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Thread: Rolex Daytona Full Review - With lots of pics

  1. #1

    Cool Rolex Daytona Full Review - With lots of pics

    Now that Iíve had this watch for a little while and worn it on a daily basis, I think a review of sorts is in order! I want this to be comprehensive so I might be repeating some of my thoughts from my first impressions post, please bear with it if youíve read the previous post!


    The Daytona was my first ever grail watch, where Iím defining a grail as something that is highly desirable but also probably unobtainable. Back in the early part of the last decade, that was how I viewed the Daytona.

    As I mentioned in my SOTC post a few weeks back, my journey into mechanical watches started when my parents had offered to buy me a watch for my 18th birthday. I had always liked watches but had only just begun to learn about mechanicals watches back then but even so I quickly fixated on the Daytona. However It had been only a few years since the 116520 had come out and not only was it far too expensive, there were waiting lists several years long. Anyway I asked my parents for a Tag Heuer Aquaracer chronograph, a watch that I found quite attractive (perhaps because of its vague resemblance to the Daytona). I dismissed the Daytona as something I would probably never have as I couldnít quite imagine myself ever spending that kind of money on a watch despite being a budding enthusiast.

    Things are different now I had become a full blown WIS and am fortunate enough to be in a position to afford some very nice watches. And so a decade on from when that journey began, things have come full circle and I finally have my Daytona!

    The choices:

    A lot of Daytona buyers agonise over whether to go for white or black. For me it was simple, I preferred the look of the strong contrast on the black 116520 with silver subdial ring; I didnít particularly like the silver rings against white on the white dial version.

    I do actually intend to acquire a white 16520 Zenith Daytona sometime in the future. I quite like the use of black sub-dial rings on the white dial vs silver on the current one. However I am increasingly thinking about prioritising a 6263 vintage Daytona with white panda dial and black bezel ahead of any other major watch purchases over the next 18 months or so (Or maybe ALS Datograph 1st gen??), and leave the Zenith Daytona for later. Anyway we shall see how this plan pans out.

    Given that the 116520 and the 16520 are fairly close in price why did I go for the current one ahead of the Zenith? I was in fact very torn between this and the Zenith, as recent as a couple of weeks ago when I did an SOTC, I put the Zenith on the wishlist rather than the 116520. However, the deciding factor was in the end I realised I wanted a modern Rolex with a modern bracelet that would provide the ultimate in a comfortable daily wear. The Zenith and the 6263 will hopefully come one day.

    The case and crystal:

    The case dimensions are quite ideal for me. With 40mm diameter and 12mm thickness it suits a wide range of wrist sizes. In todayís chronograph market it is becoming increasingly hard to find a high end sports chronograph with an in house movement that is both modest in diameter and thickness.

    The typical shape of the Oyster case, made of corrosion resistant and highly polishable 904L steel is supremely comfortable on the wrist. With this generation of Daytona in addition to the sides and the bezel, the top side of the lugs are also polished. Along with the reflective snailed sub-dial rings, the watch is fairly shiny. Screw down pushers further add to the overall visual impact. I think the 40mm size and the elegant thin lugs keeps it all from being too much although I guess not everyone is a fan of the polishing.

    The sapphire crystal is flat and not coated with AR. Its not a big deal but in combination with the shiny surfaces, it makes the watch quite challenging to photograph well!

    I love the drilled lugs on my 5513 for quick bracelet and strap changes but I think it wouldnít suit the more refined looks of the modern Daytona. Moreover I really donít feel like removing that bracelet anytime soon!

    The Bracelet:

    The bracelet as mentioned was a major draw in choosing this watch ahead of the 16520 Zenith powered Daytona. I have heard several claims that the current generation of Oyster bracelets are amongst the most comfortable and well made in the world. While I donít have extensive experience with a huge number of bracelet watches, this bracelet lives up to the hype and the claims are certainly believable. This thing is SOLID. Itís light years ahead of the flimsy, albeit charming, bracelet on my vintage 5513.

    All of the components exude quality. The spring loaded oyster lock clasp snaps shut with mechanical precision. Even the safety lock moves with oily smoothness and yet. Over the last few days Iíve found myself idly opening and shutting the clasp while the watch was on my wrist just for the pleasure of it The easy link extension which quickly adds a half link length is also a handy feature.

    Polished centre links are a bit controversial. Personally I donít mind them. The first few scratches will make me grit my teeth but once there are enough all over the watch I will be able to relax

    Overall I love the bracelet. It looks superb as well. Iíve always loved the look of Oyster bracelets all the way from the vintage models; although it seems a relatively simple design, the taper, the shape and size of the linksÖ it all adds up to that iconic Rolex look.

