A Brief History Of Time: The Stainless Steel Rolex Daytona
Watches have a long and storied history as fashion statements. From pocket watches wrought in precious metals to meticulous timepieces that err by mere seconds after hundreds of years of work, a good watch is a blend of science and art that can make a powerful statement. They can be found on the arms of everyone from multibillionaire shipping magnates to recent graduates looking for their first job, and the right one can command a room. They’re timeless constructions that bewitch and awe, and today we want to introduce you to this example of one that’s been enchanting watch buyers for decades: The Rolex Daytona.
Rolex is the first name on almost everyone’s lips when it comes to watches, and with good reason. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905 as Wilsdorf and Davis, the company was quickly renamed as Rolex in 1915. Even before the company was renamed, however, the watches it produced were drawing attention for their high quality, and a Rolex was awarded the Class A precision certificate, a distinction traditionally reserved for incredibly precise marine chronometers, by the Kew Observatory in 1914. In 1916 Rolex relocated to Switzerland, where it remains to this day.
Over the decades, the company became famous for making a great number of innovations to the craft of watchmaking. in 1910 it became the first watch company to manufacture a watch that received the chronometer distinction. Their “Oyster” was the first wristwatch to be waterproof in 1926, and in 1953 they created the first wristwatch that was certified waterproof up to 100 meters. In 1945 the Rolex Datejust, the first wristwatch to ever change the date on the dial itself, was produced, and in 1956 the Rolex Day-Date, the first watch to ever change the day and date on the dial, was produced. Finally, Rolex also created the first wristwatch to ever display the time in two time zones at once, the Rolex GMT Master.
Today it is the world’s single largest luxury watch brand, producing over 2,000 masterpieces every single day, and is well-known for the incredible precision of its timepieces. Indeed, the brand is the largest manufacturer of certified Swiss-made chronometers, and in 2005 more than half of all watches certified by the Swiss Chronometer testing institute were produced by Rolex. This reputation was undoubtedly bolstered by Rolex’s central importance to the development of the Quartz Clock, the incredibly precise mechanism favored in most electronic timepieces today. The brand is also incredibly valuable, valued at $8.035 Billion and appearing at 64th on the 2016 list of the world’s most powerful brands.
The Rolex Daytona is one of the brand’s most iconic lines. Originally inspired by professional drivers and car lovers, the Daytona is characterized among Rolex’s other lines by the three faces that appear on the main face, and has been manufactured in three different lines over the years. They have always been closely associated with drivers and other automotive professionals, but were officially named after the famous 24-hour race in 1991, when Rolex sponsored the affair, which was then renamed the Rolex 24 at Daytona. That year the watch line was renamed the Cosmograph Daytona, and has kept that name ever since.
The Daytona was also beloved of auto enthusiasts and racers the world over, specifically movie star Paul Newman, whose watch became perhaps the most famous in the world after he wore it every single day from 1972 to his death in 2008. Indeed, he was so synonymous with the line that for many years the Daytona itself was actually known colloquially as “The Paul Newman.” A gift from his wife, actress Joanne woodward, the back of the watch was inscribed
with the words “drive carefully,” and the timepiece itself eventually achieved a nearly mythical status among collectors, who spent decades searching feverishly for it. When it finally sold at auction in 2017 it went for $17.8 million, becoming the most expensive wristwatch ever sold and beating out the previous record-holder by over six million dollars.
All three lines of the Daytona are true chronographs, which are differentiated from standard watches in that they incorporate a stopwatch into the standard watch face. The second hand on a chronograph doesn’t move with the rest of the hands, can be independently started, stopped, and reset, and in some cases can even be made to mark time in increments as precise as tenths of second. This makes devices like the Daytona excellent for timing precise increments, as is required by professional racers.
There are many other features of the Daytona series three which make it a powerful tool for auto racers. One of these is a bezel around the watch face that is tachymetric, meaning that it is marked with a scale that allows drivers who know how to use it to convert time elapsed over a distance travelled into speed. Today’s bezel allows the watch to accurately measure speeds of up to 400 kilometers per hour, or 250 miles per hour. It comes in a wide variety of colors, both on the face and the band, but every interaction of the watch is an example of masterful craftsmanship.
Even all these commonalities, however, the Daytona has gone through a great many changes over the decades, all designed to create the most precise and effective watch possible. The very first series of the Rolex Daytona was actually powered by a hand-wound movement. For the other two series, a self-winding movement was used instead. Indeed, for the second series of the Daytona, introduced in 1988, Rolex actually initially purchased a movement produced by “Zenith,” a Swiss luxury watchmaker and named “El Primero.” That movement was originally produced in 1966, and to this day remains the watch movement with the highest Vibrations Per Hour ever produced for mass markets, at 36,000 VPH. With a VPH this high, the El Primero movement would have made the Daytona series accurate to within one tenth of a second.
