The Idiot’s Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch

The Idiot’s Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch

The Idiot's Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch Feature Articles

The Idiot's Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch Feature Articles

This is not a technical article or about any new watch release. Instead, this is about a look - a good look, but a look that you don't need to be a watch lover to understand or appreciate. It isn't just a look, it is part of watch fashion psychology, and something that draws people some refer to as that "accessory on your wrist." In fact, the reason why I used the term "idiot's allure," to describe the concept is because someone who knows nothing about watches will be attracted to this type of design. I am using the Rolex Cosmograph Oyster Perpetual Daytona watch (last time I will use this ludicrously long name for the timepiece). Now, you aren't an idiot for liking these Rolex Daytona styles, but it doesn't take a special person "in the know" to appreciate the look. The only difference is that people like you and me perhaps enjoy these watches for different reasons.

Why is this even a question you ask? Who cares? Because I am always interested in why people like the watches they do. Why are Rolex Daytona (or most of their watches for that matter) designs so timeless? Why do people like busy watch faces? Why do so many people buy chronograph watches that never use them. I would venture to say that the majority of Rolex Daytona watch owners use the chronograph function MAYBE once a year or less.

Forget for a moment that you know anything about Rolex, about the legendary Daytona, or versions like Paul Newman Daytona which is among the pictured. Focus only on the contrasting colors of the dial and the existence of the chronograph subdials. This is very important - not just that there are subdials, but that they "pop" out a bit. this is best achieved on the Paul Newman versions. There is also the almost perfect symmetry of the watch - that would be perfect save for the text and numeral differences. My first theory is that simple two-tone or other contrasts in just a few colors are the west way to create visually attractive watch face. Start to get too many colors on the dial and people might think the design too busy, too cohesive - though at the same time one color can make a watch dial look flat or boring from afar. Each of these Rolex Daytona watch perfectly captures this idea of simple contrasting colors - here in black and white. New or old, this look is timelessly well done in this range of Daytona dials. The best part of the color system is that the watch look good from inches away or from across a restaurant.

The Idiot's Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch Feature Articles

The Idiot's Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch Feature Articles

So why does it look so good? Well part of it is what i think is the brain's ability to perceive complexity or "multi-function" in small spaces. A Rolex Daytona watch case is 40mm wide with the actual face being a bit less. This is all the room that Rolex has for a design, which is often viewed from third party people afar. The watch needs to be recognizable and readable, which I think is simply done easier in just two colors. Otherwise the brain begins to bleed shapes and design. Part of the success of this two-tone contrasting look is the historical success of these designs simply being the easiest to mentally decipher. If the brain could process shapes more adeptly using more colors in such a small space, then all this would be moot - but it is not.

Then you have the allure of the chronograph and its subdials. Most people don't really care too much about the chronograph. Yes, some of us do, but for the most part, if you are going to be timing anything these days, your first inclination is a digital watch. Instead it is what I believe is the perceived notion of the chronograph watch due to the subdials. Let's face it, people love subdials (dials within dials are cool!), and in its tri-compax array, no one does subdials better than Rolex in the Daytona. Subdials allude to function and purpose. That the watch on our wrist is an actual instrument as opposed to just some timepiece. I've heard people who know nothing about watches look at subdials on a timepiece and remark "they make the watch look like it does a lot." Really sophisticated, I know - but there is a worthy point there. The concept being that Rolex did a good job in making the watch look like more than it is. Yea, the watch doesn't even have the date, but it still looks to a lay person like is a complex timing instrument. Hell, it even has a tachymetre scale. Most watch lovers don't even know what that is, or how it work - but looks cool. And that additional ring of numbers that is so prominent is an important part of the "functional attitude" that Rolex imbues the Daytona watches with - it really doesn't matter than no one uses it, or looks at it.

The Idiot's Allure Of The Rolex Daytona Watch Feature Articles

This same concept can be transcended to the screw-down chronograph pushers. Now, these are admittedly more functional on an everyday basis, but still add that cool "technical" look. Sure they are used to help increase water resistance in the ol' "Oyster" watch case, but they just help with that "this watch probably does something cool look." There is also the attractive but simple three-link metal bracelet. the design is purely functional and not distracting. Nothing to take away emphasis from the case. The beauty of this classic design is not in the quality or reliability of the watch, but rather what it makes people think. That is why people are willing to pay so much for this watch. because it easily appeals to people who don't know anything about watches.

Honestly I love the Rolex Daytona collection of watches. I think they could be sized a bit bigger these days and perhaps add a date disc, but then they wouldn't be Daytona watches. Still. I don't feel like a connoisseur because I like the Daytona watches. I like them, and the guy who wears too much gold jewelry who wants to add to his watch collection of Breitling watches likes the watch too. So this article was about two things in the end. First, why everyone and their best friend likes the Rolex Daytona, and two, a bit about why those elements are so easy to enjoy. It isn't about idiots, or the love of shiny, shiny things. Going back to the basics, Rolex has always succeed in following the principle of KISS, or spelled out as "keep it simple stupid." The alternative is a busy watch with too much hidden impressive points that requires a skill level like mine to appreciate, or a three week course at your local "horology appreciation class." And the latter doesn't really exist.

