Sunday Morning Showdown: Rolex Daytona Reference 116500LN

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Sunday Morning Showdown: Rolex Daytona Reference 116500LN Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Robert-Jan Broer February 23, 2020 MIN READ Sunday Morning Showdown: Rolex Daytona Reference 116500LN

In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week it’s the turn of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN. Let the battle commence.

Last week, everyone imagined that Rob’s attempt to defend the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 series might cause him fatal damage. Surprisingly — and unexpectedly proving the worth of these polls — he lost out to Balazs by a slim margin. Just 54% of voters hated the much-maligned new kid on the block. An impressive result…

Today’s Daytona dates back to 1988 when Rolex decided to drop the manual wound Valjoux based movements and start using an automatic chronograph movement instead. The design of the Daytona changed as well. And not necessarily for the better…

The current model dates back to 2016 when Rolex updated their existing 116520 to today’s 116500LN. The steel bezel with a tachymeter scale was replaced with a ceramic one, and the new dials have larger contrasting rims on the sub-dials, giving them this little ‘panda’ edge. The in-house caliber 4130 remained, but Rolex updated it with a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and more strict regulation (±2 seconds a day). These changes have been done without changing the caliber number.

The Rolex Daytona is one of the world’s most famous chronographs. Perhaps also the one that has the highest demand. Getting a Daytona was already tough sledding before 2016. But since the 116500LN reference was introduced, it is virtually impossible to get one for retail price. For some, that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. For others, the sour taste has been around a lot longer than that…

Robert-Jan Broer

I am a bit of a conservative guy. Not red pants and Volvo V70 conservative, but I like classics. My entire watch collection mainly consists of classics. I have and have had my share of Rolex watches. I consider most of them to be classics. I’d even go as far as to call the majority of these Rolexes icons. To me, the Datejust is the archetype of the modern wristwatch. I’m sure the same is true for many people. The Submariner set the standard when it comes to diving watches (yeah, even though I know Blancpain’s role in developing a divers watch). The Day-Date is the typical ‘classic’ for everyone who made it and every wannabe who wants others to think he (or she) made it.

But the Daytona is not the typical sports chronograph for me though, it never was. I am not particularly keen on the hand-wound models. I feel they are very small and not that special to start with. Once upon a time, Gerard had one in his shop in The Hague, sitting on a display (the rare reference 6262) and nobody cared.

The newer model is much harder to miss.

Only a few people, in fact, noticed it was there. And this is not even 10 years ago. You’d never find that situation today. Aside from the fact that everyone knows the Daytona is incredibly sought-after, the newer model is much harder to miss. And thanks to the modern 40mm case and self-winding movement, I actually wanted one.

I was drawn to the Daytona because of the myth, not so much for the looks of it. I think that a lot of the craving for a Daytona comes from its reputation. In my opinion, its popularity must be underpinned by the simple rules of supply and demand. Why? Because the Rolex Daytona is not that great. Allow me to elaborate…

Where the Submariner and GMT-Master have these masculine looking cases (relatively thick with flat surfaces), the Daytona (and Yacht-Master, for example) have rounded cases. It looks very feminine. That’s not the reason for me to hate a watch, but I feel it is far away from the brand’s divers’ and travelers’ watches.

I have seen a lot of women wearing a Daytona, so I guess I am not too far away from the truth. But, again, that’s not a reason to dislike it. Remember, I used to have a steel & platinum Yacht-Master a few years ago which has a similar case shape (except for the pushers). The biggest issue I have with the Daytona is the dial.

There’s text everywhere.

It’s just plain wrong. First, it is way too busy. There’s a lot of writing on the dial. An optical ton of cluttering information is included. A chronograph should have a very clean dial, and this one is not because there’s text everywhere. More annoying though, is the positioning of the sub-dials at 9 and 3 o’clock. This is due to the caliber 4130 movement. In the case of the modern Rolex Daytona (since 2000), the center of the sub-dials is positioned higher (or above) the center pinion. I don’t have OCD, but this really annoys the hell out of me when wearing a Daytona (and believe me, I tried to like it).

Rolex Daytona

I want the center of the sub-dials to be aligned with the center pinion. Why did Rolex do this? The reference 16520 with the Zenith El Primero movement was much better, with correct aligning of the sub-dials. Who decided to just reposition the sub-dials when designing the in-house chronograph movement? If they had just made the rims a bit thinner, they could have moved the hour and minute counter a bit further down without touching the running seconds hand at 6 o’clock. Speaking of which, why did they swap the position of the running seconds and the hour counter?

Screw-down pushers on a chronograph. Really?

Last but not least: Screw-down pushers on a chronograph. Really? I used to have a Royal Oak Chronograph with exactly the same thing. You have to unscrew the pushers before you can actually use them. It bothered me a lot. If you quickly want to time something, you need to unscrew the pushers first. Well done.

So, Ben, I heard you like the Daytona. Why tell me why, to quote famous Dutch singer Anita Meijer?

Ben Hodges

Dutch pop tunes are not my forté, so I’m going to have to take your word on that, RJ. But your feelings on the Daytona? There’s no way I’m letting those pass without a serious rebuttal.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is a genuine icon of luxury sports watches.

