Imagine, for a moment, you are driving across the Halifax River down the Speedway Boulevard on a hot July afternoon in Daytona Beach, Florida. Behind you the sun is casting long shadows over your shoulder across the mottled glass river beneath and ahead of you stretches an endless blue sky, bleeding into a picture-perfect ocean.
In this dream world you would be at the wheel of a Ferrari 365GTB4 Daytona (for perfect synergy and assuming the half a million-pound price tag hadn’t put you off). It’s idling engine at cruise, belying the 174mph top speed and 0-60 in 5.5 seconds punch it can deliver when required.
You make a right turn onto Atlantic Avenue and rest your arm out of the window to take in the view of the ocean as it melts into the perfect sand of the beach itself. To the right of you the imposing massive of the Daytona International Speedway stand shines in the late afternoon sunshine. It’s only now you notice the same golden light glancing off the face of your casually adorned wristwatch and you realise, with a warm feeling of nostalgia, that life will struggle to get any better than this moment.
Of course, you have to be the kind of person who finds their passion in driving one of the most famous cars in history and it doesn’t do any harm if you love your watches too. Because in this instance the watch, of course, is the legendary Rolex Daytona.
A timepiece that was simply born to race. Introduced in 1963, the Cosmograph Daytona was, from the outset, tied irrevocably to the iconic location whose name it bore. Ironically Ferarri themselves have always been reluctant to use the monica “daytona’ on their 365 GTB4 model, but for our purposes, we are all about Daytona right now.
What a watch, what a car and what a location. Of course, what this all says, is that you simply don’t come by the name easily. Iconic is a word bandied around all too readily, but if you have the blood of a racer in you then Daytona is a name that should leave you ever so slightly misty eyed.
And Rolex chose a watch to adorn that name that was a perfect complement to the refinement of mid-century chic and styling. Even now, more than 50 years after Its launch in 1963, this watch remains the definition of motor sport style and sophistication.
Everything about this watch screams motor racing. You wear it and you’re a racer at heart.
From the tachymetric scale and it’s three counters and pushers, to the chronograph function allowing precise time lapse measurement, this is perhaps the ultimate timing tool for the speed enthusiast.
Its bezel offers accurate measurement of up to 400 units per hour expressed in either mile or kilometres. I don’t know how that helps to be honest, but I trust it’s important. What I do know is that looking at this watch at any time of the day and I’m transported back in time.
My own personal favourite is the Patrizzi Daytona. A watch from the mid 90’s which, in case you were wondering, got its unique nom de plume from the famous auctioneer Patrizzi who first discovered the irregular colouring on a very low number of Daytona dials. It was actually a fault in the manufacturing process, something to do with the silver content in Zapon (I know, me neither!). But the result was a stunning transformation of the sub dial colour into a beautiful bronze colour. In my view, the very best colouration of any Daytona.
The featured Daytona comes equipped with the highly prized Zenith cal 4030 automatic movement, which Rolex modified from the el primero calibre movement. Yet, it’s the dial that lends this piece it’s stand out feature, guaranteed to look beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine of Daytona Beach!
I love the accidents of history that add value to the provenance of watches. There is something about nature invading the precision of this masterpiece from Rolex that just appeals hugely to me. A little like the quirk of nature that gave Daytona its uniquely compacted sands that offered motor racing lovers the chance to quicken their hearts more than a century ago in the face of all common sense and their own mortality.
When British driver Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record at Daytona beach in 1935 setting a mark of 276 mph doing so, a Rolex Oyster was his watch of choice (he later wrote to Rolex commending the durability of their watches).
Whilst the warm Florida sunshine might not have been uppermost in his mind that day, it marked the start of partnership in speed, history and time, that has remained unbroken over the decades since.