Rolex Daytona

Rolex Daytona

For a brand that was an early pioneer of automatic movements, it seems odd that for decades Rolex's only chronograph was powered by a manual-winding movement.

Perhaps it's because Rolex came relatively late to the complication. While other brands were swept away in the racing-inspired furor to develop a chronograph in the 1920s and 1930s, Rolex concentrated on perfecting their Oyster cases and perpetual movements. But as the 1930s closed and the Oyster Perpetual solidified Rolex's reputation as a watch for sportsmen of the aquatic type, The Crown shifted its attention to developing a watch for those taking to the road.

By 1937 the Rolex catalog featured as many as five chronographs, all driven by Swiss-made Valjoux movements, which would power all of their chronographs until 1988.

It wasn't until 1955 that Rolex released the Reference 6234, which would later be considered the dawn of the Daytona line. The Reference 6234 bore both a telemetre and tachymetre track. A few thousand examples were released from 1955 to 1961 (roughly 2300 in stainless steel), but despite its short run the Ref. 6234 ushered in a new era for Rolex, as well as an evolving design mentality that would gradually become the benchmark for racing chronographs worldwide. 

Rolex minted the first Cosmograph Chronograph model in 1962, characterized most notably by the fixed steel bezel bearing the engraved tachymetre. This feature would become the hallmark of the Daytona two years later. However, these chronographs were never very popular or pricey, then retailing for a mere $200.

The lack of an automatic movement certainly hampered the Daytona's success, as did the addition of screw-down pump pushers in 1965. Consumers simply didn't want to have to wind a watch every day. Moreover, the need to unscrew the pushers in order to activate the chronograph defeats (on the surface) the purpose of what a chronograph is supposed to do: namely, time fast-paced events like the automobile race from which the Daytona took its name.  Of course, Rolex's design was geared to protecting the somewhat delicate pushers - similar to the addition of crown guards in the 1960s.  

But the addition of the Zenith El Primero movement in the 1980s truly revolutionized the Daytona and made it worthy of the name "Oyster Perpetual."

"Zenith Daytonas" were made for a little over a decade, and have already become incredibly desirable by collectors. With near-perfect proportions, the 16520 has become an icon unto itself. Furthermore, at nearly thirty years of age, these watches are entering the new era of vintage, while still being "new" enough to merit daily wear.

This example features a white dial with black rings circling the subsidiary registers, evoking just the right amount of "panda." Manufactured near the end of the model run in the late 1990s, this model has an "A" Serial and features all of its original kit, including booklets, guarantee paperwork, inner and outer boxes, and hang tags. This Daytona is a rare example of an investment that you can actually wear--to the race track, the boardroom, or wherever life takes you.


SKU: AS01980

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 41mm (excluding the crown). Rolex Reference 16520. Calibre 4030 Automatic Chronograph Movement by Zenith. Circa 2000.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel Oyster case is in very good condition over all, showing signs of normal wear and use, including some scratches on the sides of the case and on the bezel. Dial is as new. Rolex Trip-Lock crown. Case back retains its original factory sticker.

Includes 20mm Rolex Oyster bracelet (78390/503B). Bracelet shows signs of moderate wear, including some "desk-diving" scuffs on the clasp. Also includes two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle.

Also includes original inner and outer boxes, owner's manual, warranty card, and hangtags.

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