5 minutes

What Your Rolex Daytona Says About You

By Sebastian Swart

When Rolex introduced the Cosmograph Daytona in 1963, the Omega Speedmaster and Heuer Autavia had already been around the chronograph block once or twice. It apparently peeved the Genevan watchmaker that its horological frenemies had a few years prior taken the world of motorsports timekeeping by storm with their innovations, while Rolex was forced to, ahem, “settle” for its iconic Day-Date and Submariner. Enough was enough! That’s when Rolex put its foot down, becoming the official timekeeper of the 24 Hours of Daytona race in Florida (aka Rolex 24 At Daytona), solidifying its chronograph’s place in watch history.

It’s hard to believe today, but in its early years, the Rolex Daytona gathered a lot of dust on the shelves of ADs. That’s right: not many folks were all that keen on buying one, even though they could be had for under 200 bucks back then. Only when Hollywood icon and hobby race car driver Paul Newman held up his Rolex Daytona 6239 to the cameras did demand for this model start to climb… forever upwards after that. Since then, this watch has adorned the wrists of an endless list of stars, starlets, and wannabes. The Daytona these days comes in countless varieties, even in the colors of the rainbow. 

Recent years have seen the prices for most Rolex Daytona references catapult to astronomic (ridiculous?) heights, thanks to a healthy dose of hype, with just the right touch of profit-hungry folks getting in on the action. Now, although prices have in fact seen a slight downward turn in recent months, the Rolex Daytona continues to sell for up to three times its MSRP. Are you one of those folks whose hankering was so strong, you just HAD to plunk down an atrocious amount of cash for this relatively simple chronograph? Or even better, maybe you’re one of those long-term Daytona owners, and find yourself giving out high-fives (your friends have asked you to stop on numerous occasions) every time you hear about how well this timepiece has performed?

Today we’re taking a (really sarcastic) look at the different Rolex Daytona wearers out there.

Rolex Daytona 08/15 – Pricey Standard Timepiece for Lion-Taming Wannabes 

If you’re old enough to wear a Rolex Daytona, you probably know the legendary Monty Python “Vocational Guidance Counsellor” sketch (if you don’t, take a quick look on YouTube). Now more than 50 years old, it has the stuffy Mr. Anchovy (played by Michael Palin) yearning for a new job as a lion tamer. The problem is, Mr. Anchovy is quite the boring, humorless, timid, easily dominated type. Not someone you’d want taming your lions. One bit of good news, though: Mr. Anchovy already owns a lion tamer’s hat. 

Standard models like the Rolex Daytona 116520 are like Mr. Anchovy’s lion tamer hat: it’s the chronograph for the millions out there who’d prefer to spend their lives in the spotlight instead of at the office. Are you this kind of Daytona wearer? If so, then being able to operate and understand this watch’s functions is probably of secondary importance. What really matters to you is being able to wag this overpriced technological artifact in the face of the guy sitting across from you.

And don’t forget to remind your (now really irritated) office mate that all kinds of international celebrities rock a Rolex Daytona. To be sure, the ubiquitous Daytona 116520 or even the two-tone 116503 is, for folks like these, the tenth or so watch in their collection, which will come in handy should their Daytona Paul Newman, or a gold and black John Player, ever fall into the toilet during at one of those trendy Hollywood clubs.

So if you’ve decided on a Rolex Daytona 116500LN with a ceramic bezel, it’s only a matter of time before those lion tamin’ dreams become a reality. Onwards and upwards with your career, right? Why not take it to the next Daytona price category while you’re at it? Maybe one day you’ll be donning the platinum Rolex Daytona reference 116506. If you’re as cool as this timepiece’s ice-blue dial (and that lion tamer hat is a clear indication you are), one of the following references might just be for you.

A Daytona for living on the practical edge of life: the reference 116520
The Daytona 116503: The ugly but affordable duckling

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman – Art Deco for Granddad and Hipsters

More than a few shady Rolex Daytona models are floating around out there carrying a description that goes something like “I dunno, something with Paul Newman…” The only true version of course is the Rolex Daytona reference 6239 with the white exotic dial and Art Deco numerals, which of course are a matter of personal taste. You probably know that this model is killer among collectors; prices have been shooting through the roof for years now. This hype was spurred on by the fact that Newman’s original watch sold for a pick-your-jaw-off-the-floor $17.8 million in 2017. You just know that his heirs were popping a champagne bottle (or two) after that.

Seeing as you’re a fan of those hoity-toity Art Deco numerals on the dial, it’s safe to infer that you’re a more conservative type who’s getting up there in years, and that your tastes are trapped somewhere between 1890 and 1940. You’d probably admit that this somewhat musty style (and smell) permeate all your surroundings, be it your house, or your cluttered office, laden with paperweights. You love to spend time at the theater or the art museum. None of that interactive, tap-and-swipe, newfangled technology for you, and especially not the clock on that…. What is it called? A smart what? Nope, all you need is your trusty Daytona chronograph, thank you very much. 

On the other hand, maybe you’re one of those young watch enthusiasts who’s never heard of Art Deco, and are perhaps reading this article in the form of a hologram in your hyper-chic, trendy downtown apartment. You were just at the stylist today to have that undercut hairstyle and beard freshly trimmed. Your Paul Newman Daytona looks great with that lumberjack shirt and the horn-rimmed glasses that let you read the time on your watch with 20/20 vision. Speaking of which, you better get rolling. You don’t wanna be late for this week’s mani-pedi, do you?

Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 with an exotic dial – Art Deco on the wrist

Rainbow Collision – The Golden Rolex Daytona

Looking to turn some heads? A big car and a golden watch with an aesthetic that has run completely off the rails might be the way to go. If so, the pimped-out Rolex Daytona in the golden rainbow style (ref. 116595RBOW) is the watch for you. Then off you go, cruising around town to let every passer-by know what you and your watch are about, and show them just how hard you’re over-trying to impress them. Be sure to pull over every few minutes, of course, for the obligatory selfie for your Instagram account. You’re blowing up, just like you always wanted. With a watch like this, was this ever in doubt? 

Your mercilessly overdone Rainbow Daytona can also be seen on the wrists of Hollywood stars, famous athletes, and the super-rich. If you’re lucky enough to own one, be sure to ask your friends (assuming you have some) to tell you which of these categories, or which combination of them, you belong to.

So gaudily pimped, ego officially stroked: the Rolex Daytona Rainbow 116595RBOW

About the Author

Sebastian Swart

I've been using Chrono24 for years to buy and sell watches, as well as for research purposes. I've had an infatuation with watches for as long as I can remember. As a …

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