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  • Jeff Freedman

    ROLEX understands ego. People buy watches for multiple reasons, telling time is low on the list. As stated in your blog, the function of the chronograph is rarely used. ROLEX reveals to people success and status. They are in the top 3 vendors that spend the greatest amount of money to promote their image. It has never been about time, or the ability to keep accurate time, ROLEX satisfies the ego.

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for the insightful thought. I think a lot of what you saying is true. Still, I need to check the time sometime! Glad you liked the article.

  • Jason Pitsch

    Rolex was actually the #1 advertiser in the US this year. As far as the chrono function of a wristwatch, I would have to say that people do use this function. I do at least. I use it all the time.

  • funkright

    that’s all nice, but without a date window, well, it really would never work for me.. the new tudor chrono’s are nice though 😉

  • anon

    I don’t understand the concern about the date window. Do you all not have either a date planner or computers on your desk, cellphones in your pocket, and a date display at any bank you go to?

    I guess I’ve just never had a major concern with forgetting what day it is all the time. I always know what day of the week it is and rarely forget the actual numerical date. Is this more of an issue with people who write lots of checks?

  • Ken

    I do use the chronograph on a regular basis, but what irks me is the tachymetre scale. They seriously clutter up the watch. Give me the chonometer without the tachymetre scale, please. So many watch brands, Rolex included, always put them together. If you want one without the other, you have to look elsewhere.

  • Andrew Harris

    The tachymeter scale may be the most excessive of the excess functions on the Daytonas or on any similarly equipped chronograph/watch.

    Look, at least with the chronograph, if you want to time your dinner, your laundry or how long your kid can hold his breath under water, you can literally do that at the touch of a button or two.

    Now… try using your tachymeter. As near as I can tell, its function is to tell you how fast you’re traveling. Eg: if you can travel one mile in 12 seconds, you’re traveling at 300 mph.

    So, somebody, anybody, please identify for me a mode of travel that has an odometer, but no speedometer… leaving you with your trusty chronograph bezel as your only means of gauging velocity.

    A bicycle you say? Show me one moving at 300 mph (or even 60 mph, the low end of the scale).

    Tachymeter = useless affectation. Cool. But useless.

  • xpatUSA

    I also dislike the regular kind of tachymetre. Too pretentious, redolent of another era of touring Bentleys and white-painted milestones on every road. But I do like the scales that start at a lower number and say “15 pulsations”. Then, at least, you can take your own pulse while peddling the exercise bike 😉


  • Very interesting article. I like Daytonas, but never understood their price tags. To me they are more utilitarian then luxury. Sure most people don’t even know how to use chronometer functions and have them on Daytona just for looks, but this is also true for most of the watch’ functions (accept for time, of course).

    • Glad you like the article. Thanks for the comment. Not be to petty, but you used chronometer instead of the term chronograph that you meant to use 🙂 The Daytona started out as a functional watch, which is how most of today’s luxury watches started out.

  • cjcold

    Bought my big red 6265 new in 86 (six months wate time). I’ve worn it pretty much every day since (except when it was in for R&R then I wear a Tag). I can’t possibly convey how much i love this watch. Before GPS I used it to check the accuracy of spedometers. Now I wear it out of habit even though my eyes have gotten to the point that it becomes hard to read at times. I’ve gotten used to telling time by my cell phone.

  • Dean Grant Baker

    A tachymetre can also measure output over time.

    A tachymetre can used to calibrate speedometres and odometres, they are often not very accurate, and something as simple as a change in tyre size will completely foul up the accuracy, time over distance doesn’t lie.

  • John Steppling

    I would be very curious to know which Rolex models sell the best, and which sell the least.

    Im sure air kings sell the least, but putting them aside for a second………I love the Explorer 1 …the new model — the 39mm model. I bet it doesnt sell nearly as well as the explorer 2. Why? I would guess because of the fancier look of the 2. The numbers on the bezel. (now the utter simplicity of the One is what i like. A non dress watch with nothing else going on but the basics.)

    Still, i wish the One had a white face model. Anyway, the Daytona just looks balanced and cool and does it without looking cluttered. I think thats the rolex secret in a way. Just enough stuff, without it looking cluttered. I could be wrong, and obviously there are many many reasons for people buying Rolex. I happen to like Rolex, but i know the arguments against. Anyway, I wish I knew the sales numbers. And I would guess the new Millgauss isn’t selling well. And my guess for the reason would be that it doesn’t look expensive enough somehow. Its not iconic. And maybe its just not a very timeless design.

    I could be utterly off on all this. I must try to find out the numbers. (and moderator, if you know, feel free to send me an email :))

    • Depends on the region but the king of kings is still the Submariner.

  • DG Cayse

    Excellent review.