Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is a legendary chronograph watch that holds a significant place in the history of luxury timepieces. Initially introduced in 1963, the Daytona aka the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona had a slow start, with unsold models gathering dust on jeweler’s shelves. However, this all changed when it found an unexpected ally in the world of motor racing – actor and race car driver Paul Newman.

Newman’s endorsement of the Rolex Daytona in the late 1960s completely transformed the watch’s fortunes. Renowned for his racing career, Newman wore his Daytona regularly on and off the track. This association with a respected racing driver brought the Daytona into the spotlight, attracting the attention of watch enthusiasts and collectors alike. The Daytona’s emblematic style became the definitive chronograph, one on which nearly all others were based. 

Rolex Daytona
Rolex Daytona

The Daytona’s appeal lies in its combination of iconic design and exceptional functionality. Featuring Rolex’s signature Oyster case, a Tachymeter bezel, and screw-down pushers, the Daytona is built to withstand the rigors of professional racing. Its precise chronograph function allows drivers to measure elapsed time, essential for calculating average speeds.

Today, the Rolex Daytona remains one of the most coveted models in the luxury watch market. Its enduring popularity owes much to its rich history and association with motor racing. Whether through its connection to Paul Newman or its own superlative performance, the Daytona remains a symbol of precision, style, and excellence.

Finding an older Daytona in mint condition is exceedingly difficult, but, luckily, these were always considered expensive wristwatches. This meant that most models remained in mint condition. One lucky owner put his away decades ago and only recently brought it out on Antiques Roadshow. I’ll leave you to check out the interaction.

Daytona or Cosmograph?

The Rolex Daytona, with its iconic design and rich history, has garnered a number of popular nicknames over the years. From its association with actor and racing enthusiast Paul Newman to its reputation as a beloved timepiece for professional race car drivers, the Daytona has earned many endearing monikers that highlight its status as a coveted and respected watch.

Rolex Daytona
Photos: Sotheby’s, Getty Images

Whether it’s referred to as the “Paul Newman Daytona“or the “Ultimate Race Watch,” these nicknames showcase the watch’s enduring appeal and its close ties to the world of motorsports. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular nicknames that have come to define this legendary timepiece.

The Rolex Cosmograph is more commonly known today as the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, is the original name of the watch now known as the Rolex Daytona. The Daytona branding is the most familiar to watch collectors, but if you’re talking about a Rolex chronograph, then you’re talking about a Cosmograph.

  1. The Name “Cosmograph”: Rolex introduced the term “Cosmograph” in the early 1960s to describe its chronograph wristwatches. The name derives from “cosmo-” (related to the universe and space) and “-graph” (related to writing or recording). The moniker seemed appropriate for the 1960s, a time deeply marked by the space race.
  2. Rolex and Racing: Even before the Cosmograph name was introduced, Rolex had an association with motorsport. They sponsored various racing events and drivers. By the time the Cosmograph came into play, Rolex wanted to strengthen this association and, as a result, tied the watch to the famous Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
  3. Daytona Association: The Rolex Cosmograph became intrinsically linked to the Daytona racing circuit, and subsequently, Rolex added “Daytona” to the watch’s name. Hence, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was born. The watch was, and still is, marketed as a high-precision, luxury timepiece for those involved in motorsports, whether as drivers or enthusiasts.
  4. Distinctive Features: The early Rolex Cosmograph watches featured pump pushers. However, Rolex improved the design with screw-down pushers that increased the watch’s water resistance. The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is also distinguished by its tachymetric scale on the bezel, allowing drivers to measure speeds.

Over the years, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona has evolved in design and technology but remains one of the most coveted luxury chronographs in the world, often with waitlists at retailers due to its demand.

Rolex Dayton –

An Iconic Chronograph

The Rolex Daytona is not just any chronograph watch; it is an iconic chronograph that has left a significant mark in the world of horology. Its historical significance cannot be overlooked, as it went from being an unnoticed timepiece in the 1960s to an object of desire that revolutionized the second-hand market.

