Few watches inspire as much excitement as the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona — and with good reason.
Launched in 1963 as the Rolex Cosmograph, the Daytona has since become one of the world’s most desirable chronographs. Awarded to winning drivers in some of the toughest races, its evolution from a readily available, hand-wound tool to a priceless luxury item is the stuff of legend.
Though early advertisements exist describing a triple-register chronograph called the “Le Mans,” Rolex eventually named the watch after the famed Floridian racetrack where several land speed records were broken in the 1930s by Sir Malcolm Campbell, and which has been a staple in the automotive racing circuit for over a century.
In celebration of 60 years of this incredible chronograph, we’ve curated a selection of standout Daytona models available now at Analog:Shift. From gem-set executions to rare dial configurations, these interesting variants are sure to get your heart racing!
Rolex Daytona Ref.6239
The first Daytona reference, the 6239, debuted in 1963 without the word “Daytona” on the dial. (It would be added within the first few production years.) This particular example is clean and beautiful, with a 36mm stainless steel case, a steel tachymeter bezel, a domed acrylic crystal, a signed crown, a black ‘reverse panda’ configuration dial, tritium hour markers, and a tritium-filled ‘baton’ handset. Characteristic of this reference are the pump pushers and the hand-wound Valjoux 72 movement — but this watch also comes on a later, solid-link Jubilee bracelet, allowing you to wear it every day without worry. If you’re looking for the “real deal,” you can’t get much better than this early-’60s beauty!
Reference 116509 ‘Silver Race’
Rolex Daytona 'Silver Race' Ref.116509
Now here’s something you don’t see every day: The Reference 116509 from 2005-2006 may look like an ordinary, stainless steel Daytona, but it’s housed in a 40mm 18K white gold case with a matching white gold Oyster bracelet. Dope! Its dial is also notable: Set in a sunburst silver ‘race’ configuration, it features applied, black gold ‘Arabic’ indices and red accents within the subsidiary registers, handset, and dial text. Powered by the first-generation, in-house chronograph movement from Rolex, the Calibre 4130, this unique model most certainly stands out — even amongst other notable Daytona executions.
Rolex Daytona 'Zenith' Ref. 16520
Beginning in the late 1980s, Rolex abandoned the hand-wound Valjoux movements upon which it had relied since the early 1960s and employed automatic El Primero calibres from Zenith within the Daytona collection. These ‘Zenith Daytonas’ are now highly prized by the collector community, and constitute a unique chapter in the history of this famous chronograph. The Reference 16520, with its 40mm stainless steel case, screw-down pushers, signed crown, sapphire crystal, stainless steel tachymeter bezel, and glossy white dial with black-ringed subsidiary registers, has become a classic reference, beloved for its good looks, well balanced dial, and workhorse movement. (The red “Daytona” signature certainly doesn’t hurt, either!)
Reference 116509 Pavé Diamond Dial
Rolex Daytona 'Pave Diamond Dial' Ref.116509
While the Cosmograph Daytona was conceived of as a tool watch that would help drivers time their races, there’s nothing in horological scripture denying us the right to modify said tools with extravagant finishes. Case in point? This Reference 116509 from the early 2000s: A modern execution powered by Rolex’s own in-house Calibre 4130 movement, it features an extraordinary dial covered in pavé diamonds, which are interrupted only by applied, black gold ‘Arabic’ indices, the ‘Rolex’ wordmark, and the watch’s triple-register chronograph display with silver totalizers. With its striking dial, screw-down pushers, and 18K white gold case and matching Oyster bracelet, this Daytona is simply mesmerizing.
Reference 6265 ‘Big Red’
Rolex Daytona 'Big Red' Ref.6265
The original hand-wound Daytonas offer a wide variety of dial configurations, case styles, and small nuances across references that spanned 1963 through 1988. The Reference 6265 ‘Big Red’ is a notable model for a small detail that commands the attention of dedicated collectors everywhere: the red “Daytona” text on the dial above the 6 o’clock totalizer. This text, when combined with a handsome ‘panda’ configuration including a white dial, black totalizers, applied indices, tritium lume plots, and a baton handset, makes for a striking aesthetic that’s tough to argue with. Pair these attributes to a 36mm stainless steel case with screw-down pushers, an acrylic crystal, a signed crown, and a matching, steel Oyster bracelet, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a vintage tool watch.
Rolex Daytona Ref.116509
Alright — one more Reference 116509 for y’all: Let’s say you like the idea of a slightly left-of-center Daytona, but not one that’s completely, 100% “iced out.” How about this particular 116509, then — it’s got a 40mm white gold case, a matching white gold Oyster bracelet, a steel tachymeter bezel, screw-down pushers, a sapphire crystal, and the in-house Rolex Calibre 4130 movement, making it a thoroughly modern watch. But take a careful look at the glossy black dial and you’ll notice that the usual applied indices have been largely swapped for factory-set diamonds, turning this otherwise utilitarian chronograph into a special piece of men’s jewelry. Wear it to the racetrack, sure, but also wear it out to dinner, up a mountain, and while you’re raking the leaves. This one can do it all!
Reference 16528 ‘Inverted 6’
Rolex Daytona 'Zenith Inverted 6' Ref. 16528
It’s the little things that get Rolex collectors’ hearts racing. To wit: Check out this Reference 16528 ‘Inverted 6’ Daytona. A Zenith-powered, automatic model from the early 1990s, you probably first took note of the fact that it’s crafted from solid, 18K yellow gold and features a matching Oyster bracelet. But look carefully at its glossy black dial, and you’ll notice certain peculiarities: Produced by Singer between 1991 and 1993, these dials feature an inverted ‘6’ index on the 6 o’clock totalizer, sans-serif ‘5’ indices, and a rounder overall typeface. This detail, when combined with the Zenith-powered movement, the gold case, and the handsome black dial, make this Reference 16528 a standout model — one that’s highly prized by collectors.