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W102659 USA 15

Size: W227 x H305mm

m.chen

1st

W102659 USA 15

Size: W227 x H305mm

m.chen

1st

T

hinking about it, you can understand why da Vinci’s Mona Lisa wears a long-suffering smile. She survived theft in 1911 by a demented Italian nationalist named Vincenzo Peruggia intent on repatriating her to their homeland. During the search, police detained and questioned the poet Guillaume Apollinaire because he called for the Louvre to be “burnt down”. No thanks to Apollinaire, the Mona Lisa was eventually recovered after Peruggia misguidedly attempted to hock “La Gioconda” to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In 1956, the painting was doused with acid by a vandal, and later that year, a Bolivian national, undoubtedly being weaned off his nation’s famous marching powder, flung a rock at her. In 1974, a handicapped Japanese woman, upset at the disabled policies at Tokyo’s National Museum, made like a latter-day Zorro and tagged her with red spray paint. Finally, in 2009, a Russian woman, enraged at having her citizenship wisely denied by the French government, flung a mug at her. Yet all of these acts pale in comparison to the one enacted during the filming of Quentin Tarantino’s celluloid masterpiece Kill Bill. Its flawless blood-soaked narrative, is irreconcilably fractured by the appearance of a fake Rolex Daytona chronograph upon Uma Thurman’s wrist. For legions of watch fans, an insult heaped upon the Rolex Daytona is an insult upon one of the most legendary timepieces of all time. Indeed, the three syllables “Day-toh-na” are revered everywhere from the farthest reaches of Africa to deepest, darkest Napoli (where wearing one in public can mean having your hand separated from your body). Why is the Rolex Daytona such a revered icon, the horological equivalent, as it were, of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? Like the famous painting, it is a supreme act of aesthetics that has never been surpassed in human culture. But looking back at the history of the Rolex Daytona, there is one particular model, the manual-wound 6265 with screw-down pushers made from 1970 until 1988, which represents the perfect alignment between classic design and supreme functionalism.

writing time, making history It’s been almost 50 years since the birth of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, but the allure of this iconic sports watch shows no sign of abating By wei koh

W102659-Watch Culture - Rolex Daytona CK KL CK SF KL CY KL CK.indd 118-119

Birth of the rolex Cosmograph Daytona Rolex was actually a late entrant in the race to produce the first wristwatch chronographs, opting to focus efforts on its already popular Oyster Perpetual, though the company did manufacture a few monopusher chronographs in the early ’30s, albeit with little commercial success. Serious chronograph development would have to wait till later in the decade, and according to Rolex historian James Dowling, that happened at a rather rapid rate. In a 1934 catalog, there were precisely zero time writers, whereas the 1937 catalog showed seven different chronograph models, all using Valjoux movements. Of these, the Zerograph model 3642 featuring the

Oyster crown was the most interesting. But Rolex’s chronograph models didn’t quite catch on, and it wasn’t until the late ’50s that Rolex created a watch, the 6238, that struck a chord with consumers. The 6238, also known among collectors as the “pre-Daytona” chronograph because it would form the design underpinning of the legendary Daytona, is a three-counter chronograph with a tachymetric scale printed on the dial, and its subdials match the hue of the dial. As with all Rolex chronographs, its value has climbed steadily, though it still hadn’t matched that of the model that would soon replace it. The birth of the Cosmograph came as a response to the growing popularity of Omega’s Speedmaster, which placed its tachymeter on the watch bezel, both for visual clarity and to create a modern look. Ever pragmatic, Rolex responded in kind. The first modern Rolex Cosmograph Daytona model 6239 was introduced in 1960. It was, simply put, a spectacular-looking watch with a beautiful, clean expanse of dial framing three clearly marked subdials — two related to chronograph elapsed minutes and hours, and one to show continuous seconds; with the tachymeter scale engraved on the bezel instead of the perimeter of the dial. The 6239 was followed shortly afterwards by the 6241. While the former sported a solid steel bezel, the latter had a steel ring fitted with an acrylic insert. Initially, these watches were known as “Cosmographs”, doubtlessly to tap into the global interest in space or “cosmic” exploration. But because of the watch’s popularity among North American auto enthusiasts, it was soon dubbed the “Daytona” after Florida’s rich Daytona Beach motor-racing scene. As such, the name “Daytona” began to appear on dials around the hour counter, while the word “Cosmograph” was relegated to the line under the Rolex logo. The early models of the Daytona were available in color variants, which saw them either in black with white registers or cream with black registers; both of which had square markers within the registers. As handsome as these watches were, they shared one major drawback. While Rolex had made its reputation with the highly water-resistant Oyster case, both 6239 and 6241 were susceptible to intrusion by water. The watches’ crowns used Rolex’s famous screw-down design, but their chronograph pushers used simple internal gaskets as sealing mechanisms, which proved somewhat problematic. Because of Rolex’s lofty reputation for water resistance, Cosmograph customers often jumped to the erroneous conclusion that their timepieces were water resistant as well. After numerous watches were sent in for service with water inside their cases, Rolex realized that it had a problem on its hands. And as a result, in 1965, Rolex created the first “Oyster” chronograph with screw-down pushers, the 6240, which, for the first time, provided true water resistance to this vulnerable area.

