One can hardly have a conversation about Rolex watches without mentioning the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Owing in part to the late actor, motor racer and philanthropist Paul Newman — whose 1968 Cosmograph Daytona was famously dubbed “Paul Newman” as it was said to have never left his wrist — the Cosmograph Daytona has earned a class of its own as the most coveted Rolex watch amongst watch collectors. Its latest versions and its vintage counterparts are equal parts competitive.
“Many people are saying that this is the greatest watch on the planet,” Geoff Hess, a vintage watch collector and CEO of Analog Shift, said in an interview with Forbes. “This watch transcends watch collecting, it transcends the watch community.” According to Hess, the iconic Cosmograph Daytona is one formidable name that appeals to multiple communities all at once — the people who understand its provenance, the chronograph enthusiasts, the American history community and of course, the lovers of sports and racing.
While the Cosmograph Daytona was only introduced in 1963, the name “Cosmograph” was already coined by Rolex a decade prior. Shortly after, these Rolex watches were given the additional name “Daytona” as a commemorative design to mark its connection with the Daytona International Speedway, the most prestigious race in NASCAR. The name pays tribute to Daytona, Florida, where passion for speed and racing began in the early 20th century. There have since been three series of the Cosmograph Daytona. Over the years, cosmetic and technical advancements have been made to the model, but its outstanding legibility remains at the core of its function as the ideal tool for measuring speeds up to 400 units per hour.
In measuring time intervals, the centre chronograph second hand is able to capture an impressive one-eighth of a second, while the two counters at the 3 and 9 o’clock of the dial display elapsed time in hours and minutes simultaneously. Back in Geneva, each Cosmograph Daytona undergoes a series of exclusive tests to guarantee its superlative performance to Rolex’s standard — as with all other Rolex watches. The historic bonds between Rolex and motorsports were further strengthened recently in 2013 by the brand’s entry into the world of Formula 1 racing as the latter’s global partner and official timepiece.
Rolex continues to unveil different variations of the Cosmograph Daytona each year with the occasional gem-set options, proving that performance watches can be finely manufactured while being injected with panache and fun. Perhaps, it is one of the many reasons why the watch became Paul Newman’s most treasured timepieces. More than 50 years on, Rolex has kept on the straight and narrow with respect to improving its instruments for measuring time. And the Cosmograph Daytona speaks for the brand as more than just a luxury watch.
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