    Comfort and wearability:

    The case and bracelet attributes discussed above all lead to a supremely comfortable watch on the wrist. It is reassuringly solid but not heavy. The bracelet is a joy and the case hugs the wrist nicely.

    What is really great about this watch is that in addition to its comfort, it is incredibly versatile. The polished surfaces and centre links contribute to a dressier look that means the watch can be easily work at work. Being in a tropical country business casual is the order of the day but it looks much better with a suit that most other sports watches (not that I would most of the time, the GO Panograph deals with those duties!).

    On the flip side, being a chronograph, and with the overall sporty design and aggressive screw down pushers means that it works equally well with casual wear albeit in a slightly preppy way

    Instagram: @tempocalypse

  2. #2
    The dial:

    The dial is quite legible for reading time due to the lumed hands. However dark reflections can affect chronograph hands readability. That said the polished hands mean that even a slight change in angle would most likely lead to a change in reflection and the hands become more visible. Its more a pain for photography than actual usage.

    The silver sub-dial rings are both reflective and have a circular snailing pattern on them. The long and delicate looking arrow shaped chronograph seconds hand is also a particularly appealing feature for me.

    The main downside is that in an astonishing feat of miniaturisation, Rolex has managed to fit the entire text of War and Peace under 12 O’clock Alright I can live with it but I like the look of “Rolex, Oyster, Cosmograph” on the vintage ones.

    Far too many chronographs are ruined by poorly implemented date functions and I’m glad Rolex sticks with Daytona traditiona and doesn’t include a date. The slightly raised sub dials in the 4130 also means a nicely balanced and well proportioned layout.

    The dial itself is also inky black. Very black. The lack of AR coating on the crystal means that often the dial might be seen with slightly lower contrast. But when the watch is seen at certain angles without a reflection on the dial, the deep black against the shiny sub-dials create a stunning and deep contrast. The dial it seems to me is highly glossy too. Enough so that any reflections seen on it are mirrored closely with reflections on the crystal. As a result it creates the illusion that the reflections are appearing only on the crystal while the dial itself remains totally black. I don’t know if this is exceptional amongst black dial watches in general or not, but it certainly is very different compared to my Tag, Sub and Speedy (the latter two being matte).

    This leads to the question:

    The Chronograph:

    Unlike most other tri-compax chronographs, the 30 minute and 12 hour counters are on the same line at 3 and 6 respectively (raised slightly above the centre line).

    The pushers are very nice to use and actuate precisely with the “click” you would expect from a nice column wheel chrono as opposed to the dull “thud” you get from every lever actuated chrono I’ve tried. The action of the pushers is not as light as the GO Panograph I have but is nevertheless very nice. Initial starting requires slightly more force than subsequent stop/restarts during a timing run, perhaps its to do with engaging the vertical clutch? The vertical clutch mechanism ensures the smooth starting of the chronograph hand.

    Speaking of pushers, the Daytona for more than half its existence has had screw down pushers. I think it gives an aggressive sporty look but whats it like living with them?

    Although Rolex official literature advises to keep the pushers screwed down when not in use to ensure WR, the general consensus amongst users (including several threads on TRF) is that the pushers are indeed WR to 100m unscrewed. Actuating the pushers however compromise this rating to some extent and so the function of the screw down is to prevent accidental actuation. Thus if you find having to deal with the screws annoying, it would appear to be reasonable and safe to leave them unscrewed. This looks slightly less attractive though.


    This guy claims to have actuated the pushers underwater at 30m without problems and has gone to 60m unscrewed.

    It is quite easy to screw or unscrew the pushers, often a single finger tip is enough; you don’t need to tighten all the way for the pushers to be secured from actuation. That said although Initially I found myself moving between leaving them screwed and unscrewed, I now mostly leave them unscrewed.

    Next to the sub

    The Movement:

    In addition to the bracelet, the other major draw of the 116520 over the Zenith powered Daytona is the Rolex in house 4130 movement. Released in 2000, I’m pretty sure it was the first completely new automatic integrated chronograph movement since the 70s.

    Much has been written about this movement so I shall summarise the highlights:

    - 4Hz movement with a large free sprung balance wheel and blued Parachrom hairspring with excellent chronometric and antimagnetic properties. It also brought hacking to the Daytona.

    - Simplified chronograph works for reliability and serviceability, It has the fewest components of any automatic chronograph with only 290 parts compared to 400+ on the El Primero used in the previous Daytona.

    - Column wheel actuation for refined operation and a vertical clutch for coupling the chronograph. The vertical clutch is supposed to reduce or eliminate the impact of using the chronograph on time keeping and is supposed to reduce the impact on power reserve. Importantly addresses the main downside of VC by making it completely serviceable.

