BY NOW, you would have come to learn that a new Rolex release isn’t necessarily a rare occasion. Renowned for unveiling minute, incremental changes to their pre-established collections, you can trust that each year, more or less, Rolex will meet our expectations with a consistent update in dribs and drabs.
In 2023, that hasn’t been the case.
Already we’ve seen a host of surprising new releases in the way of coloured bubble Oyster Perpetuals and emoji puzzle Day-Dates, but, perhaps, none have been more significant than what Rolex released over the weekend.
To celebrate 100 years of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans — the annual automotive endurance race that started in France in 1923 — Rolex casually dropped a commemorative Cosmograph Daytona. The new Daytona, which watch enthusiasts have colloquially dubbed “Red 100”, features all the hallmarks of the original legendary chronograph, and one that will likely become the most sought after timepiece among the current Daytona catalogue.
Launched in 1963, the Daytona was designed to meet the needs of professional racing drivers. Thanks to the high-performance mechanical chronograph movement, measuring time intervals and determining average speeds (a necessity for endurance race drivers) was made possible. Through its name and functions, 60 years on, the Daytona has been linked to the world of motorsports ever since.
For vintage Daytona enthusiasts (or any watch enthusiast for that matter), it’s hard not to recognise its references to vintage Paul Newman Daytonas of the ref. 6263 era (watches which have all fetched pretty sums at auction in recent years).
Take the black “reverse panda dial”, the special black ceramic tachymeter scale that features the “100” indication in red (a reminder of the Le Mans centenary) and a new in-house movement, calibre 4132, designed to count the hours using the chronograph function over twenty-four hours instead of the Daytona’s usual twelve. Albeit visual novelties that tie back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they’re just as much technical, too.
The new Daytona is crafted in 18ct white gold and sports a Cerachrom bezel in black ceramic edged with a fine band, also in 18ct white gold. It’s finished on a white gold Oyster bracelet as well as an Oyster case fitted with a transparent back which is a nice touch.
Initial thoughts? What a knockout release. Really, what’s not to love? Those that appreciate the history of this iconic chronograph and its association with the 24 Hours of Le Mans will undoubtedly be thrilled by the decision to incorporate so many vintage cues, like the reverse panda dial, the red indication at “100” and of course, a new chronograph movement directly tied to the race (the indication of “24” in the counter at nine is just plain cool).
You’d have to think that this would be a watch Paul Newman would be happy to wear, be it on a movie set or driving an actual race car. His experience as an endurance racer (and previous winner of Le Mans at the age of 70) would undoubtedly appease his penchant for all things Rolex and racing.
There’s no doubt this will become hot property in the watch world, and possibly the most wanted Daytona of the current catalogue. While not a limited edition release, getting your hands on one will be no easy task, as per all things Rolex.
About this watch
Model: Daytona Cosmograph ref. 126529LN
Case Material: 18k white gold
Dial: Black with white sub-dials
Water Resistance: 100 meters (feat. screw-down crown)
Strap/Bracelet: Oyster bracelet (white gold)
Movement: Calibre 4132, Superlative Chronometer
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Functions: 24-hour chronograph measure, hours, minutes, sub-seconds
Price: approx. $76,000