What made the Daytona even more sought-after was the demand for its stainless steel models. Not only did they exhibit a unique blend of elegance and sportiness, but they also provided a sense of exclusivity that collectors couldn’t resist. The stainless steel Daytona became a coveted object, with waiting lists and growing prices at auctions becoming the norm.

The allure of the Daytona lies in its impeccable design, functionality, and the reputation it earned as the timepiece of choice for professional race car drivers. Its tachymeter bezel, screw-down pushers, and precise chronograph function make it the perfect tool for measuring elapsed time and calculating average speeds.

The Daytona’s iconic status has made it a symbol of excellence and luxury, and it continues to capture the hearts of watch enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

Inside the Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is one of the most iconic watches on the planet. Luckily, like most items built in limited quantities, the watch is made of excellent materials and to Rolex’s exacting standards. The entire range features an automatic chronograph movement. Zenith originally produced the movements for Rolex but most recently the company has been manufacturing their own movements.

Rolex Daytona Movements

The Rolex Daytona’s movement is a testament to the brand’s commitment to precision and reliability. The modern Daytona models are powered by Rolex’s in-house caliber 4130 movement, a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement developed and manufactured entirely by Rolex. Introduced in 2000, the caliber 4130 represented a significant step forward in watchmaking for the brand. It reduced the number of components for the chronograph function, enhancing the movement’s reliability.


Furthermore, the 4130 is equipped with a Parachrom hairspring, which offers greater resistance to shocks and temperature variations, ensuring accuracy in various conditions. This movement, with its 72-hour power reserve, not only showcases Rolex’s technical prowess but also solidifies the Daytona’s reputation as a watch designed for those with a passion for motorsports and precision timekeeping.

Rolex Daytona Dials

The Rolex Daytona is renowned for its iconic design and superb craftsmanship, and one of the key elements that sets it apart is the variety of dial options available. With a range of colors to choose from, each dial adds its own unique touch to this prestigious timepiece.

One of the most classic and popular choices is the white dial, which exudes elegance and sophistication. Its clean and timeless appearance makes it a versatile option for any occasion. For those who prefer a bolder look, the black dial offers a striking contrast that adds a touch of drama.

The bezels feature a telemeter scale for measuring ground speed. Most models have a running seconds sub-dial.

For a touch of luxury, there is the champagne dial, which radiates warmth and understated opulence. Its golden hues give the Daytona a refined and timeless appeal. For a more contemporary twist, the blue dial offers a sporty and vibrant look, while the green, brown, and meteorite dials provide a more exotic and unique aesthetic.

Rolex White Dials –

Regardless of the dial color, all Rolex Daytona watches feature three sub-dials, which are essential for its chronograph function. These sub-dials consist of a 12-hour counter, a 30-minute counter, and a small seconds counter, adding both functionality and visual interest to the dial.

Whether you prefer a classic or a more adventurous look, the Rolex Daytona offers a wide range of dial options to suit any style and taste. With its exceptional craftsmanship and iconic design, it’s no wonder that the Daytona has become one of the most coveted and sought-after timepieces in the world.

Rolex Daytona Movements

Rolex Daytona watches are renowned for their exceptional movements, which play a crucial role in their performance and accuracy. Over the years, Rolex has introduced different movements in the Daytona collection, each presenting its own set of features and advancements.

The first generation of Daytona movements featured manual-winding mechanisms, where the wearer had to manually wind the watch to keep it running. These movements, known for their reliability and precision, were highly regarded by watch enthusiasts.

In later generations, Rolex introduced automatic movements, which eliminated the need for manual winding. These automatic movements, including the in-house Caliber 4130, offered enhanced convenience and functionality.

The Caliber 4130 movement, introduced in the year 2000, is considered a landmark achievement by Rolex. It is renowned for its remarkable reliability and precise timekeeping, thanks to its innovative design and construction. This in-house movement is equipped with a vertical clutch and a column-wheel architecture, ensuring smooth operation of the chronograph function.

With their impressive movements, Rolex Daytona watches offer not only iconic design and style but also outstanding performance. Whether it’s the manual-winding movements of the early generations or the advanced automatic Caliber 4130, the movements in Rolex Daytona watches are a testament to the brand’s commitment to innovation and excellence.

