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Some brands promoting new products shoot fancy campaigns, buy space in magazines, or seed influencers. When you’re Rolex, you simply hand the best new watches off to Roger Federer and let him live his life. The tennis legend publicly debuted the Crown’s new Perpetual 1908 at the Met Gala last Monday and he came back with another Rolex novelty this weekend. Sitting courtside at the New York Knicks and Miami Heat game and at the GQ-ified F1 race in Miami, Federer brought out the brand’s revamped Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
The revamped Daytona is the cornerstone release for Rolex this year. It’s the 60th anniversary of the watch’s debut, and like many a sexagenarian, it received a facelift to commemorate the occasion. This is the first overhaul to the watch since 2016.
First, some important context: the Daytona is arguably the hottest watch in the world. When I surveyed more than a dozen watch experts about the most popular piece in existence, the Daytona got the most votes. In 2017, a vintage version of the model that belonged to Paul Newman briefly held the record for the world’s most expensive wristwatch when it sold for $17.8 million. The watch routinely sells for double its $15,100 retail price (and that was closer to quadruple last summer). The context helps underline just how big of a deal this is.
This is still Rolex, though, so the changes require an appreciation for the details. The most visible aesthetic changes are to the hour indices and the subdials, which have both been noticeably slimmed. The most powerful visual impact comes from the new-look subregisters. The new design turns the white-and-black “Panda” dial or Federer’s black-and-silver “Reverse Panda” into what I’ve been thinking of as a “Wide-Eyed Panda.”
There are updates inside the new Daytona, too. There is a new movement—a watch’s engine—featuring technology Rolex has introduced over the past half-dozen years. The biggest change is the inclusion of what’s called the Chronergy escapement, [a TKTK] which Rolex claims is more efficient and helps its watches tick longer without being wound. But what’s most exciting appears on the platinum models of the new Daytona: For the very first time on a Rolex sport watch, the movement is visible through a clear sapphire caseback.
When I went to see these new watches in Geneva, a representative with Rolex said it was funny that it’s the one brand where people are just as interested in what’s new as what’s discontinued. “Typically, new releases increase interest in older models,” said Paul Altieri, the founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches. This year, the upscale Cellini and Milgauss were both scrubbed from the Rolex catalog. The new Daytona retired some of the model’s older makeups, too. The most notable discontinued version is the gold-and-green Daytona, best known as the“John Mayer”after the singer wore it and helped raise its value massively.
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