A Cult Classic

Rolex's Zenith Daytona

What makes the Zenith Daytona so special other than it being the hottest model from arguably the hottest manufacture in watchmaking today? Allow us to briefly explain. Introduced at Baselworld 1988, the Zenith Daytona replaced the manual wind Daytona from yesteryear. The previous generation of this model had plastic crystals along with 35-36mm cases with manual wind Valjoux movements. This milestone Daytona introduced in 1988 had a sapphire crystal, more robust case, screw down pushers, and a high beat automatic movement based on the El Primero by Zenith. Rolex made over 200 of its own modifications to this movement to get it up to par with its standards, and so the Zenith Daytona with Caliber 4030 was born. The 12-year run of the Zenith Daytona’s ended when Rolex introduced the caliber 4130 in 2000 alongside the 116520. The minute details of the 16520 Zenith Daytona have made it a cult classic. More importantly with the black dialed version, when the sub dials have slightly faded into a brown, they are dubbed “Patrizzi”. With astronomic rise in price of all Rolex steel models and even more specifically the entire Daytona line, the Zenith Daytona makes the argument for quite the value proposition in today’s market. 


In 1905, at age 24, German businessman Hans Wilsdorf founded a company with Alfred Davis called Wilsdorf & Davis in London with the goal of selling high-quality, affordable timepieces. Three years later, he and Davis registered the brand name Rolex in Switzerland with a singular vision: quality, good-looking watches. Wilsdorf created the first watch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision in 1910. In 1914, he changed the name of the company to The Rolex Watch Company and several years later he moved their headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland, where the company remains to this day.

Rolex is likely the most recognizable watch in the world, and for good reason. The “Crown” (as it is affectionately called by collectors) it is in many ways the brand to which all other brands are compared. Rolex’s “firsts” are myriad and include the first waterproof watch in 1926 and the first self-winding mechanism in 1931. They are not the oldest watchmaker, nor are they the most exclusive, and certainly not the most expensive. However, when one thinks watches the first name that often comes to mind is Rolex, in large part due to it having been the timepiece of choice for athletes and adventurers.

In 1927, a Rolex Oyster made it across the English Channel on the wrist of swimmer, and in 1953, a Rolex survived Sir Edmund Hillary’s Mount Everest conquest. The dive into the Mariana Trench and the James Cameron Deepsea Expedition are two more examples of where a Rolex came out unscathed. The company also designed watches specifically for pilots, navigators, and world travelers.

It can be argued that every single model in the Rolex lineup is iconic, from the Submariner to the Daytona. For as long as Rolex has existed, the company has been synonymous with sport, adventure, luxury, and royalty. Some of the most famous names in history have donned a Rolex including Sir Winston Churchill, Paul Newman, and Roger Federer.

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