    - Simplified and combined mechanism for the minute and hour counters to increase space within the movement allowing the use of a larger mainspring and as a result a useful 72 hours of power reserve. (The mainspring can be removed without even removing the movement from the case)

    - Highly efficient bi-directional winding (68% more efficient than the el primero derived 4030)

    - As with other Rolex calibers, it is hidden under a solid casebook and is not decorated in a spectacular manner although it does seem to look very nice with beveled edges and sunburst finish on the rotor and plates.

    from Hodinkee
    “All of the 4130’s chronograph parts are on the movement side – only one eccentric (e.g., difficult) adjustment is required. The 4030 (El Primero), with three horizontal clutches spanning both sides of the movement, requires up to five different eccentric adjustments to function properly.”

    Over the last 15 years the 4130 has picked up a reputation for being idiot proof to service and highly reliable and easy to adjust. Even more than user facing benefits, the real breakthroughs with the 4130 are towards your watchmaker, indirectly benefiting the user.

    In addition to the pushers discussed earlier, you interact with the movement via the trip-lock crown. It is very pleasant to operate and wind manually and there is no play in the hands when setting time.


    The Daytona was my first grail and so I have to admit there was some trepidation: would it live up to the dream? Would it not be quite as special as I imagined given I already have the incredibly badass GO Panograph, a much higher category of chronograph?

    The answer quite simply is that it has met and indeed beaten my expectations. As a daily wear watch it fulfills my needs with consumate ease. It may not be perfect, and it may not be for everyone. But for me, it is close to sports watch Nirvana and its impact on me has only continued to grow and not diminish over the last week.

    Last edited by tempocalypse; May 6, 2015 at 07:38 PM.
    Instagram: @tempocalypse

  3. #3
    40mm and 12mm thick. That thing is perfect. I wish more chronos from other brands would follow this example

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  5. #4
    Excellent Post!! thanks TC! i really enjoy reading it

  6. #5
    What an excellent review! Great information, and photos. Your Daytona suits you very well. While I prefer the styling of the older, Zenith-powered Daytonas, this new one certainly has some enhanced mechanical features. Thanks for the great effort you put into this review!

    Eterna | Tudor | Seiko | Casio | G-Shock | Orient | Swatch | Mondaine | Zodiac (pre-Fossil) | Rolex | Wenger | Pulsar Time Computer | Omega | Timex | Bucherer | Citizen | Bulova | Glycine

  7. #6
    The Dude Abides Nokie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Northern CA
    Great review and pictures. Enjoy!

    Wish I could get over the polished center links but still have issues....
    "Either He's Dead, Or My Watch Has Stopped....."
    Groucho Marx

  8. #7
    Excellent review, excellent watch. I actually saw a white one in real life last night. I was surprised that it looked a little smaller than I thought on the wrist, but I think that is a good thing, given the alternative. The best way I can describe it is, it just exuded quality. Enjoy your fantastic watch, I know you will.

  9. #8
    Terrific review of a wonderful watch.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Steppy View Post
    40mm and 12mm thick. That thing is perfect. I wish more chronos from other brands would follow this example
    True that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iyonk View Post
    Excellent Post!! thanks TC! i really enjoy reading it
    Cheers Lyonk!

    Quote Originally Posted by popoki nui View Post
    What an excellent review! Great information, and photos. Your Daytona suits you very well. While I prefer the styling of the older, Zenith-powered Daytonas, this new one certainly has some enhanced mechanical features. Thanks for the great effort you put into this review!

    Thanks a lot Sherry, I very much enjoyed trying to put my thoughts together for this. And indeed the choice between the older one and the newer one was very tough for me. If looks were the one on only consideration, I think the older white dial would just about edge it for me...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nokie View Post
    Great review and pictures. Enjoy!

    Wish I could get over the polished center links but still have issues....
    Thanks! Yeah its definitely not for everyone. The PCL doesnt bother me but its not an actively positive draw for me either; I would be quite happy with a brushed bracelet.

    Quote Originally Posted by cabfrank View Post
    Excellent review, excellent watch. I actually saw a white one in real life last night. I was surprised that it looked a little smaller than I thought on the wrist, but I think that is a good thing, given the alternative. The best way I can describe it is, it just exuded quality. Enjoy your fantastic watch, I know you will.
    Thanks a lot! It does wear smaller than one would expect based off of pictures without a reference to scale. I'm not certain 18 year old me (who had worn gigantic quartz Storm watches I admit) would have been so keen on that aspect, I certainly appreciate the proportions now though.

    Quote Originally Posted by mlcor View Post
    Terrific review of a wonderful watch.
    Thanks for viewing mlcor!
    Instagram: @tempocalypse

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  12. #10
    Moderator gnuyork's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Marietta, GA
    I did a quick skim, but very much look forward to diving into to this later or tomorrow with coffee in the morning.

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