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From 0 to 60: The Rolex Daytona
The Rolex Daytona is one of the most popular chronographs far and wide. Stainless steel models and vintage editions are especially coveted and tend to appreciate in value. Collectors and investors thus turn to the Daytona as a profitable investment.
An Iconic Chronograph
Swiss manufacturer Rolex developed the Cosmograph Daytona specially for motorsport in 1963. These popular chronographs were fittingly named after the famous racetrack in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Virtually all Cosmograph Daytona models enjoy the same popularity. In fact, this chronograph is among the most popular and bestselling Rolex watches on Chrono24, bumping shoulders with the likes of the Datejust, Submariner, and GMT-Master. High demand is raising the value of pre-owned and new watches exponentially, and you'll likely be waiting several years to get your hands on a current reference from a brick-and-mortar store. Fortunately, Chrono24 offers a way for you to get your hands on your dream Daytona in a fraction of the time.
The Rolex Daytona is available in stainless steel, gold, platinum, or as a two-tone model that combines stainless steel and gold. Insiders will tell you that two-tone editions are the most affordable entry point into the Daytona world. By contrast, stainless steel models are extremely popular and, therefore, often sell for multiple times their official list prices. While less coveted, gold and platinum Daytonas are the most expensive new versions due to their material value and boast perhaps the best value for money.
The vast majority of Rolex Daytona models are experiencing high, or even eye-popping value appreciation. Take for example the platinum ref. 116506 with an ice blue dial; this model more than tripled in price from around 62,500 USD to almost 200,000 USD in just two years (as of May 2022). Similarly, the price of the ref. 116520, a classic in the stainless steel lineup with its universal appeal, is experiencing tremendous growth. While you could have gotten your hands on one of these references for around 20,500 USD in May 2019, you're now looking at over 41,500 USD exactly two years later – an increase of over 100%.
Reasons to Buy a Rolex Daytona
- Stainless steel watches that appreciate in value
- In-house caliber 4130 with a 72-hour power reserve
- A legendary chronograph with widespread brand recognition
- Rare vintage models that make fantastic investments
Prices at a Glance: Rolex Daytona
|Reference number||Value appreciation*, price (approx.)||Case material, bezel, dial|
|116508||190%, 130,000 USD||Yellow gold, yellow gold, green|
|116595RBOW||167%, 783,500 USD||Rose gold, sapphire, black|
|116506||164%, 193,500 USD||Platinum, ceramic, ice blue|
|116518LN||107%, 66,000 USD||Yellow gold, ceramic, black|
|116519LN||100%, 64,000 USD||White gold, ceramic, gray|
|116515LN||100%, 64,000 USD||Rose gold, ceramic, chocolate brown|
|116500LN||100%, 46,000 USD||Stainless steel, ceramic, black|
|116520||91%, 46,000 USD||Stainless steel, stainless steel, white|
|116520||83%, 46,000 USD||Stainless steel, stainless steel, black|
|116503||76%, 31,500 USD||Stainless steel and yellow gold, yellow gold, white|
|16520||38%, 56,500 USD||Stainless steel, stainless steel, white|
|6239||24%, 251,000 USD||Stainless steel, stainless steel, panda/exotic|
|6263||12.5%, 94,000 USD||Stainless steel, Bakelite, reverse panda|
|*between May 2020 and May 2022|
How much does a Rolex Daytona cost?
If you're interested in a two-tone Rolex Daytona in stainless steel and yellow gold (ref. 116503), expect to pay around 31,000 USD for a new model. A more popular model, and therefore more expensive, is the stainless steel ref. 116520 which comes in at about 46,000 USD. Prices for a yellow gold Daytona, such as the ref. 116518LN, start just north of 62,000 USD. Among Rolex's most-desired pieces is the platinum Daytona model with an ice-blue dial (ref. 116506), which you can buy for around 193,000 USD. However, no other Daytona holds a candle to the yellow gold Rainbow models (e.g., ref. 116595RBOW). At the time of publication in May 2022, one of these watches would set you back at least 785,000 USD.
Vintage models are no exception to the value appreciation these Rolex models are experiencing. The ref. 6262 for example, which features a Bakelite bezel, changes hands for no less than 94,000 USD. The Paul Newman Daytona ref. 6239 is also worth noting. With their unique tropical dials, these watches can sell for anywhere between 50,300 USD and 418,000 USD, depending on the timepiece's condition and accessories.
A Particularly High Performer: Ref. 116500LN
Introduced in 2016, the stainless steel ref. 116500LN can be recognized by its ceramic bezel, Oyster bracelet, and black or white dial. You will find new models on Chrono24 for around 40,000 USD. Keep in mind that Rolex lists this timepiece at 13,150 USD, i.e., some 26,000 USD less than the going rate. The appreciation is relatively recent, with the model almost doubling in value since May 2020.