Rolex Daytona Sizes

The Rolex Daytona is available in different sizes to cater to the preferences of watch enthusiasts. The modern Daytona watches are crafted with a 40mm diameter, which has become the signature size for this iconic timepiece. This larger size appeals to both men and women, as it strikes a perfect balance between sporty and versatile.

However, for those who prefer the charm and nostalgia of vintage models, the Daytona watches were slightly smaller, measuring approximately 37mm. These slightly smaller sizes are particularly sought after by collectors and aficionados who appreciate the classic proportions and heritage of the older models.

Whether opting for the 40mm modern size or the vintage charm of the slightly smaller models, the Daytona is renowned for its exceptional craftsmanship and precision. With their distinctive design and superlative performance, Rolex Daytona watches continue to captivate both watch enthusiasts and newcomers to the world of luxury timepieces.

In conclusion, the Rolex Daytona comes in different sizes, with modern models featuring a 40mm diameter, while vintage models are slightly smaller at around 37mm. Regardless of the size, the Daytona’s appeal lies in its exquisite design, impressive functionality, and timeless elegance.

Rolex Daytona Materials

The Rolex Daytona is available in a range of materials to suit different tastes and styles. One popular option is stainless steel, known for its durability and sleek appearance. Stainless steel Daytona models offer a classic and timeless look that can be easily paired with any outfit or occasion.

For those seeking a luxurious touch, the Daytona is also available in yellow gold. This rich and opulent material adds a touch of elegance and prestige to the watch. There is also the option of white gold, which offers a more understated and refined aesthetic.

Rolex also offers the Daytona in Everose gold, a distinctive rose gold alloy developed by the brand. This unique material gives the watch a warm and feminine appeal.

Cosmograph Daytona in 18 kt Everose gold –

For those who enjoy the combination of different materials, the Daytona is also available in a two-tone steel/gold option. This blend of stainless steel and yellow gold or Everose gold creates a striking contrast and adds versatility to the watch.

In addition to these materials, some Daytona models feature a Cerachrom ceramic bezel. This high-tech material is highly resistant to fading and scratching, guaranteeing that the watch maintains its pristine appearance even after years of wear.

With its variety of materials and finishes, the Rolex Daytona offers a range of options for every individual’s personal style and preferences. Whether it’s stainless steel, yellow gold, white gold, Everose gold, or a combination of materials, the Daytona is a watch that exudes luxury and sophistication.

The new Daytonas feature screw-down crowns for enhanced water resistance. In fact,

The Rolex Daytona, known formally as the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, is a testament to Rolex’s dedication to precision, durability, and style. One of the watch’s standout features is its water resistance. Crafted with Rolex’s signature Oyster case, the Daytona is built to be waterproof up to 100 meters (330 feet).

This robust protection is achieved through a combination of high-quality 904L stainless steel, a triplock winding crown, and a sealed case back. These design features ensure that the intricate automatic movement inside is shielded from water and dust, making the Daytona not just a stylish timepiece, but also a durable one that can withstand the rigors of daily wear and even some aquatic adventures. It’s worth noting, however, that while the Daytona is water-resistant, it is not designed for deep-sea diving or prolonged underwater activity.

Is the Daytona a men’s watch?

Absolutely not. The Daytona is definitely a unisex watch that looks great on nearly any wrist. If you must bejewel your Daytona, there are models with diamond bezels made entirely of precious metals with diamond hour markers, catapulting the watch into jewelry territory and out of the realm of hard-core racing. Heck, you can even get a pink dial. That said, this legendary design works great with a suit or jeans and is instantly noticeable from across a crowded room. You will get noticed wearing a Daytona. 

How much does a Rolex Daytona cost?

The cost of a Rolex Daytona can vary depending on the model and material. The stainless steel Daytona (reference number 116520) is highly sought-after and typically starts around $14,000 for a new watch and around $13,000 for a pre-owned piece. The yellow-gold Daytona (reference number 116518LN) commands a higher price, with new models starting around $34,650 and pre-owned pieces starting at around $32,000.

