Three new versions of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona in 18 ct gold have been introduced this year
Daytona Beach: Where it all began
Before lending its name to one of Rolex’s most emblematic models, the city of Daytona Beach in Florida – with its famous long, straight beach and hard-packed sand – forged its own legend as the birthplace of speed from as early as 1903.
At the heart of it were the racing legends, the pioneers of speed, with whom Rolex fostered strong ties with. One such person was “Speed King”, Sir Malcolm Campbell, who wore a Rolex Oyster as he broke the 300mph barrier in 1935. No sooner did he become the first Rolex Testimonee for motor sport, with many more that followed.
Daytona Beach, 1935 - Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed Record attempt on the beach at Daytona at the wheel of his Bluebird
“Speed King” and Rolex Testimonee, Sir Malcolm Campbell
In the early 60s, Rolex became the Official Timepiece of the Daytona International Speedway where the first Cosmograph was given out as the grand prize to the star racer. And not long afterwards, to emphasize the brand’s connection to the American racetrack, Rolex named the model the Cosmograph Daytona.
In 1992, Rolex became Title Sponsor of the 24 Hours of Daytona, a gruelling race that marks the opening of the international motor sport season in the US. Since then, it’s been called the Rolex 24 At Daytona, or just “The Rolex” to watch fans everywhere.
A timepiece built for speed
An iconic timepiece forever linked to the high-adrenaline world of motor sport, the Cosmograph Daytona - first launched in 1963 - was designed to meet the needs of professional racing drivers. Today, this exemplary watch is worn by those with a passion for speed and precision time taking.
Evolving over time, the sports chronograph has run the gamut of external and internal upgrades, pushing the envelope of its technical abilities at every milestone.
The inaugural Cosmograph (36 mm) was designed to be the ultimate tool watch for racing drivers thanks to its precision and its reliability, as well as the outstanding legibility of its functions.
Built on a manually wound mechanical movement and fitted with Rolex’s legendary Oyster case construct (waterproof to a depth of 100m), the highlight of the watch was the shift of the tachymetric scale from the dial to the bezel. This not only made the dial look less cluttered but allowed for the use of contrasting colours that makes the chronograph counters stand out better, especially under difficult race conditions.
In 1965, it received an external facelift with screw-down chronograph pushers, instead of the pump pushers found on the original model, to prevent any accidental manipulation or water from entering the case. In addition the bezel received a material upgrade using black Plexiglas so as to improve the legibility of its tachymetric scale.
The watch was also renamed the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, paying tribute to a place – Daytona, Florida – where passion for speed and racing developed in the early 20th century. The name embodies the historic and privileged bonds between Rolex and motor sport, which were strengthened in 2013 by the brand’s entry into the world of Formula 1® racing as Global Partner and Official Timepiece.
Introducing a new movement
Despite the arrival of quartz movements in the 1960s–1970s, Rolex remained faithful to the manual mechanism of the Cosmograph Daytona, until 1988, when the watch got fitted with a self-winding movement. The brand opted for a quality, commercially available chronograph movement, which it then significantly modified to meet its own requirements, replacing more than 50 per cent of the components with parts specifically designed for its movements. This eventually became the calibre 4030.
The movement, which consists of an oscillator with a variable inertia balance wheel, Microstella regulating nuts, as well as a self-winding module with a Perpetual rotor, was systematically submitted for Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) certification, to receive the designation of chronometer, attesting to its superior precision. All versions of the new model featured the phrase “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” inscribed on its dial.
A one-of-a-kind dial crafted from metallic meteorite can be found on the new versions of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona
Entering a new millennium
To mark the turn of a century and honour a new millennia of modernised technology, the Cosmograph Daytona was upgraded in 2000 with the introduction of calibre 4130, entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex, equipped with a Parachrom hairspring. With this new movement, Rolex engineers managed to reduce the number of components for the chronograph mechanism by 60 per cent, boasting a simpler yet more effective and efficient movement architecture that allowed for 72 hours of power reserve compared to its previous 50.
Another revolutionary engineering marvel introduced to the oscillator of this model is the Parachrom hairspring. Constructed from a paramagnetic alloy made of niobium, zirconium and oxygen, it is insensitive to magnetic fields, withstands temperature variations and is impervious to the shocks a watch is subjected to in daily wear. It also remains up to 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring.
In 2016, the metal bezel of the Cosmograph Daytona was switched out for a lightweight, durable material called Cerachrom made from ceramic. Not only is Cerachrom lighter, virtually scratchproof and corrosion-resistant, it preserves colours very well despite the effects of UV rays, in turn, enhancing the legibility of the tachymetric scale. The clear definition obtained through this process, together with the contrast of the platinum against the monobloc Cerachrom bezel in black ceramic, lent peerless legibility to the bezel of the Cosmograph Daytona.
Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona in 18 ct white gold with a meteorite and black dial and an Oysterflex bracelet
The new Cosmograph Daytona watches at a glance
This year, the Cosmograph Daytona adds three new models to its collection, featuring a dial made from metallic meteorite derived from an asteroid that exploded millions of years ago. The crystallisation of this extraterrestrial material forms what is known as Widmanstätten patterns, that are equal parts unique and fascinating.
With its origins in the far reaches of the solar system, the metallic meteorite embarks on a voyage between planets where fragments of this natural extraterrestrial material, primarily composed of iron and nickel, cool by a few degrees Celsius every million years, creating unique, distinctive crystallization within the material that is impossible to recreate on Earth.
Metallic meteorite is rare and challenging to work with, but once it is cut into thin sections and a chemical treatment is applied, the great beauty of its interwoven internal structure is revealed. For its dials, Rolex works with leading experts in the field and selects only the sections of meteorite with particularly well-formed surface rich in different shapes and reflections.
The version in 18 ct white gold sports a black monobloc Cerachrom bezel and Oysterflex bracelet made which singularly combines the robustness and reliability of a metal bracelet with the flexibility, comfort and aesthetics of an elastomer strap.
Developed and patented by Rolex, this innovative bracelet is made up of flexible metal blades manufactured from a titanium and nickel alloy. The blades are over-moulded with high-performance black elastomer, a material that is particularly resistant to environmental effects and very durable.
For enhanced comfort, the inside of the Oysterflex bracelet is equipped with longitudinal cushions. The tachymetric scale is moulded into the ceramic bezel and coated with platinum via PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) to achieve optimal legibility.
Left to right: Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona in 18 ct yellow gold with a metallic meteorite dial and an Oyster bracelet, Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona in 18 ct Everose gold with a metallic meteorite dial and an Oyster bracelet
The other two watches have engraved tachymetric scales on the bezels, one in 18 ct yellow gold and another in 18 ct Everose gold, on a three-piece link Oyster bracelet with the Oysterlock safety clasp. The links are joined with highly-durable ceramic inserts to enhance flexibility and longevity.
The new 18 ct yellow gold and 18 ct Everose gold versions of the Cosmograph Daytona are equipped with an Oyster bracelet. Developed at the end of the 1930s, this three-piece link bracelet is known for its robustness.
All three versions present black chronograph counters at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions, offering a unique contrast to the unusual finish of the dial. Its chronograph functions are activated by pushers that screw down like the winding crown when they are not in use, guaranteeing waterproofness to 100 metres.
Powered by the perpetual calibre 4130 movement, the new Cosmograph Daytona watches remain in a class of their own amongst luxury sport chronographs. Not only do they set a new standard in terms of reliability, durability and exacting precision, they impress us with their winning good looks, too.
Visit Kee Hing Hung to discover the Rolex 2021 new watches.