Rolex "Zenith" Daytona Transitional Dial

Rolex "Zenith" Daytona Transitional Dial

Why We Love It

Rolex Daytonas are made in a variety of materials; two-tone, solid gold, platinum, and unobtanium- that is to say, stainless steel.

Once the black sheep of the Rolex family, stainless steel Daytonas have become one of the most desirable and sought after wristwatch models in the world. This Reference 16520 comes from the 'Zenith' era, wherein the Calibre 4030 movement was provided by Zenith. These were made only for a little over a decade and offer an interesting chapter in the Daytona story. As a result, these 'Zenith Daytonas' have become incredibly desirable by collectors.

The condition and movement makes for a compelling timepiece, but this particular example has another secret up its sleeve. Featuring a 'transitional' dial, this piece shows Tritium markings but actually uses Luminova on indices and handsets. This is an unusual but entirely correct configuration that is only acceptable in a small serial range. As we all know, its small peculiarities such as this in vintage timepieces that lead to big desirability (and bigger prices) in the long run.

With near perfect proportions, the 16520 is considered by some to be the perfect Daytona- a balance of sporty tool functionality and luxury.

And while some models have skyrocketed in cost, the price of transitional models of the late 90s- for now at least- have yet to reach their zenith.

Dad jokes.

The Story

The Daytona is Rolex's only Chronograph in current production. Before the Cosmograph and Daytona models, Rolex had produced dressier chronographs since the 1930s, setting the mold for what would ultimately become the single best-known chronograph in the world. 

The design of the Cosmograph gradually changed, but the Oyster case remained at its heart. A change in dial configuration (mainly a shift from monochrome to the 'panda' color schemes now closely associated with it) along with the removal of the tachymetric scale to the bezel made it a clear sportsman's watch. With the addition of the name Daytona in 1964 (taken from the 24 Hours of Daytona Race which Rolex started sponsoring in 1962), the motorsports association was cemented.

The earliest Daytonas relied on that well known manually-wound workhorse calibre - the Valjoux 72, used by Heuer in both their Autavias and Carreras. But in 1988 Rolex released a Daytona using Zenith's El Primero movement, making the Cosmograph Daytona now worthy of the appellation 'Oyster Perpetual.' These 'Zenith' Daytonas -particularly with the white dial - have gained serious traction over the past decade on the vintage chronograph market, with potential to appreciate in value.

Still, Rolex has never been the sort of brand to rely on another company's technology for long, so when the Reference 116520 debuted in 2000 at BaselWorld, it made headlines.

The result of years of R&D, the movement used in the Reference 116520--the Calibre 4130--was the manufacture's first new in-house caliber in five decades. The Calibre 4130's construction--consisting of a vertical clutch, a larger balance wheel, and fewer screws--made it far more accurate (and more easily-serviced) than any of Rolex's previous self-winding chronograph calibers. While the current generation of in-house calibres might be 'better' movements from a technical perspective, the era of 'Zenith Daytonas' was short lived and from a collectability standpoint, there are few things more tantalizing than a transitional era!


SKU: AS03176

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 39mm (excluding the crown). Calibre 4030 Automatic Chronograph Movement by Zenith. Circa 1997.

Overall Condition: The case is in excellent condition overall showing light wear from age and use. Luminous gloss dial is in near mint condition with applied Luminova indices. Handset is as-new. Signed crown. Caseback shows light signs of wear.

Includes stainless steel Oyster bracelet with signed clasp.

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