I’ll start with the obvious. The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is a genuine icon of luxury sports watches. Even if you’re unfamiliar with watches, just putting the words “Rolex” and “Daytona” together sounds right. If I said, “Dude, check out the Rolex Daytona, it’s a dope watch”. Firstly they’d say, “Ben, why are you talking like that?” and secondly, they’d say, “that name sounds good.” Rolex is famed for the gradual evolution of models that can span eras. And this 3-6-9 racing chronograph has stuck to its guns and ascended to the top step. In many people’s minds, it is not just a good racing chronograph; it is the racing chronograph.

If we are doing pop music references, that 6262 sitting in the window can be likened to 1970s David Bowie. Making critically-acclaimed albums that sit unappreciated by the masses while they’re off listening to the canned pop music you referenced earlier. A successful reinvention in the 1980s with “Let’s Dance” reflects the change Rolex made by putting an automatic winding system in the Daytona. Suddenly, those unloved watches are not so unloved anymore. Consider the eponymous Paul Newman reference 6239 that hammered for $15.5million in 2017.

The Daytona was also Rolex’s most searched for model…

Going by Chrono24’s analytics of 2019 watch trends, the modern Rolex Daytona fits the archetypal watch that people are seeking out. The Daytona was also Rolex’s most searched for model on the largest online watch marketplace. How can you deny that level of universal appeal? 2016’s Cerachrom-adorned Daytona was an absolute home-run. The 116500LN is one of those planet-aligning watches Rolex releases once a generation. When these seminal references come along, we’d all better sit-up and listen. Here is a watch that combines everything enthusiasts demanded. And they sure are demanding.

Rolex_Daytona_Wristshot_2-1

Why are you so hung-up on the screw-down pushers anyway? I’ve heard some do not even realize the Daytona is a chronograph, they just like how it fits and sits on the wrist. It wears a bit smaller than people expect as the case-back diameter is actually 38.2mm. Add in that bold bezel and the subtle — or, as you call it, “feminine” — curvature of the case flank and the Daytona is a noticeable watch that can be worn comfortably.

Robert-Jan Broer: I don’t hear you disagreeing with me on the dial design flaws, Ben. And, most importantly, the points that you do make, have little to do with the watch itself. They are more to do with the high demand for it. “The demand is high, so it must be good,” is basically what you’re throwing at me. The fact that millions of people drink Nespresso doesn’t mean it is good espresso. Ask any Italian if you don’t believe me. I also don’t disagree with the high demand for this watch, it is definitely there, but that doesn’t really tell me much.

Ben Hodges: Unlike our politicians, I’m not one to argue facts. The chronograph sub-dials are indeed positioned above the center pinion. But you’re calling it a design flaw. I call it a trait of form following function.

Robert-Jan Broer: It is loved by a lot of people, including those who don’t have a clue about watches and are just energized by the words Rolex and Daytona, as you said. I know someone who owns a Porsche and when I asked him about the engine, he didn’t have a clue. Same stuff. People buy things because they are drawn in by the brand name or at least the ‘image’ of the brand. I don’t buy into that, and especially not with expensive things as Daytonas and Porsches.

People who buy a Daytona are not looking for a Speedmaster, they want a Daytona.

But, this is also the type of discussion I didn’t want to have, I wanted to talk about the watch itself, which has a design that comes with flaws. It took getting in on my own wrist to realize that. I also don’t want to compare it with a Speedmaster. That’s a very different watch, and people who buy a Daytona are not looking for a Speedmaster, they want a Daytona.

The thing I always find funny though is when people who are after a Daytona (for no other reasons that the brand name and myth) seem to get fanboy-ish whenever someone points out a different watch than a Daytona in the same price bracket (which, for a steel Daytona runs from the retail price of €12.500 to €25.000 on the grey market). It seems to become some kind of general opinion that this is, “Daytona money,” and I couldn’t care less about a general opinion. I want to spend money on something I happen to find cool, and a Daytona is not on my list of cool stuff.

Ben, please explain to me why you like this watch, besides the demand aspect. If you like its aesthetics, that’s fine of course, but somehow I still get the feeling you are more into the Daytona for other reasons. If you had €12,500 in your pocket today, would you really spend it on a steel Daytona?

Rolex-Daytona

Ben Hodges: If the opportunity came along, I’d certainly purchase my own Daytona. Perhaps not on the secondary market, especially in Australia. And you wonder why they moved the position of the running seconds to 6 o’clock? It makes perfect sense. Your eye draws downwards to read the time on the vertical axis, and tracks an event with the chronograph functions on the horizontal axis.

If you’re dismissing the dial due to the lines of text then, surely you should dismiss the Submariner you praise as well? In my view, it’s reassuring that Rolex proudly highlights their timekeeping achievements. In some way, the heavy text balances the tri-compax layout.

Robert-Jan Broer: The text on the Submariner is more balanced, as only the Rolex logo and wordmark are at 12 o’clock and the rest above the 6 o’clock marker, which is not possible on the Daytona. The result? A cluttered mess. Anyway, I am pretty sure this watch will get a 99% “rate it”, so I am quite alone with my unpopular opinion on the Daytona. But that’s fine. Buy what you love. Just don’t buy things because of what others might think or feel about it.

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About the author

Robert-Jan Broer

Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in… read more

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