What if you could own a watch that had the design of a vintage Paul Newman Daytona with the durability and accuracy of a modern Rolex? Enter the Rolex Daytona Project X DS7 and DS8. Project X is a UK based watch customizer that works to fulfill any watch collector’s wildest dreams, for the right price. They modify high-end watches from brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe intending to improve upon the already rigorous standards set by the watch brands.
Their goal is simple—to enhance the design and durability as well as provide an offering that is different from what’s already out there. Though they intend to improve the watches, watch customization is a polarizing topic in the watch world. Considering that watch guys are often also car guys I wonder why this type of “resto-mod” approach to watches isn’t more celebrated. In some respects watches like these Project X Daytonas are identical in method to a resto-mod custom car, and in other ways they’re the inverse. These watches look classic on the outside, but are powered by modern Rolex internals. That said, these watches start as modern examples that are modified to look vintage, whereas a resto-mod starts its life as a classic car before being fitted with a modern engine and running gear.
When looking at Project X watches I’m reminded of Singer Designed Porsche’s. Singer’s slogan is “Restored, Reimagined, Reborn” the brand is obsessed with creating the ultimate version of the cars they restore. They aren’t beholden to the notion that originality is sacred—when it’s disclosed and in the pursuit of betterment. The two Daytonas we’re going to talk about here give you all the benefits of a modern watch while also providing the charm and uniqueness that eludes a standard modern Daytona.
The Project X Daytona Series 7 or DS7 is based on the manual wind Valjoux Daytonas from the ’60s and ’70s. The design is instantly recognizable as being inspired by the now famous Paul Newman Daytona—specifically the reference 6263. To achieve this look, the modern 116520 Rolex Daytona base has to go through quite a few modifications. Some of these are obvious like the addition of the custom black bakelite bezel and the removal of the crown guards.
Other changes are more subtle but go a long way in contributing to the vintage feel. For example, the update to “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” text at 12 and the font updates in the subdials. My favorite touch though is the enameling of the chronograph and subdial hands. Limited to only 28 examples, this watch is far rarer than the watch that inspired it.
The Rolex Daytona Project X DS8 series is a direct result of the unprecedented success of the Project X DS7. This model is based again on the Rolex 116520 with similar modifications as the DS7. Where it differs is in the specific references to which its design pays homage. The DS8 is a tribute to references 6263, 6239, and 6265. It even includes two bezels that allow the owner to switch up exactly which vintage model they want to emulate. The original steel bezel—like the 6239 and 6265—and a modified black bakelite bezel to match the 6263, effectively giving you two watches in one.
The dial of the Project X DS8 has all the hallmarks that make the original Paul Newman so sought after. The red seconds track broken up by the “T SWISS T”, the Art Deco font used on the subdial numerals, and then, of course, the red “Daytona” over the six o’clock subdial. This watch wouldn’t work without great attention to detail and this is really illustrated in the dial coloring. The black, white, and red all have this slightly faded hue to them that impossibly matches some of the best examples of vintage Paul Newmans. As always with watches, it’s the small details that we enjoy the most. This model like the DS7 is limited to only 28 examples.
These two watches offer the opportunity to live out what was a dream scenario before they were released in 2015. The Paul Newman Daytona is a legendary watch that has shaped the modern watch world as much as any other timepiece. If I’m honest though, I can’t see a scenario where I buy one, and even then I can’t imagine being able to enjoy it. Should however the opportunity for a DS7 or DS8 come up, well then I would have a hard time turning it down as well as a hard time wearing much else.