history of the rolex daytona

The History of the Rolex Daytona: A Legendary Timepiece


The Rolex Daytona is one of the most iconic and sought-after luxury timepieces in the world. Its rich history, which spans over half a century, tells the story of innovation, style, and a strong connection to the world of motorsports. 

In this article, we'll delve into the history of the Rolex Daytona, discuss its association with Paul Newman, and explore its price evolution over time. Today, Rolex Daytona is the second most popular watch after the Rolex Submariner.

The History of the Rolex Daytona - The Birth

The history of the Rolex Daytona began in 1963 with the launch of the Reference 6239. 

This groundbreaking chronograph was created with race car drivers in mind, offering precise timekeeping and the ability to measure speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. The watch was named "Daytona" in honor of the famous Daytona International Speedway in Florida, solidifying its connection to motorsports. 

The Rolex Daytona's history is intrinsically linked to the world of motorsports and the famous Daytona International Speedway in Florida. The name "Daytona" was chosen to honor this connection and to emphasize the watch's racing-inspired features. The association between the Rolex Daytona and motorsports was further strengthened with the introduction of the Cosmograph name in the early 1960s, highlighting its intended use as a tool for professional race car drivers.

The Daytona International Speedway, constructed in 1959, quickly gained a reputation as one of the world's most prestigious racing circuits. Rolex saw an opportunity to capitalize on this growing popularity by forging a strong relationship with the racetrack. 

The brand became the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway in the early 1960s, further establishing its presence in the world of racing.

Rolex Submariner Bluesy
The first Rolex Daytona​​ - Daytona 6239. Source: Hodinkee

When the first Rolex Daytona was introduced in 1963, the connection between the watch and the racetrack was sealed with the name "Daytona" inscribed on the dial. This decision reinforced Rolex's relationship with motorsports and created a powerful and memorable brand identity for the watch. The Rolex Daytona continues to be synonymous with racing and speed, making it an enduring symbol of both the brand's heritage and its commitment to innovation in the world of sports.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6239 - 1968
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6239 - 1968. Source: Time and Watches​​ 


History of the Rolex Daytona - The Paul Newman Connection

One of the most famous Rolex Daytona wearers was the legendary actor and race car driver Paul Newman. Newman's love for racing led him to wear a particular Daytona model, the Reference 6239 with an exotic dial, which later became known as the "Paul Newman Daytona." 

This specific dial featured square-ended indexes, a contrasting minute track, and unique sub-dials with Art Deco-style numerals. The association between Paul Newman and the Daytona significantly boosted the watch's popularity and contributed to its cult status among collectors. 

The original Paul Newman Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239, which Paul Newman himself wore religiously for years, was sold for a record price of $17.8 million at the prestigious New York auction house. It is currently the second most expensive watch sold at auction.

After his 1965 accident, Newman was gifted his Rolex Daytona 6239 by his wife, Joanne Woodward, with the words ‘Drive Carefully Me’ engraved on the back. I mean he wasn’t only an actor but also a racecar driver. The actor was later photographed wearing the watch frequently, including at high-profile races. 

Paul Newman
Paul Newman. Source: Getty Images​​
Rolex Daytona Paul Newman Dial
Rolex Daytona Paul Newman Dial. Source:Phillips​​

The Ceramic Bezel Made Its Debut in 2016

In 2016, Rolex introduced the reference 116500LN, featuring a Cerachrom ceramic bezel. The retail price for this model was around $13,500, but due to high demand and limited availability, secondary market prices soared to over $25,000. As Rolex continues to innovate and release new Daytona models, prices will likely continue to evolve, reflecting the enduring appeal and prestige of this iconic timepiece. 

Rolex Daytona with a ceramic bezel
Rolex Daytona ​​'Panda' and'Blacktona'

New Rolex Daytona Models 2023

The illustrious Watches and Wonders 2023 in Geneva unveiled a spectacular array of timepieces, capturing the hearts of Rolex enthusiasts worldwide. Amid the excitement, a bittersweet moment emerged as we bid farewell to some exceptional discontinued Rolex models in 2023. These iconic watches left the stage, securing their places in the chronicles of horological history.  

The iconic update is the platinum Daytona to commemorate the model's 60th anniversary. At first glance, it may appear as a little update, but there's more than meets the eye. Flip over the exclusively platinum timepiece to uncover its hidden gem: the brand-new Calibre 4131, proudly displayed beneath a see-through case back, ready for admiration. A new history of the Rolex Daytona was made! 

New Rolex Models 2023 - An Upgraded Rolex Daytona Platinum ​​
New Rolex Models 2023 - An Upgraded Rolex Daytona Platinum ​​
The caseback of the new platinum Rolex Daytona​​

Celebrities That Have Been Spotted Wearing Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona's popularity has grown exponentially over the years, with numerous celebrities and high-profile personalities embracing this iconic timepiece. In addition to Paul Newman, whose association with the Daytona significantly contributed to the watch's rise in fame, many other celebrities have been captivated by its timeless style and functionality.

John Mayer, the renowned singer-songwriter and guitarist, is a passionate watch collector and a notable fan of the Rolex Daytona. His love for this particular model has led to the creation of a special edition known as the "John Mayer Daytona." This custom Rolex Daytona features a unique dial design, which combines elements from various vintage Daytona models, showcasing Mayer's appreciation for the watch's history and aesthetics.

Other celebrities who have been spotted wearing the Rolex Daytona include Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, and Victoria Beckham, to name a few. The watch's appeal transcends different industries and styles, making it a versatile and sought-after timepiece for both casual and formal occasions.

The Rolex Daytona's popularity among celebrities and watch enthusiasts alike has also fueled its demand and value on the secondary market. The waiting lists for some Daytona models can stretch for years, and prices for both vintage and contemporary pieces continue to rise. This enduring appeal, coupled with its rich history and association with motorsports and famous personalities, cements the Rolex Daytona's status as a true horological icon.

John Mayer with Rolex Daytona
​​John Mayer with Rolex Daytona 'John Mayer'
Mark Wahlberg with Rolex Daytona Rainbow
​​Mark Wahlberg with Rolex Daytona Rainbow
Cristiano Ronaldo with Rolex Daytona Rainbow
​​Cristiano Ronaldo with Rolex Daytona Rainbow
Karim Benzema with Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dial
​​Karim Benzema with Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dial
Neymar Jr. with Rolex Daytona
​​Neymar Jr. with Rolex Daytona 'Tiger'
Kanye West with Rolex Daytona Black tahitian
Kanye West with Rolex Daytona Black tahitian​​


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