Rolex Daytona: Ode to The God of Automobiles
Rolex Daytona, or the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona as the watch is officially named, was created in 1963 and it became the symbol of motorsports emotion. And all thanks to its reliability and performance.
Daytona, Florida, may be considered the birthplace of speed as motor racing took place here from 1903. The straight beach and its sand packed as hard as cement makes it one of the perfect places to test the highest speeds and it naturally attracted the most courageous drivers from the beginning of the last century. The first to go down in history was William K. Vanderbilt who reached 148 km/h in 1904 and set the world record of those times. The records were to be broken many times since then. In the 1920s began the era of the most important rivalry in the conquest of speed between Malcolm Campbell and Henry Segrave, two wealthy Englishmen who later were knitted by King George V especially for their efforts to become the fastest men on Earth. At the end of the competition, Sir Malcom Campbell would reach the speed of 445 km/h in 1935 and set the last record for the Daytona beach.
Also famous for Campbell was his Rolex Oster watch he was wearing since 1930 and which he has been testing during all his races, a fact appearing in advertisements at that time.
After Daytona was left by the speed records seekers who moved to the seat flat in Utah, more races took place on the hard sand beach. An oval track has been arranged, with half on the beach and half on a narrow road parallel to the ocean. More and more people came to watch the cars and Daytona name became more famous. In 1959, as the sand was deteriorating, the hard-surface racetrack known as the Daytona International Speedway was inaugurated. It was the fastest racing circuit in the US and one of the fastest in the world. The imposing architecture continues to impress also today and its design is all about speed as the 31 degrees banking in the turns allow cars to approach the turns at great speeds without skidding due to centrifugal force.
The international status would be given later in 1962 when the first 24 hours endurance race would be held under the name of Daytona Continental. One year later, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was being launched and from that point the race and the watch become linked for the following years until now. From the first editions, the winners received a Rolex watch so when Cosmograph was presented as designed for racing drivers, it became the best prize any motorsport fan could wish for. And not long after the launch, Rolex decided to name the model Cosmograph Daytona. In 1992, Rolex made another step further and became the Title Sponsor of the 24 Hours of Daytona race which today is known simply as “The Rolex”.
Further versions of the dial followed the initial launch of the Cosmograph, of which the most famous would become the so-called “Paul Newman” dial, since the American actor who was also a racing driver was always seen wearing this type of Rolex while at Daytona. Its design increased legibility of the chronograph functions under difficult race conditions.
The emblematic watch evolved once more in 1965 when Rolex introduced the screw-down pushers and thus preventing any accidental action and also protecting from the risk of water entering the case. As a testimony of the reinforced waterproofness, the name “Oyster” appeared on the dial. Despite the beginning of the quartz revolution, Rolex remained faithful to the mechanical movements and furthermore, in 1988, launched the Daytona with an automatic mechanism. The update went beyond the technical features as the iconic watch was now moved in a 40 mm diameter case, a 4 mm larger one compared with the initial versions.
Besides the constant technical improvements, as mainly was the new mechanism introduced in year 2000, Daytona received an upgraded look in 2016. The steel motorsport driven chronograph impressed the world again with its smooth high-technology monobloc black ceramic bezel, that replaced the engraved metal bezel. The monobloc Cerachrom – as Rolex names its unique ceramic specialty – bezel is made in a single piece and holds the crystal in a perfect position to ensure waterproofness. The exclusive detail was first seen in 2011 on the fold version of Daytona and later, in 2013, on the platinum version celebrating the Cosmograph Daytona’s 50th anniversary.