08/02/2022
 5 minutes

Why is the Rolex Daytona so expensive?

By René Herold
OFP-125-Rolex-Daytona_Magazin_2_1
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The Rolex Daytona is without question one of the Genevan watchmaker’s most sought-after timepieces. However, someone in the market for one of these watches may experience some serious sticker shock upon seeing the Daytona’s price. Of all the popular sports chronographs out there, the Daytona is without question the most expensive of them all – regardless of whether you’re looking at the MSRP, or prices on the secondary market. So why exactly is the Daytona so expensive, and are its prices justified? Let’s dive in and see what we can find out. 

What determines the price of a Rolex Daytona? 

Rolex is a major corporation through and through, with an estimated 30,000-plus employees and large production facilities. These two factors alone consume vast amounts of financial resources that are reflected in the MSRPs of their watches. It could however be argued that Rolex watches are mass-produced products, with the company making up to one million of them annually, which perhaps could help keep prices down. Important to keep in mind however is how Rolex achieves both quantity and quality, with the brand being a true stickler for high quality in everything it does. Maintaining this standard requires vast effort and expenditure, which also push prices upward. 

But these factors in and of themselves don’t fully explain the high prices for a Rolex Daytona. Omega has the same elements at play in the production of its Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. However, the current Moonwatch (ref. 310.30.42.50.01.002) at its list price of $7,200 costs only around half of what a stainless steel Daytona (ref. 116500LN) officially lists for. And as soon as you start looking at prices for the Rolex Daytona on the secondary market, this gap only increases further, with a Moonwatch selling for around $7,000 and the black-dialed Daytona going for over $36,500. 

The explanation in this case is relatively straightforward: Rolex is unquestionably the luxury watch for many enthusiasts, and even big-name watchmakers like Omega, Breitling, or Zenith can’t keep up with the brand with the crown. When you purchase a Rolex Daytona, part of what you’re buying includes being able to have the world-famous name on your wrist. 

The Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN with a black ceramic bezel.
The Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN with a black ceramic bezel.

High Demand + Low Supply = High Prices  

The second price factor is supply and demand. The Daytona is one of the most popular Rolex models, period. This creates a corresponding level of demand. Rolex furthermore cannot, or will not, meet this demand. It’s estimated that Rolex produces between 20,000 and 40,000 Daytonas every year, and these numbers include literally every Daytona made, whether they are the stainless steel, gold, or platinum models. These relatively low amounts are largely due to the fact that the Daytona is the only chronograph the Genevan watchmaker produces. And a chronograph caliber is more complex to make (the caliber 4130, by the way, is used exclusively for the Daytona), taking up significantly more time and resources. So with this in mind, it makes more business sense for Rolex to concentrate on its models like the Submariner, GMT-Master, or Datejust which house simpler calibers. 

Demand clearly outpaces the amount of Daytonas manufactured, meaning you can expect very long waiting lists at authorized dealers, and the corresponding wait times are typically measured in years, not months. The Rolex Daytona possesses a certain rarity that only enhances its prestige – leading Rolex to charge handsome prices for it.  

The Paul Newman Daytona Hype 

If you don’t want to wait that long for your own Daytona, the secondary market is of course the place to look – just be prepared to pay a hefty premium. As of July 2022, you should be prepared to spend more than three times the official list price of around $14,000 for the current stainless steel ref. 116500LN with the white dial. While the black-dialed version is more affordable, it still will cost you more than two and a half times its MSRP. 

You may be surprised to hear that these enormous price increases have occurred only in the past three years or so. One reason for this is of course the hype surrounding the Paul Newman Daytona. The Hollywood legend and amateur racing driver was one of the earliest Daytona wearers, one of the key reasons it has become such a sought-after timepiece. It may be hard to believe, but in its first years, the Daytona gathered its fair share of dust at authorized dealers. Only after the chronograph was regularly seen on the wrist of Newman did it enjoy an increase in popularity. In 2017, Newman’s personal Daytona was auctioned off for the then-record amount of $17.75 million, which in turn led to a run on the Daytona, with collectors and speculators now seeing the investment potential of this timepiece. The hunt was officially on for vintage Daytonas, and would expand to include current models as well. 

The "Paul Newman" Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 with its "exotic" dial.
The “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 with its “exotic” dial.

Market forces as a result propelled the prices for some Daytonas upward. However, while certain models saw astronomical leaps, the price performance of others remained relatively moderate. One example of this is the vintage reference 6239 with the “panda” dial (black subdials on a white background), which as of July 2022 could be purchased on Chrono24 for around $65,500. Although that’s a good $20,000 higher than three years ago, it pales in comparison to the exotic dial 6239 that Paul Newman once wore. This is the exact same model and has the same layout as the panda, except that the exotic dial has a red-on-black minute track running around its edges. In addition, the subdials have Art Deco-style numerals, and small squares on the tips of the indices between them. This model is considered to be the “real” Paul Newman Daytona, so as of summer 2022, you’ll need to have over $365,000 on hand to purchase one in good condition. 

The current collection has also seen markedly stronger price increases with some of its models compared to others. You will have to pay considerably more for the above-mentioned stainless steel ref. 116500LN than the technically identical two-tone ref. 116503. While as of July 2022 the former with the white dial cost approximately $43,500, the two-tone model was selling for “only” around $24,000.  

Summary 

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is one of the most expensive sports chronographs on the watch market. Timepieces like the Omega Speedmaster, Tudor Black Bay Chrono, or Breitling Navitimer B01 can be had at significantly more affordable prices. That being said, however, the Daytona remains one of the most prestigious timepieces out there. It will ultimately be up to you to decide whether this is enough to inspire you to pay the sometimes enormous premiums for this utterly remarkable watch. 


About the Author

René Herold

My name is René Herold, and I first discovered Chrono24 in a job listing. Admittedly, I didn't really care about watches before coming to Chrono24. However, after a few …

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