Motorsports, Timepieces

The History of the Rolex Daytona


By de Boulle on July 6th, 2013

The Rolex Daytona is one of the most well-known timepieces made under the Rolex brand. The watch is the epitome of Rolex’s focus on precision and competition.

 

 

The watch has evolved since it’s inception 50 years ago, yet it remains a style icon. The Rolex Daytona is extraordinarily desirable – as many of our readers already know. Largely unchanged over the years, the watch has seen only very small variations; such as a new platinum version with a blue dial.

 

 

Rolex has chosen to keep the timepiece’s 50 year anniversary fairly relaxed as the Daytona Cosmograph has always progressed. The watch is tied to the history of motorsports and so this progression and pursuit of excellence go hand-in-hand. There is no other product as aligned to or as closely linked with a single sport.

The Values of Rolex
The full name of the Daytona timepiece is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Rolex has more than 9,000 employees that work in places such as Geneva, Biel, as well as Rolex subsidiary offices — including Dallas, TX. Rolex understands the history and philosophy that has made them so successful, and so they have been always been able to move forward. To fully understand Rolex often requires noting what has been left out or not said and that includes the Daytona. From the outside, we can praise the timepiece’s precision, beauty, elegance, reliability, and strength. The Daytona does more than that though as it embodies all of the Rolex brand’s ideals and strengths. Very few companies, if any, have ever been able to produce a piece that so perfectly captures the spirit and values behind their success. This ability is what makes Rolex and the Daytona so special.

Originally, the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona was not “The Daytona.” The city of Daytona Beach, Florida who lent its name to the iconic timepiece is known for hosting land speed records on their beautiful stretch of beaches since 1903. Later, the legendary speedway was added to the area and further increased people’s awareness of the racing taking place there. The Rolex Cosmograph debuted in 1963 as a new generation of chronograph aimed at racing drivers. The watch had contrasting subdials on the main dial. The tachymeter scale , placed around the bezel, allowed the wearer to calculate the average speed over a given distance. This became a significant part of the watch’s design. After this, the timepiece went through several changes. For example, in 1965 the chronograph pump jumpers were replaced with screw-down pushers. A later adjustment to the watch was the plexiglass fitting with white marks on the tachymeter bezel.

 

 

Small Changes Over Time
Around 1965, the Daytona signature began being used on certain dials in the Cosmograph range. The marking was initially reserved for watches sold within the US markets as it was originally requested by Rolex’s American subsidiary to better show the partnership between Rolex and the Daytona International Speedway. This partnership highlighted the link between the Daytona and the motorsport world. Eventually, the Daytona signature was placed on all dials of the Cosmograph with red letters above the subdial at the 6 o’clock position.

After the 1960s-1970s when (the quartz revolution), Rolex remained loyal to the automatic movement within the Cosmograph Daytona, which in 1988 held a self-winding movement. The movement was commercially available, but Rolex made extensive adjustments and modifications that replaced more than half of the original components with its own parts. These changes brought the movement in-line with Rolex’s own high standards and specifications.

The resulting movement was called the 4030 calibre and featured the Rolex “heart” — an oscillator with variable inertia balance, Microstella regulating pins, and a hairspring with Breguet overcoil, completed by the Perpetual rotor which Rolex developed in 1931. Changes were pushed farther than just the movement within the watch as the diameter of the Oyster case was increased from 36mm to 40mm and the crown-guard shoulders were also added later. The metal tachymeter bezel was also made wider and engraved with a scale graduated to 400 units.

 

Continued Innovations & Development
The watch received an upgraded and new self-winding chronograph calibre in 2000. This time it was entirely designed & engineered by Rolex — the calibre 4130. The new movement featured a vertical clutch to activate the chronograph functions. Rolex’s engineers cut the number of parts by roughly 60% by simplifying the chronograph hour and minute counter systems. They also integrated the 2 mechanisms into a single module.

The innovations produced not only gave the engineers & designers more space and so they were able to increase the barrel size and provide wearers with 72 hours power reserve — up from 50 hours. The modern Cosmograph Daytona movement utilizes a Parachrom hairspring. The spring is now developed, patented, and manufactured by Rolex in a niobrium/zirconium alloy. It is unaffected by magnetic fields and variations in temperature that could upset other timepieces. It is also more resistant to shocks, so the timepiece’s precision has been greatly increased.

 

 

Rolex has promised to continue its passion and development. The brand will be rolling out continued innovations over the many years yet to come. For more information regarding the Rolex brand, new Rolex timepieces, or other fine timepieces please do not hesitate to contact the Experts at deBoulle Diamond & Jewelry.

 


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