Prices for New Stainless Steel Models
The demand for pre-owned Daytona models, like the ref. 116520, is at an all-time high. The ref. 116520 was introduced at the turn of the millennium and was the first Rolex chronograph to feature the in-house caliber 4130. Up until then, Rolex had relied on modified movements from other manufacturers like Zenith or Valjoux. While this watch would have cost you about 21,000 USD in lightly used condition in 2021, today it demands some 31,500 USD. Never-worn pieces are rare since this model is no longer in production and, thus, demand a higher price of 46,000 USD.
When it comes to value appreciation, the Daytona ref. 16520 takes it to the next level. This Cosmograph Daytona gets its power from a heavily modified Zenith El Primero movement and demanded around 42,000 USD in mid-2020 pre-owned. Prices have climbed steadily, and as of May 2022, you will need to invest about 54,000 USD to add this watch to your collection. In ten years, the ref. 16520 has appreciated by around 500%.
Gold or platinum Daytona?
At the time of writing, a new Rolex Daytona reference 116508 in 18-karat yellow gold with a gold bezel and green dial cost about 130,500 USD. For comparison, this timepiece cost around 78,500 USD in May 2021. In other words, this reference has increased in value by more than 65%.
Less popular versions of this reference, which have diamond indices, cost "only" about 83,500 USD in mint condition. This makes them significantly less expensive than the Daytona model featuring a green dial, despite the fact that they are outfitted with diamonds. Nevertheless, prices have also doubled since 2021.
Gold Daytonas on Oysterflex bracelets – a type of bracelet made of thin metal inserts covered in elastomer – come with the added benefits of a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel and a lower price tag. These gold chronographs sell for around 67,000 USD in mint condition, and you guessed it, the prices for these models doubled in the 12 months leading up to May 2022.
This price range, that is to say just south of 62,500 USD, is also home to the Rolex Daytona Chocolate ref. 116515LN, which is named after its chocolate brown dial.
Rolex started producing gold Daytona models with meteorite dials relatively recently in 2021. Every meteorite dial is unique, and boasts a metallic sheen. The black subdials also add to this timepiece's appeal. The case is available in white, yellow, or Everose gold, with either a matching gold Oyster or Oysterflex bracelet. The Oysterflex models feature black ceramic bezels and are slightly less expensive. The list price is around 41,000 USD for the yellow gold model and 34,050 USD for the white gold version. However, prices are a little different on the Chrono24 marketplace. You can expect to pay anywhere between 156,000 USD and 208,500 USD for one of these models.
Gold Daytonas with an Oyster strap, on the other hand, feature gold bezels. Prices start at 41,000 USD for the yellow gold model and 43,500 USD for timepieces in Everose or white gold. Again, you should plan on seeing significant markups. In May 2022, dealers were asking between 229,500 USD and 292,000 USD for watches in mint condition.
A highlight within the Rolex Daytona collection is the platinum reference 116506 with an ice blue dial and chestnut brown Cerachrom bezel. Prices for new timepieces sit around 193,000 USD. You can find pre-owned models for approximately 177,000 USD. Prices again ballooned between 2020 and 2022: In May 2020, the platinum Daytona sold for around 73,000 USD new.
Another exquisite model is the Rolex Rainbow ref. 116595RBOW. This limited-edition gold timepiece premiered in 2018 and is an extremely rare sight on the market. Its main feature is the rainbow of baguette-cut sapphires that adorn its bezel and dial. If that wasn't enough, Rolex also decorates the case with brilliant-cut diamonds. New, the Rolex Rainbow requires an investment of some 783,000 USD. As such, this model has more than doubled in value in just 12 months (at the time of publication in May 2022).
Prices for Popular Vintage Daytonas
Vintage Daytonas are often much more expensive than their modern counterparts. This is in part due to the fact that models from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s are extremely difficult to find today. What's more, select editions, such as the Paul Newman Daytona, come with unique stories that make them particularly interesting to collectors.
The main feature of the Paul Newman Daytona is its multicolored "exotic dial" with a contrasting minute track. Its subdials also feature unique Art Deco numerals. Beyond its exotic dial, this model is no different from the standard Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6239. Watches with an exotic dial were slow sellers when they first debuted, so Rolex only produced them in limited quantities. Today, the Paul Newman Daytona is one of the most coveted vintage watches of all time, and prices over 208,500 USD are the norm. In 2017, Paul Newman's personal Daytona – a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward – sold at auction for the record price of 17.75 million USD, making it the most expensive Rolex of all time.
You can purchase a "normal" Paul Newman Daytona for around 209,000 USD. That being said, it's not uncommon to see prices fluctuate up to and beyond 314,000 USD. If you can do without the special multicolor dial design, you will find the ref. 6239 costs as little as 52,000 USD, or perhaps even less if you're lucky.
Cosmographs with the reference numbers 6241 and 6240 are also worth taking a look at. The former is comparable to the ref. 6239 but has a Bakelite, or plastic, bezel. Set aside at least 240,500 USD for this rare timepiece. By May 2022, this reference had increased in value by approximately 83,500 USD.
