May 31, 2016
by Ariel Adams
There is no doubt that the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is a venerable institution of modern luxury watches, even though the collection has been around since the 1960s. Since its birth, the Rolex Daytona watch has seen a range of versions and evolutions, but for the most part, it has been considered one of the most important chronograph sport watches of all time. This year at Baselworld 2016, Rolex once again introduced a few new versions of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona including this handsome-looking reference 116508-0013 (116508 YG) 18k yellow gold version on a matching bracelet and with a handsome, deep green metallic dial. This is a new addition to the 116508 Daytona collection (yellow gold models), and I want to add that, ironically, the green dial color looks better in person than the slightly too-bright images Rolex has on their own website.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is a unique success story of wrist watch families for having so much popularity, even amongst a large range of versions, movements, and styles that were produced over the years. “Daytona” is a highly profitable name in Rolex watches when it comes to both new and vintage models. A market dud when it was originally released, the so-called “Paul Newman” Daytona collection earns top dollar by demanding collectors at prices almost utterly out of whack for what most enthusiasts would consider to be the sum of its parts and prestige.
In the 1990s, steel Rolex Daytona watches were all the rage – which Rolex reportedly produced in “insufficient” quantities given market demand. The result was both a waiting list as well as mark-ups for new steel Rolex Daytona models. Rolex managed to do it again this year in 2016, during a time when timepiece collectors lining up to purchase new watches at retail prices are arguably at an all-time low.
Even though the brand isn’t shy about releasing new Rolex Daytona models, most of the new ones over the last few years have been precious metal or jewelry versions. For example, in 2014, Rolex released the notable reference 116506 platinum Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with a blue dial and brown ceramic bezel. Most people commented on the ritzy platinum construction versus the fact that it was the first Rolex Daytona model with a brown ceramic bezel. Rolex first introduced a ceramic bezel on a Daytona model a year or two earlier – an 18 Everose gold model on a strap.
“Precious” Rolex Daytona models get a lot of attention as prestige and status items, but few sport watch lovers seek them out due mainly to price. It is quite interesting and a testament to the current Rolex Daytona that it works so well on both men and women, as well as in both sober sporty or extravagant lifestyle variations.
The biggest recent news in the world of Rolex Daytona watches was the release of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona reference 116500LN in 904L steel with a black ceramic bezel. It wasn’t the first Rolex Daytona with a ceramic bezel, and in many regards it was not particularly new, but it was lovely, and once again the allure of a brand new steel Rolex Daytona rocked the collector world. Reports by colleagues of mine who sell watches are that Rolex is once again trickling in 116500LN watches and some customers are offering to pay double the 11,800-Swiss-franc price. It just goes to show how powerful a steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is, despite the fact that the Daytona is one of Rolex’s oldest unchanged models, and that the pressure has been on Rolex for a while to release a new generation Rolex Daytona. Why haven’t they? Probably because Rolex simply isn’t sure what to do next. My suggestion to them was go the “Daytona II” route. This would allow them to retain the continually popular 40mm Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, and yet add something new and likely larger for everyone who wants a Rolex Daytona update.
Anyhow, at the opposite end of the Rolex Daytona watch spectrum was this also-new-for-2016 Rolex Daytona reference 116508YG in 18k yellow gold on a matching yellow gold bracelet. Rolex gave the watch a handsome glossy deep green dial making for a distinctively Rolex look to this otherwise distinctively Rolex watch. In addition to Rolex’s official color being green, 2016 sees the debut of “Rolex Certified” which also goes by the name of “the green seal.” Rolex joined the group of luxury watch brands to self-certify their watches as a testament to both quality and performance. It is another topic altogether, but I find it very interesting that in order to feel competitive, or at least explain how competitively good they are, watch brands these days need to first create a certification that indicates such high standards, and then self-administer them to their own products.