Three years ago, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona celebrated its golden jubilee. Like many a fan of Rolex, we immediately assumed that we’d be in for a remake of the original model in steel with a black dial. No one could be sure but the idea was there – vintage was what the fans wanted. The reality however, was much different. Rolex, never one to be quite predictable, issued the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116506, the first Daytona in platinum. We imagine the collective sound of jaws dropping during Rolex’s Baselworld presentation might have been heard outside the fair. What Rolex did was simple – Daytona collectors were not going to be able to resist the 116506 but at the same time, a crazier demand for a new steel Daytona was growing.
The 1963 Cosmograph Daytona Reference 6239
Enter Baselworld 2016.
In the first few minutes as the gates opened, a crowd had formed outside Rolex’s booth (a yearly occurrence, really) to admire the new Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116500LN. Did the watch come as a shock? Well, after three years of anticipating a steel Daytona, most fans had accepted that it wasn’t going to come soon. There aren’t many brands in the world that can do what Rolex does on a consistent basis but its uncanny ability to guarantee excessive demand for a timepiece every year (while limiting its supply) is an absolute marvel to behold and this year’s Daytona was perhaps the best example of that. Straight off the bat, my Facebook and Instagram feeds were filled with badly taken pictures of the Daytona, hidden behind a fingerprint-stained glass cage. The hype was real.
2016’s Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116500LN in both black and white dial versions
So why does this year’s Daytona hold so much weight?
A Material Game
As much as we’d all love to own luxury timepieces in the rarest of materials, it’s sometimes hard for the modern man to justify spending three or four times more for a watch. Buying a watch in steel allows us to argue with the missus that, “At least we didn’t get the rose gold version!” That being said, Rolex’s 904L steel is on quite another level. The highly corrosion-resistant alloy is harder than the usual steel and feels neither too heavy nor too light on the wrist. Just enough to give it a little heft. There is also the inclusion of Rolex’s patented Cerachrom bezel, now in black for the 116500LN. The Cerachrom is resistant to ultraviolet rays meaning the colour goes unaffected even after years of use (we actually like patinas though).
At the end of the day, Rolex rarely gets anything wrong. The best part of the Daytona since its inception has always been the wrist presence it offers. At 40mm, the watch feels just as right as a chronograph should feel on the wrist. Sure, there are five lines of text at 12 o’clock that SHOULD clutter the dial but Rolex seems to turn it into a plus point that you aren’t going to get with any other watch. The new dial configuration that sees black-ringed subdials for the white dial and silverish ones for the black, makes for a handsome combination.
Note: The new Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is NOT a panda-dial due to the non-full coloured subdials. Also, it’s NOT a Paul Newman as I overheard some guy telling his friend before.
Paul Newman subdials see the horrid (in the writer’s personal opinion) art deco styled numerals.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
In releasing a Rolex Daytona in full steel that replaces the only current 116520 and limiting the supply of them, you’re left with a giant demand. While the estimated retail price of the Rolex Daytona is in line with its material, the actual price you’re going to pay is probably going to be marked up should you want to jump the list. According to most retailers we’ve talked to, the wait list for this year’s Daytona isn’t pretty.
For now, we’ll continue watching the waiting list with bated breath and hoping for another chance to wear this year’s Daytona on our wrists.