However, a watch this accurate would have also been slightly more prone to malfunctioning, and a watch suitable for automotive professionals also needed to be durable enough to endure long, grueling hours on the racetrack. Because of this, Rolex made some subtle adjustments to the El Primero movement before incorporating it into the Daytona, including lowering the movement’s VPH to 28,800 VPH. With that movement, the Daytona series two was accurate to within one eighth of a second, and was commercially produced with that movement until 2000. The series three took most of its cues from the movements used in the Daytona 2 when it was introduced to markets in 2000, but was built in-house by Rolex and featured a few more subtle changes to the mechanism.
Another change that was made to the watch over time was the addition of screw-down winding crowns and timings buttons to the series two and three, which were not included in the first series, and allow more control over the second hand. Finally, the bezel around the watch has been adjusted, allowing it to measures higher speeds. The series one Daytona only allowed the wearer to measure speeds of 200 units kilometers per hour, while the series two and three now enable one to measure speeds as high as 400 kilometers per hour. All of those changes have culminated in the series three, which this watch is a shining example of.
All three lines of Rolex Daytona’s can be differentiated by the length of their serial numbers. The first line had four-digit numbers, the second line had five-digit numbers, and the third had numbers six digits long, making this watch part of the third line of Daytona. All watches of the third Daytona line are certified by the COSC, a process that involves rigorously testing the movement of the watch – the part of the device actually responsible for keeping time – over multiple days, in many different positions, and at various different temperatures. To meet the COSC’s standards, a watch must keep time to within four second behind or six seconds ahead on the day, meaning that it must deviate by no more than thirty-six minutes every single year. A movement this precise is a carefully calibrated machine of the highest precision, as much a work of art cast in metal as it is a mechanical masterpiece.
Rolex Daytona series threes are also mechanical and self-winding, which means that they keep time through a series of gears and springs instead of electrical pulses or atomic movements, as other watches do. These movements also don’t need to be wound manually, and instead harness the energy produced by the movement of the person wearing them to function. However, this requires that the watches be kept in a special “watch winder” when their owner isn’t wearing them, so that the movement induced in the box ensures that the watch stays wound.
The simple elegance of the piece speaks for itself. Cased in Stainless Steel with an eight inch oyster band, it sits with understated grace on any wrist, and will endure for as long as it’s keeping time. This band is held together by a hidden fold over clasp below the wrist. Sitting atop your wrist you’ll find a stainless steel case with a forty millimeter diameter, surrounded by a bezel also made of stainless steel. That bezel’s tachymetric scale begins at sixty, and includes markings for every value between sixty and 100. Between 100 and 140 there are increments for every five units, and markings every twenty unites between that and 200. Above 200, the tachymetric scale also has unites for 260, 300, and 400. Within the bezel, the watch face itself is protected by a covering of clear, scratch-resistant sapphire.
That face consists of an elegant and simple design, with a white gold face and black markings for the precise timing of seconds, a throwback to the timepiece’s racing heritage. In the place of each number on the face is a cream-colored rectangle, except for the twelfth position, which is instead represented by the iconic Rolex crown. There are also markings delineating not only every single second of a minute, but also every fifth of a second as well, allowing for incredibly precise measurements of time, as befits a watch with such a rich racing heritage.
There are also three other dials on the watch, for timing increments of thirty, sixty, and twelve seconds, another remnant of the timepiece’s history with the racing track. Each of these three dials has its own cream-colored second hand, and the watch face as a whole has minute and second hands cast in alternating black and white rectangles and bordered by silver, stylishly evoking the classic checkered flag associated with racing. The second hand is a precise needly of silver, all the better for the precise timing required by drivers. These hands can be rotated by a dial made of silver and stainless steel. Altogether, these finely crafted elements blend to form a seamless whole, proof that great beauty is found in elegant simplicity.
In short, the Rolex Daytona is a masterfully made piece of both timekeeping and fashion history, and this example in particular is a perfect example of elegant, graceful beauty. It’s the perfect accessory to make an elegant statement, both durable and beautiful. For any
connoisseur wanting to own a watch that is both has a richly storied history and is an example of brilliant craftsmanship, this Rolex Daytona is the perfect choice. Even better, we’re proud to offer this watch at Diamonds by Raymond Lee in Boca Raton! Enclosed in a special Diamonds by Raymond Lee presentation box, the watch also comes to you with a 1 year warranty. If you’re interested in owning a fashion statement, the product of a rich history, and an example of master craftsmanship, Diamonds by Raymond Lee is the right place to turn.