Daytona International Speedway: The inspiration behind the legendary name Rolex Daytona


by Nils Rau

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February 15. 2019 - by Nils Rau

In a few weeks, the Daytona International Speedway will celebrate its 60th birthday. The course is not only a legend among the racetracks, but also the inspiration behind the name of the Rolex Daytona. To mark the anniversary, we’ll be taking a closer look at both of the legends - race track and luxury watch. Read ahead to discover the exciting details.


Inseparable: Daytona Beach and Racing

The Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, but the origin of the racetrack is much older: Very few know that the 37 km long beach at Daytona Beach was already open to cars in the early 20th century. This is how the beach became famous for testing motor vehicles - at that time still with steam-powered engines. Daytona Beach quickly became synonymous with car racing and speed records. Finally, in 1902, the Daytona Beach Road Course opened its doors - a race track that officially ran over a section of the beach.

The popularity of the Daytona Beach Road Course grew year after year. In the early 1950s, Bill France Sr, co-founder of the NASCAR, recognised that the circuit could no longer cope with the growing crowds. With his demand to build a super speedway, he brought the Daytona International Speedway into discussion for the first time.

A legendary race track for a legendary location

The ground-breaking ceremony for the new race track took place in November 1957. Only 15 months later, on 22 February 1959, the very first race took place on the newly opened Daytona International Speedway: It was also the debut race of the NASCAR Daytona 500 Series, a 500 mile race that has been held once a year at Daytona ever since. NASCAR played a significant role in the rapid development of racing at Daytona Beach: the association was founded in 1948 and took the fascination of motorsport to a whole new level.

The Daytona International Speedway has become an integral part of racing. The location currently offers space for 101,500 spectators and is the venue for numerous popular races, especially from the NASCAR series. By far the most important race is still the historic Daytona 500 race. In addition to the oval circuit, the circuit also offers an optional indoor circuit. 

Daytona Rising

In 2013, the Daytona International Speedway received its first major refurbishment. The name: Daytona Rising - the resurrection of Daytona. 400 million US dollars were invested in the renovation of the event facility. By way of comparison, the construction of the racing complex at the end of the 1950s cost 3 million US dollars. In the process, the grandstands were renovated and the seats widened. In addition, there were 60 luxury suites, numerous stands for drinks, snacks and fan articles as well as a modern ambience.

The combination of Rolex and motorsport

It is no secret that the Swiss luxury manufacturer Rolex has always maintained a close relationship with research, art and sport. This naturally also applies to motor sports: Rolex has been involved in motor and high-speed sports since the 1930s. The manufacturer's first chronograph, reference 6234, was launched in 1955. This watch did not yet have a name. On the dial there was only a writing explaining the function of the watch: Chronograph.

Of course, the commitment of Rolex SA did not stop at the legendary Daytona International Speedway. It is therefore not surprising that Rolex became the official timekeeper in Daytona Beach in 1962. From now on, all lap times were set with Rolex timepieces. On the occasion of this special event, the Rolex chronograph was given the name "Daytona" just one year later, in 1963.

Rolex Daytona: the legend lives on

The first Daytona model, the reference 6239, is one of the most coveted vintage models of the Swiss company today. However, this was not always the case. The Rolex Daytona was not particularly popular in the 1960s. In contrast to its competitors, who already equipped their watches with modern automatic movements, the Daytona still had a manual winding mechanism, which made the sports watch almost look a bit bland.

It was only with the introduction of the reference 16540 in 1988 that Rolex gave an automatic caliber to the Daytona. The demand increased promptly, but Rolex could hardly keep up with the production, because the movements were made by Zenith and Rolex only received a limited number of movements. This bottleneck led to the Daytona becoming a rare and accordingly much sought-after luxury watch.

Even with the 116520 follow-up references in 2000 and most recently 116500 in 2016, the myth did not abate. The Rolex Daytona is still a rare and desirable watch today. The waiting lists for the current Daytona are so long that there is hardly any chance of receiving one at list price. If you look at the authentic history of the watch, you will see that it is absolutely understandable considering the charm of the Rolex Daytona. 

Nils Rau

by Nils Rau

Nils is a guest author for the CHRONEXT Journal. He currently dedicates most of his free time to wristwatches – be that talking with friends, browsing through blogs and online magazines, or keeping an eye on the timepiece stock exchange. When he is not contributing to the CHRONEXT Journal, he works as a junior lawyer in Northern Germany. His articles focus on brands, trends, as well as the philosophical questions within the world of fine watches.

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