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W102659 USA 15

Size: W227 x H305mm

m.chen

1st

W102659 USA 15

Size: W227 x H305mm

m.chen

1st

w a t c h c u lt u r e

ThE 6263 aNd 6265 dayTONas wERE sOmEThINg Of a REVELaTION TO spORTs ENThUsIasTs, fOR ThE fIRsT TImE cOmbININg ThE pRacTIcaL adVaNTagE Of ELapsEd TImINg abILITy wITh a TRULy shOck- aNd waTER-REsIsTaNT casE

evolution: improving performanCe anD resilienCe In 1970, Rolex introduced the 6263 (which featured an acrylic bezel) and the 6265 (which featured a steel bezel), perhaps its most iconic Daytona models. Both models featured the screw-down pushers first introduced in the 6240. They were initially rated to 50 meters for water resistance, but a decade later, the rating was revised to 100m in a display of confidence in this system. The screw-down pushers also prevented the chronograph from being accidentally activated while underwater and protected the delicate chronograph mechanism from direct shock resulting from accidental blows to the pushers. Both the 6263 and 6265 models were also the first to be equipped with the new, larger, Triplock winding crown. The 6263 and 6265 Daytonas were something of a revelation to sports enthusiasts, for the first time combining the practical advantage of elapsed timing ability with a truly shock- and waterresistant case. They used a slightly hot-rodded version of the Valjoux caliber 72 used in the 6239 and 6241. This new movement, the manual-wound caliber 727, featured an increase in vibrational speed from 18,000 vibrations per hour to 21,600vph, elevating the watches’ ability to divide time from one-fifth to one-sixth of a second. The faster speed also gave the watches better autonomy from shocks. Interestingly, a slightly different version of the caliber was used in gold versions of the 6263 and 6265. This movement was regulated to an even higher level and was chronometer certified. Accordingly, the gold models bear the words “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” on their dials, and their status as Rolex’s first-ever chronometer-certified chronographs makes these watches particularly collectible.

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teChniCal supremaCy: exCellenCe in movements The manual-wound, water-resistant Cosmographs were manufactured until 1988, when they were replaced with a larger, automatic Oyster Cosmograph Daytona using a Zenith El Primero movement. The latter not only has the distinction of being the fastest-beating chronograph movement oscillating at 36,000vph, bringing with it the aforementioned benefits of a faster-beating balance and the ability to divide time to one-tenth of a second, it is also an integrated movement, central to which is the column-wheel and a central rotor assembled on a ball bearing. Yet Rolex wouldn’t be Rolex if it didn’t approach technology with an eye on its durability. Due to its high frequency of oscillation, traditional lubrication methods were inadequate for the El Primero. To counter that, Zenith engineers developed an ingenious system of dry lubrication, which added robustness to El Primero’s high performance. But in 1999, when Zenith became part of LVMH, Rolex surprised the watch world by producing an in-house caliber — in essence, truly internalizing an icon. The caliber 4130, the world’s second modern vertical-clutch-activated chronograph caliber quickened heartbeats at the 2000 BaselWorld. In addition to dial refinements, the watch’s coupling system eliminated chronograph backlash. This latest variant continues to prove the icon’s popularity with long waiting lists for the stainless-steel Daytona. H

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W102659 USA 15

Size: W227 x H305mm

m.chen

1st

W102659 USA 15

Size: W227 x H305mm

m.chen

1st

w a t c h c u lt u r e

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in stainless steel featuring the caliber 4130 in-house movement

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Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116520 in stainless steel

pasT aNd fUTURE: ThE 6265 ROLEX dayTONa fEaTURINg scREw-dOwN pUshERs aNd ITs dIREcT dEscENdaNT, ThE cONTEmpORaRy ROLEX dayTONa fEaTURINg ThE caLIbER 4130 aUTOmaTIc VERTIcaL-cLUTch chRONOgRaph, pOssIbLy ThE mOsT pERfEcT spORTs waTch EVER cREaTEd by maN

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Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6265 in stainless steel (left) and 18K yellow gold (right)

7/16/10 4:19:56 PM

WRITINGTIME_MAKINGHISTORY_k0vczyvo  

It’s been almost 50 years since the birth of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, but the allure of this iconic sports watch shows no sign of abati...

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