For those looking for the utmost luxury, the platinum Daytona (reference number 116506) comes at a premium. New platinum models start around $81,000, while pre-owned pieces start around $75,000.

Cosmograph Daytona in platinum with an ice-blue dial –

It’s worth noting that certain models can experience fluctuations in value. The yellow-gold Rainbow model, for example, has seen a decrease in value in recent years. On the other hand, vintage Daytona models like the ref. 6263 and the Paul Newman Daytona ref. 6239 have seen an increase in value and have been known to sell at auction for millions of dollars.

Whether you prefer stainless steel, yellow gold, or platinum, the Rolex Daytona offers a range of models and materials to suit different styles and budgets.

Regarding Rolex Daytona, prices can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the model, condition, and supply and demand. Here’s an overview of the prices of different Rolex Daytona models:

1. Yellow Gold Daytona (Reference Number: 116508) – New: Starting around $34,650

Pre-owned: Starting around $32,000. This model features a yellow gold case, a tachymetric scale bezel, and a variety of dial options including solid gold or exotic dials.

2. Stainless Steel Daytona (Reference Number: 116500LN) – New: Starting around $14,000, Pre-owned: Starting around $13,000. One of the most coveted models, this Daytona features a stainless steel case, a black ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale, and various dial options.

3. White Gold Daytona (Reference Number: 116519LN) – New: Starting around $33,000, Pre-owned: Starting around $30,000. This model features a white gold case, a black ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale, and different dial options such as black or ice blue.

4. Vintage Daytona (Four-digit reference numbers) – Prices for vintage Daytona models can vary significantly depending on factors such as rarity, condition, and provenance. Some vintage Daytona models have sold at auction for millions of dollars, making them highly sought after by collectors.

Please note that the prices mentioned here are just a general overview and can vary over time and based on market conditions. It’s always recommended to do thorough research and consult with authorized dealers or trusted resellers to get the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information for the Rolex Daytona models.

Prices for Newer Daytona Models

When it comes to newer Rolex Daytona models, the price can vary depending on various factors. Two models that commonly come up in discussions are the ref. 116520 and the ref. 16520.

The ref. 116520, often referred to as the stainless steel Daytona, is a highly coveted timepiece. A never-worn piece with a white dial can range from around $24,000 to $28,000, while a version with a black dial can go for slightly higher, ranging from around $25,000 to $30,000. It’s worth noting that never-worn pieces are quite rare and therefore command higher prices.

Moving on to the ref. 16520, which was the first Daytona to feature the automatic winding movement. Similar to the ref. 116520, the white dial version of the ref. 16520 has a price range of around $24,000 to $28,000 for never-worn pieces. However, the black dial version of the same model tends to be slightly more expensive, with prices ranging from around $25,000 to $30,000.

When it comes to prices for newer Daytona models, the variation between the white and black dial versions can be minimal. Collectors and enthusiasts often base their preference on personal taste or rarity. Whether you choose the white or black dial, both versions are exemplifications of Rolex’s iconic design and offer superb craftsmanship and performance.

Gold or platinum Daytona?

The gold and platinum versions of the Rolex Daytona offer a luxurious twist on this iconic timepiece. The yellow gold Daytona, particularly the models with a green dial and diamond indices, have become highly sought after by collectors. These editions showcase exquisite craftsmanship and bring a touch of opulence to the classic Daytona design.

One notable feature of the gold Daytona models is the availability of the Oysterflex bracelet. Made of flexible metal blades coated with black elastomer, this innovative bracelet combines the comfort of a rubber strap with the durability and aesthetics of a metal bracelet. It offers a sporty yet sophisticated look, perfect for those who desire both style and function.

In terms of pricing, the gold Daytona models can vary significantly based on factors such as dial color, diamond embellishments, and rarity. A yellow gold Daytona with a green dial and diamond indices can range from around $35,000 to $45,000 depending on its condition and other features. The platinum Daytona, on the other hand, tends to command higher prices due to its rarity and prestige.

