Hands down, the two most famous chronographs in the luxury watch market are the Rolex Daytona and the OMEGA Speedmaster. Both are made from leading Swiss watchmakers—Rolex has been the number one watchmaker for decades and OMEGA has been following right behind at number two for almost as long as that. Additionally, both chronographs have also enjoyed a long and rich history filled with innovations, design breakthroughs, world-firsts, and celebrity endorsements.
While each camp within the Rolex Daytona vs. OMEGA Speedmaster discussion is loyal to their favorite chronograph, it’s still a debate worth looking at. Let’s dig into the history, design, similarities, and differences of the Rolex Daytona and the OMEGA Speedmaster.
History: Rolex Daytona vs. OMEGA Speedmaster
The Rolex Daytona is actually officially dubbed the Cosmograph Daytona where “Cosmograph” is Rolex-speak for their chronograph. Just like almost everything they do, Rolex uses their own terms to differentiate their offerings from other high-end watch brands in the market. Although chronographs had long been a part of Rolex’s lineup, the Cosmograph made its debut in 1963 and was hailed as the brand’s next generation of chronos. The “Daytona” label almost immediately joined the “Cosmograph” name since Rolex wanted to play up the association of their chronograph with the world of auto racing—and no place on earth is as closely linked to motorsports than Daytona, Florida.
The OMEGA Speedmaster was released a few years prior to the Daytona, in 1957. Like the Daytona, the Speedmaster began its history as a chronograph for racecar drivers, but 12 years after its launch, that would all change. In the summer of 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took a giant leap for mankind as the first two humans to land on the moon. Also present during that historic lunar landing was none other than the OMEGA Professional Speedmaster. In fact, Buzz Aldrin wore a Speedmaster strapped to the outside of his space suit as he stepped onto the moon. Naturally, since then the Speedmaster is also known as the Moonwatch.
Design and Movements: Rolex Daytona vs. OMEGA Speedmaster
The inaugural Speedmaster was the world’s first chronograph to sport the three sub-dials at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock position. It also included an engraved tachymeter scale on the bezel. Completely novel in the late 1950, these elements are now very common across many chronograph watches. Powering the original Speedmaster was a manual wound movement, and today, OMEGA still offers manual movements on some of their Speedmaster models, in addition to automatic calibers. Last year, OMEGA introduced the first Master Chronometer Speedmaster where its movement was certified by both METAS and COSC. The Speedmaster is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, so we expect OMEGA to unveil a slew of commemorative models at Baselworld 2017.
The Rolex Daytona has a similar layout for its trio of registers on the dial. During its history, the Daytona has featured steel tachymeter bezels, acrylic tachymeter bezels, and most recently, ceramic tachymeter bezel. In terms of movements, the Daytona first housed a Valjoux manual-wound movement, followed by a modified Zenith El Primero automatic movement, and finally, an automatic in-house caliber.
The most famous Daytona models are those referred to as the Paul Newman Daytona—(nick)named so for the actor who made it famous by always having one on his wrist. What distinguishes the Paul Newman Daytona from traditional ones is the Art Deco styled dials. These particular Daytona references are some of the most sought-after vintage Rolex watches ever.
Rolex Daytona vs. OMEGA Speedmaster Today
Today, the Daytona is generally seen as a more luxurious chronograph, while the Speedmaster tends to live more in the tool-watch space. Indeed, the Daytona is overall more expensive than the Speedmaster. Of course, there are differences depending on model and materials, but this is the general pattern.
However, both have their loyal army of fans. Watch enthusiasts are familiar with the extremely popular #speedytuesday hashtag on Instagram. The brand even recently produced a limited-edition “Speedy Tuesday” Speedmaster in collaboration with the hashtag instigator, Robert-Jan Broer.
Rolex made huge news last year with the latest version of their Daytona chronograph—the new stainless steel version equipped with a black ceramic bezel. This was the watch Rolex fans worldwide had been waiting for. Prior to that, the coveted Rolex ceramic bezel was only available on Daytonas made with more expensive materials, such as rose gold and platinum. Unsurprisingly, the waitlists for the new steel and ceramic Rolex Daytona are years long and demand is only rising.
Pre-Owned Rolex Daytona vs. OMEGA Speedmaster
Whichever chronograph you prefer, Gray & Sons carries a large inventory of both used Rolex Daytona watches and secondhand OMEGA Speedmaster watches.
Within our pre-owned Rolex Daytona collection, we offer steel, gold, two-tone, in addition to platinum and diamond models. Whether you’re in the market for a vintage Rolex Daytona or a like-new modern Daytona, browse our inventory for a variety of models at discounted prices.
Our pre-owned OMEGA Speedmaster range includes a variety of watches from Olympic models to limited edition racing models to the famous Moonwatch models. If you’re looking to save big on a secondhand OMEGA Speedmaster, then don’t miss our collection.
Both the Rolex Daytona and the OMEGA Speedmaster are absolute legends of horology. Given their classic designs, technical mastery, rich heritage, and most importantly, their enduring appeal, the Daytona and the Speedmaster have rightly earned their iconic statuses.