Rolex Daytona in Steel with White Dial,
A Rolex Daytona is the most expensive wristwatch every sold. Here’s how the racing-inspired watch went from neglected to beloved
In 1975, James Dowling, now a Rolex historian authored a book about the brand. went to buy his very first proper watch. He had his eyes on a GMT, the aviation-inspired timepiece with a slick dual-colored dial. Before paying, though, he asked if he could get a discount if he paid cash. “Rolex never offers discounts,” the salesman said, according to Dowling. That is, unless he wanted to buy the brand’s Cosmograph Daytona model. Only then they’d be willing to offer him one at twenty percent off. The savings weren’t worth settling for the Daytona, though. Dowling said, Rolex watches in the early ‘60s, when the Daytona launched, were not desired by Rare Watch collectors.
Rolex’s could be counted on to display the date, dip underwater without breaking, and wind themselves automatically. The early Daytona had none of those functions.
Forty years later, the Rolex Daytona is one of the most-wanted models on the planet. What happened?
Rare Watches like the Daytona are classified by Rolex as “professional” timepieces. Rolex’s serve some purpose and are made with niche communities in mind. The Submariner was made for the diver. The Explorer for the great outdoorsman, the GMT for pilots and businessmen who frequently made use of those pilots’ services. The Daytona went after racecar drivers, with a chronograph (stopwatch) feature drivers could use to time their laps. On Rolex’s website, the brand writes of its precision timing: “the Daytona is a watch for winners.” That’s true in a literal sense. The watch is literally a prize for first-place finishers in the 24 Hours of Daytona and France’s Le Mans.
Rolex introduced the vintage Daytona in 1963, in hopes of competing with Omega’s Speedmaster and capturing racing fans. The name is borrowed directly from arguably the most famous race in the world, the Daytona 500. And throwing the watch in with the trophy was a sleek bit of marketing. A great way for Rolex to smartly associate itself with victors. The same way it gives its watches to climbers who mount Everest or swimmers who cross the English Channel. Even though racing and Nascar don’t have the same high-society image they once did when the Daytona watch was first introduced. The association to Daytona still pays dividends today. They are Rare Watches and demand a premium price.
A Rolex Daytona collector who goes by Jason B tells me that before watches, I loved to gamble. I am a successful card player. He also made a lot of money from his manufacturing company ”Jason found the elegant shape on the Daytona mesmerizing. “It has this magical appeal and mystic feel that makes me look very special. ” He says the Daytonas attract many compliments, especially at the casino card table. Jason has 25 Vintage Rare Watches but loves his Daytona the most.