Whether you choose the elegance of yellow gold or the exclusivity of platinum, the Gold or Platinum Daytona is the epitome of luxurious timekeeping, combining exceptional design and superb craftsmanship in one remarkable timepiece.

Used Rolex Daytona Prices

Used Rolex Daytona Prices:

Purchasing a used Rolex Daytona can be an excellent way to own this iconic timepiece at a more affordable price. The value of a used Daytona is influenced by various factors, including its age, condition, materials, and rarity. Vintage models with significant historical value, such as Paul Newman’s personal Daytona, can command exceptionally high prices at auctions.

On average, though, prices for used Daytona models range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the specific references and their desirability among collectors. It’s important to note that prices can vary significantly depending on market demand and availability. If you’re considering buying a used Daytona, it’s recommended to consult reputable sellers or auction houses to ensure authenticity and fair pricing.

Ultimately, investing in a used Rolex Daytona allows you to enjoy the exceptional craftsmanship, iconic design, and undeniable status of this revered timepiece without breaking the bank.

Rolex 116503 vs Rolex 116523

The Rolex 116503 and Rolex 116523 are two popular models that offer a unique combination of luxury and functionality. Both models are part of the iconic Daytona collection, known for its association with race car drivers and its exquisite design.

One key difference between the two models is their bezel design. The Rolex 116503 features a yellow gold bezel, while the Rolex 116523 comes with a stainless steel bezel. This distinction gives each model a distinct look, with the yellow gold bezel adding a touch of elegance to the 116503.

Another notable variation between the two models is the dial options. The Rolex 116503 offers a wider range of dial options, including black, white, and champagne, providing more variety for those who prefer different colors. The Rolex 116523, on the other hand, typically comes with a black dial, reflecting its sporty and sophisticated nature.

Introduced in 2000 and replaced in 2016, the Rolex 116503 was a highly sought-after model. However, both the Rolex 116503 and Rolex 116523 were discontinued in 2023, making them even more coveted among collectors.

In conclusion, the Rolex 116503 and Rolex 116523 are two exceptional models that differ in bezel design and dial options. While the 116503 boasts a yellow gold bezel and a wider selection of dials, the 116523 comes with a stainless steel bezel and typically features a black dial. Both models offer a unique blend of luxury and functionality, making them a prized possession for watch enthusiasts.

Rolex 116500 vs Rolex 116520

The Rolex 116500 and Rolex 116520 models showcase some distinct differences in their bezel materials and designs, as well as variations in dial appearances.

First, let’s discuss the bezel. The Rolex 116500 features a sleek black Cerachrom ceramic bezel, which not only adds a modern touch but also offers excellent scratch resistance. On the other hand, the Rolex 116520 comes with a polished stainless steel bezel, which exudes a classic and timeless look.

Rolex Daytona 116500 White Dial –

Moving on to the dial, one noticeable variation is the presence of black rings around the subdials on the white dial of the Rolex 116500. These rings create a sporty contrast and enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of the watch. In contrast, the Rolex 116520 boasts silver rings around its subdials, adding a touch of sophistication to its appearance.

In summary, the Rolex 116500 stands out with its black Cerachrom ceramic bezel, providing superior durability and a contemporary look. Additionally, the presence of black rings around the subdials on its white dial adds a sporty vibe.

Alternatively, the Rolex 116520 showcases a stainless steel bezel, which exudes a classic and timeless charm, with silver rings on its subdials contributing to an elegant aesthetic.

About the Author / Author Expertise & Authority

John Biggs: I live in Brooklyn, NY and write about technology, security, gadgets, gear, wristwatches, and the Internet. After spending four years as an IT programmer, I switched gears and became a full-time journalist. My work has appeared in the New York Times, Laptop, PC Upgrade, Gizmodo, Men’s Health, InSync, Popular Science, and I’ve written a book called Marie Antoinette’s Watch about the most famous and mysterious watch ever made. I am the former East Coast Editor of

ByJohn Biggs

John lives in Brooklyn and has loved watches since he got his first Swatch Irony automatic in 1998. He is the editor of WristWatchReview.

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