is being set. The movement has an impressive power reserve of 72 hours when the chronograph is off and 66 hours when it's on. KIF Parechoc's Kif shock protection system protects the balance and escape wheels against shocks and jolts. Finally, as of 2005, magnetic fields have nothing on the balance thanks to Rolex's patented Parachrom hairspring.
The 21st century has seen very few changes to the Daytona's design. The case has remained completely untouched, while the dial has been altered slightly and adapted to fit the in-house chronograph movement. One such change was the small seconds relocating to 6 o'clock. Older "El Primero" Daytonas have their small seconds at 9 o'clock. For the watch's 50-year anniversary in 2013, Rolex introduced a platinum edition with a brown Cerachrom ceramic bezel.
- Powered by the in-house caliber 4130 since 2001
- Balance wheel frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour
- Set the time to the exact second thanks to a stop-seconds mechanism
- 72-hour power reserve
Alternatives to the Rolex Daytona
The Daytona is on par with chronographs from other manufacturers. Competitors include the Omega Speedmaster and the TAG Heuer Carrera. The Speedmaster Professional, also known as "the Moonwatch," is one of the Daytona's greatest rivals. This Omega watch was originally developed for motorsport but ended up finding its way to the Moon. It was the official watch of NASA for the Apollo 11 mission and joined Buzz Aldrin as he stepped foot on the Moon in 1969.
However, the title of the first Swiss watch in space goes to TAG Heuer. In 1962, a Heuer watch accompanied astronaut John Glenn as he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Perhaps the most well-known chronograph from this company is the Carrera, which Heuer introduced in 1963. This model watch gets its name from the Carrera Panamericana, a car rally that took place in Mexico. Upon release, the Carrera wasted no time establishing itself as a worldwide success.
Where does the name "Cosmograph Daytona" come from?
When looking at the history of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, you'll find numerous explanations for how it got its name. Some sources claim that "Cosmograph" comes from "cosmography" and was already being used to describe watches with a calendar function and moon phase display as far back as the 1950s. Cosmography was the precursor to modern geography and dealt with the study of the universe and Earth – a.k.a. the cosmos. Whatever the case, the word "Cosmograph" appears on the dial of every Rolex chronograph today.
However, this wasn't always the case. In the early days after its 1963 release, the Cosmograph Daytona was available with a number of different dials. Some only featured the "Rolex" brand name, while others came with the "Cosmograph" or "Cosmograph Daytona" inscription.
There's no doubt about where the second part of the name comes from. Its origin is the famed Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida – thus demonstrating its close connection to the world of motorsport. Rolex has been the official timekeeper and partner of the "24 Hours of Daytona" race since 1962. In fact, the winner still receives a Rolex Daytona with an engraved case back as a prize to this day.
Prestige and Top Quality Precision
The Rolex Daytona unites precision and robustness with precious materials like gold and platinum. It combines the feeling of car racing with superb functionality. After all, there's a reason why race car driver Jackie Stewart has sworn by Rolex chronographs since 1969. More than any other watch manufacturer, Rolex stands for luxury and prestige. Whoever buys a Rolex has more than just a watch – pieces from this Swiss company are investments. A consistent model range, harmonious designs, and perfect Swiss watchmaking have made this brand a legend adored by famous personalities and watch enthusiasts alike.