The ref. 6240 is even rarer and was the first water-resistant Daytona thanks to its screw-down push-pieces. Furthermore, it was the first model to have the word "Oyster" stamped on its dial. Like the ref. 6241, the 6240 has a Bakelite bezel and was manufactured in the 1960s. Expect to pay between 120,000 USD and over 208,000 USD for the ref. 6240 with a black dial. Prices dropped somewhat in early 2022, but picked up again the following April.
The reference 6240 is also available with a silver dial. This configuration is easier on the wallet; expect to pay just over 104,000 EUR for one of these Daytona models. This model changed hands for around 31,000 USD at the beginning of 2019.
How much does a Pre-Daytona cost?
"Pre-Daytona" vintage watches are highly coveted among collectors and are quite difficult to find. This is because these timepieces were produced before 1963 and only in relatively limited numbers. Even though Rolex first trademarked the name "Cosmograph" in the early 1950s, the dials of Pre-Daytonas only feature the word "Chronograph."
However, these watches never became a real hit since other manufacturers had already made a name for themselves producing chronographs, including Heuer. Moreover, in a rare move, Rolex opted to go with a caliber from a third party instead of their own. Gold editions with the reference number 6234 cost around 104,000 USD today. Prices for the stainless steel versions fall between 41,500 USD and 52,100 USD.
A Racing Chronograph
Rolex engineers initially designed the Daytona with race car drivers in mind. The chronograph function of this tool watch can measure time periods of up to 12 hours. Daytonas from the 1960s are powered by the manual Valjoux caliber 72. Production of these hand-wound watches ended in 1976 when Rolex introduced the first automatic Daytonas. The Swiss manufacturer announced further improvements to their chronographs at Baselworld 1988, including automatic chronographs with the caliber 4030. This movement is based on the Zenith El Primero, which ticks at 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph).
However, Rolex's watchmakers disliked the El Primero's higher frequency of 5 Hz and its date display. As a result, they completely reworked the Zenith caliber, with their design engineers ultimately rebuilding almost half of the movement's components. For example, they lowered the balance frequency to 28,000 vph and replaced the conventional balance spring with the famous Breguet overcoil. Rolex also implemented their regulation system with four Microstella nuts, which are located on the inner side of the now larger balance wheel. This is unlike most standard movements that come with a regulator. The steel versions were the most sought after, resulting in incredibly long waitlists – a fact that remains true to this day.
A New Caliber for a New Millennium: The 4130
The Daytona with reference number 116520 garnered quite a bit of buzz at Baselworld 2000. This stainless steel watch features the automatic in-house caliber 4130. Rolex had debuted this caliber, their first in-house chronograph movement, only a year earlier in a gold version of the Daytona. The 4130 is 30.5 mm in diameter and 6.5 mm thick. It features 44 ruby jewel bearings, and its balance wheel oscillates at 28,800 vph. Outfitted with a stop-seconds mechanism, the small seconds display's hand comes to a halt whenever the time is being set. The movement has an impressive power reserve of 72 hours when the chronograph is off and 66 hours when it's on. KIF Parechoc's Kif shock protection system protects the balance and escape wheels against shocks and jolts. Finally, as of 2005, magnetic fields have nothing on the balance thanks to Rolex's patented Parachrom hairspring.
The 21st century has seen very few changes to the Daytona's design. The case has remained completely untouched, while the dial has been altered slightly and adapted to fit the in-house chronograph movement. One such change was relocating the small seconds to 6 o'clock. Older "El Primero" Daytonas have their small seconds at 9 o'clock. For the watch's 50th anniversary in 2013, Rolex introduced a platinum edition with a brown Cerachrom ceramic bezel.
- Powered by the in-house caliber 4130 since 2001
- Balance wheel frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour
- Set the time to the exact second thanks to a stop-seconds mechanism
- 72-hour power reserve
Cosmograph or Daytona?
When looking at the history of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, you'll find numerous explanations for how it got its name. Some sources claim that "Cosmograph" comes from "cosmography" and was already being used to describe watches with a calendar function and moon phase display as far back as the 1950s. Cosmography was the precursor to modern geography and dealt with the study of the universe and Earth – a.k.a. the cosmos. Whatever the case, the word "Cosmograph" appears on the dial of every Rolex chronograph today.
However, this wasn't always the case. In the early days after its 1963 release, the Cosmograph Daytona was available with a number of different dials. Some only featured the "Rolex" brand name, while others came with the "Cosmograph" or "Cosmograph Daytona" inscription.
There's no doubt about where the second part of the name comes from. Its origin is the famed Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida – thus demonstrating the model's close links to the world of motorsport. Rolex has been the official timekeeper and partner of the "24 Hours of Daytona" race since 1962. In fact, the winner still receives a Rolex Daytona with an engraved case back as a prize to this day.