Let’s get straight to the point: I never felt really attracted to the Rolex Daytona. Since the presentation of the automatic version in 1989 (at that time powered by a Zenith-based movement), and until the 2016 Steel/Ceramic 116500LN version, my interest in the Daytona was close to zero. To me it represented kind of an emblematic watch that, on a personal level, never appealed to me. So, what can be the reason why I’ve switched so quickly from hate to love, when seeing the new 2017 Rolex Daytona Gold / Ceramic / Oysterflex (the new references 116515LN, 116518LN and 116519LN)?
Why such bad feelings about a watch that is, after all, one of the most iconic and most sought-after timepieces of the entire industry, whatever the era? To answer you (and I’m sure some of you will recognize yourself in these words), there are many watches that I personally won’t buy, but in case of the Rolex Daytona, we are many steps further. It is a combination of different aspects, most of them being far from objective. First of all, there’s the look. Since 1989 and the automatic versions, the Daytona has, to me, lost its tool aspect. It is shiny, rather bulky, badly proportioned (that fat shiny bezel), too polished and overall, quite blingy. Then, there’s the unbalanced case, with a thin left side and a bulky right side. And I’m not even talking about the screwed pushers that I find useless and unpractical on a daily basis. And if I always found the steel versions too monochromatic and thus missing some contrast, the gold versions were even less appealing, especially because of the public representation they had – a sort of statement watch, telling “look, I made it.”
This leads us to the other and properly personal reasons why I didn’t like the Rolex Daytona: its aura, its image, what it says as an object when worn. I’ve always disliked that fake-exclusivity driven by low deliveries to retailers. I don’t like how this watch can be so sought-after, even if it remains, after all, a simple sporty chronograph from a mainstream brand (with all due respect to Rolex, which I consider one of the best manufactures around). I also don’t like how some people use this watch to show to the world how they succeed. Where’s the passion in that? After all these bad feelings, you might think I’m excessive, however, consider one thing: I have a lot of respect for the brand and the model, and without the image that is linked to this watch, I would certainly not be that harsh on the Rolex Daytona.
So what could well the reasons why I have changed my mind so quickly about the Rolex Daytona, to finally get to the point where I can say “I love the new 2017 Rolex Daytona Gold / Ceramic / Oysterflex.” First of all, it is not advertising money from Rolex that leads me to this point – first of all, there is none, and secondly that’s not how we work at Monochrome! In the case of the 2017 Gold Daytonas, it’s all about the look, the balance, the details and the right codes, which finally talk to me. Yet, before that, we have to look back at the 2016 Steel/Ceramic version to understand.
The 2016 Steel / Ceramic version of the Daytona, Ref. 116500LN
In fact, I started to drastically change my mind about the Rolex Daytona in 2016, when “the Crown” introduced the version that we were all expecting, a steel watch, with a (kind-of) panda dial and, main attraction, a black ceramic bezel. Yes, I know that it still shines, yes it still has the screwed pushers, but yet, I was part of the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of collectors who changed their minds about the Dayto. That black ceramic bezel adds some lightness, some modernity, a slightly more tool-ish and sportier style, and overall the right contrast that you expect from such a chronograph. Yet, even if I could have pushed the “buy it now button”, I would express one or two reservations about this 116500LN. The first one being about the steel bracelet, which still features polished central links – and overall, I think there’s too much metal/steel in this watch… The second reservation is about the hype that surrounds this watch, and that alone was making me doubtful. I know it is highly subjective and has nothing to do with the overall quality of the watch, yet, it was a strong deterrent. But Rolex was on its way to convince me to change my mind…
This leads us to Baselworld 2017 and the new gold/ceramic/rubber versions of the Rolex Daytona, namely the references 116515LN (Everose gold), 116518LN (yellow gold) and 116519LN (white gold). What is it about with these 3 references that is so well-done that I could change my mind? First of all, as I said, a gold Rolex isn’t “my thing”, for a simple reason that is not about the look but about the image. Again, the kind of statement watch that is (in fact, was) unappealing. These 3 new Rolex Daytona are replacing the versions on leather straps, which were obviously slightly outdated and not going like hot cakes over the counter anymore. With the new Oysterflex / Ceramic combination on the gold Daytos, we have possibly the most desirable models in the catalogue (at least, to me, and I know our founder Frank agrees with me…) – (edit Frank Geelen: yes I do!)
In short, the evolution is – as usual for Rolex – quite limited. It’s all about small updates, however, these details change the visual perception of the watch drastically, and offer a modern style and, importantly, less shine and more contrast. The Ceramic bezel, introduced first on the Everose Daytona, was already known to be a major evolution. Now, its black polished surface is combined with the 3 different gold alloys that Rolex offers, meaning white (the most discreet of them all), Everose (on rubber instead of the slightly too classic leather strap) and yellow (surprisingly the most achieved and balanced version). This black Cerachrom bezel is also combined to real Panda dials, meaning that even the centre of the sub-counters (and not only the outer ring, like on the steel version) are painted in black. Again, less gold, more contrast, more visual balance. My favourite here is the yellow gold version, because of the black indexes and hands, which perfectly match with the rich colour of the 18k yellow gold.
Finally, there’s this Oysterflex bracelet, probably the most advanced and most comfortable rubber strap ever delivered with a watch (really, it is!). Since its introduction on the Yacht-Master, we expected (and hoped) to see it on other Rolex watches. Its addition to the Daytona is definitely a great move. As already explained, its quality and its construction are simply perfect – a superelastic metal blade over-moulded with high-performance black elastomer, offering the durability, flexibility and resistance – combined with a surprising sturdy internal structure – two very soft rubber bands on the internal part of the strap that stabilize the watch on the wrist. And there’s the look. Clearly, this rubber Oysterflex bracelet makes the Rolex Daytona much more modern and sportier, even though it is made out of precious metals.
Are these updates enough to make someone completely change his mind? In my case, yes they do. Will I buy a Rolex Daytona Gold / Ceramic / Oysterflex? Yes, and I can even tell that I’d go for the 116518LN (yellow gold). My only concern is about the price, justified for sure, yet at 25,250 Euro, it is not an option now (maybe later, after I saved enough money). The best combination, considering my budget and my tastes, would be the steel 116500LN on an Oysterflex bracelet – however, Rolex doesn’t sell this rubber band separately… With the 2016 Steel version and the 2017 Gold/Ceramic models, we can say that Rolex is heading in the right direction to make the Daytona more desirable than ever.
Technical Specifications – 2017 Rolex Daytona Gold / Ceramic / Oysterflex
- Case: 40mm diameter – polished 18K Everose, yellow or white gold – sapphire crystal on the dial side – screwed caseback – screwed pushers – ceramic bezel – 100m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre 4130, in-house, superlative chronometer certified, 5-year warranty – automatic integrated chronograph – 4Hz frequency – 72h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph
- Strap: Oysterflex rubber bracelet, Osyterclap folding buckle in gold, matching the case
- References: 116515LN (Everose gold), 116518LN (yellow gold) and 116519LN (white gold)
- Availability: In stores now
- Price: 25,250 Euro (yellow gold) – 26,350 Euro (Everose and white gold)