Launched in 1963, the Daytona is Rolex’s signature chronograph. While the Daytona is currently one of the most popular luxury chronographs to own, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, during their era, the manual-wound six-digit Daytona chronographs were slow-sellers—particularly those with the so-called “exotic dials, better known today as “Paul Newman” dials. In an incredible comeback story, however, the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction was Paul Newman’s own Paul Newman!
But we’re not here to discuss vintage manual Daytona watches, but rather, the modern automatic versions that were first introduced in 1988. From the Zenith-based movement powered Daytona models to the in-house Rolex Cal. 4130 operated Daytona versions, the modern Daytona watches are stunning luxury chronographs, inside and out. And in true Rolex fashion, the collection is incredibly diverse—especially when you throw in now discontinued pre-owned Daytona models into the mix—with so many material, bracelet, dial, and bezel options to choose from. Let’s have a look at six different versions of the Rolex Daytona.
1. White Gold Rolex Daytona
Although the Daytona was conceived as a robust tool watch to use in the world of motorsports, Rolex has taken the essence of the Daytona and reinterpreted these chronographs into ultra-lavish versions by using precious metals. Case in point is the white gold Daytona, which at first glance may look like standard stainless steel, but is decidedly not.
Take this Daytona ref. 116509 for example. A full white gold Daytona model, from its 40mm case to its Oyster bracelet, this is one hefty chronograph to wear. The silver dial houses the familiar trio of registers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, along with plenty of red details to emphasize the sportiness of the watch.
For a dressier white gold Rolex chronograph, there’s the Daytona 116519 with an opulent mother-of-pearl dial dressed with ten diamond hour markers. This particular model is also lighter to wear thanks to its blue leather strap fitted with an 18k white gold deployant clasp.
If bright colors are more your thing, then heat things up with the white gold Daytona “Beach” ref. 116519 flaunting a vibrant yellow mother-of-pearl dial and matching yellow leather strap. Limited in numbers, this colorful Daytona chronograph will turn heads wherever it goes.
2. Yellow Gold Rolex Daytona
Rolex has been making yellow gold Daytona chronographs since the 1960s and given how gorgeous they are, it’s a great move. It’s hard to resist the appeal of this 18k yellow gold Daytona ref. 116528 PN with a solid yellow gold case and matching yellow gold Oyster bracelet.
Moreover, this particular “PN” dial is Rolex’s not-so-subtle tribute to the vintage exotic dials associated with Paul Neman. The black dial contrasts sharply with the champagne subdials, red chronograph hands, and red outer minute track.
Similar to the white gold versions, Rolex also offers yellow gold Daytona watches on leather straps. If you note the reference number of this 18k yellow gold Daytona ref. 16518, the five digits tells us that there’s the Zenith-based Cal. 4030 sitting underneath the caseback. The combination of the white dial, black leather strap, and yellow gold on this Daytona is perfection.
3. Rose Gold Rolex Daytona
The Everose gold Daytona watches are the newest gold models to join Rolex’s chronograph lineup. Introduced in 2005, Everose gold is Rolex’s proprietary rose gold alloy that guarantees to never fade because of its patented formula of gold, copper, and platinum.
With the pink gold Daytona ref. 116505, we see Rolex’s Everose gold shine in full glory, from the Oyster case to pushers to the Oyster bracelet. The matching rose gold dial is accented with contrasting black sub dials while the black outlined lume filled indexes glow brightly in low light.
The popularity of the rose gold Daytona is especially evident among celebrities, with celeb owners like Kris Jenner, Sofía Vergara, Victoria Beckham, Hayden Panettiere, Paris Hilton, Kevin Hart, and Ellen DeGeneres just to name a few.
4. Two Tone Rolex Daytona
The two-tone Daytona watch is wonderfully versatile since it combines stainless steel and yellow gold. The two tone Daytona ref. 16523 is a classic example with its yellow gold bezel and yellow gold pushers and winding crown on the steel Oyster case and yellow gold center links on the steel Oyster bracelet. The gold color carries over onto the champagne dial, accented with black registers.
Again, since this is a five-digit Daytona reference from the late 1990s, the Daytona ref. 16523 runs on the Zenith-based Cal. 4030 automatic movement.
5. Stainless Steel Rolex Daytona
The most popular style of Daytona watches by far are the stainless steel ones. Rolex debuted the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116520 in 2000 with an in-house movement, and over the course of its 16-year production run, this flagship Rolex chronograph remained an extremely hard find due to its popularity.Along with the black dial version, Rolex also offered a white dialed Daytona ref. 116520.
Sporty, rugged, and prestigious, a stainless steel Daytona is an incredible Rolex watch to own and wear.
6. Ceramic Rolex Daytona
In 2011, Rolex presented the first ever Daytona watch equipped with a Cerachrom ceramic bezel. That inaugural model was in Everose gold and the brand later followed up with a platinum and ceramic Daytona, as well as white gold and yellow gold Daytona watches with ceramic bezels.
Finally, in 2016, the one ceramic Daytona everyone was eagerly waiting for was unveiled—a stainless steel Daytona with a black ceramic bezel. To say that the introduction of the Daytona ref. 116500 was well received would be a gross understatement—more than two years later, the steel and ceramic Rolex Daytona is still the toughest luxury watch to find. Similar to its predecessor, the new Daytona ref. 116500 is available with either a black dial or a white dial.
Often imitated but never duplicated, the Rolex Daytona is for many the chronograph to have. And with so many Daytona options available, it’s easy to find one to suit your particular tastes.