As large as Rolex is, the powerhouse has only a dozen or so core models, each coming with a limited number of dial variants. You might see different sizes or slightly different dial colors, but generally speaking, Rolex keeps its collections tight. They get it right with the models they offer, and those offerings satisfy their massive following of dedicated enthusiasts. For 95% of collectors, this is fantastic; the brand knows what the customer wants and delivers just that. The other 5%, however, are looking for something different. When everyone is wearing roughly the same Rolex without much variation, a small percentage of collectors seek something a bit more individualized and unique. That’s where the Rolex Daytona 116508 with a meteorite dial comes in. Offering iconic design language paired with a unique-to-the-watch dial, the meteorite Daytona gives you as close to a one-of-one piece unique from Rolex as you can get. It’s that special.
The Rolex Daytona truly needs no introduction. Introduced in 1963, the model has taken many forms over the years. We’ve covered the Daytona extensively in the past, so rather than going into the entire history, let’s review the significant recent Rolex Daytona changes in modern(ish) times. The Rolex Daytona layout as we now know it was first presented with the reference number 16520 that was produced from 1988 until roughly 2000 (though the Zenith powered Daytonas from this era had their running seconds register at 9 o’clock as opposed to the current position at 6). Following the introduction of the in-house caliber 4130 that powered the ref. 116520, Rolex went on to introduce ceramic bezels on the 2011 Everose gold (rose gold) version of the Daytona. Soon after, ceramic bezels were added to the steel models as well and the ref. 116500LN was born.
While the steel pieces now feature a Cerachrom bezel, most of the full gold models of the Daytona preserve the metal bezel aesthetic, and that is the look that we see on the 116508, fashioned from 18k yellow gold. The particular variant presented here with its meteorite dial was launched in 2021 and remains rather rare in comparison with the more conventional (and yet still difficult to obtain) ceramic variants.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116508 is crafted from solid 18k yellow gold, including a gold Oyster bracelet with polished center and brushed outer links in the style of many other watches on the Oyster bracelet. It’s a bit more of an elegant finish than the fully brushed utilitarian look of some of the other professional models, like the Submariner. Like all Daytonas, the 116508 has a screw-down crown and pushers for added water resistance.
Matching the case material, the hour markers and hands are yellow gold and and are lume-filled. The tachymeter bezel has black lettering set into the gold bezel. Of course, the focal point of this timepiece is its dial, crafted from a solid slice of the Gibeon meteorite (a meteorite that was discovered near the town of Gibeon, Namibia in 1836) and outfitted with a reverse panda dial with black sub-dials. The layout of this dial was influenced by the “Big Red” Daytonas of old, and thus, we see the large red “Daytona” lettering placed above the 6 o’clock sub register.
The meteorite dial is subtle but incredibly attractive, and because each slice of meteorite is different, the texture varies from piece to piece (making each piece essentially unique). In my estimation, if you want to add some flash without the brashness of diamonds, meteorite dials are the perfect solution. To achieve this dial effect, Rolex cuts thin slices of the meteorite stone, polishes them, and then treats the substrate with an acid to help enhance the coloring.
The Rolex Daytona 116508 with meteorite dial is powered by the in-house automatic self-winding caliber 4130 chronograph movement. The reliable movement was developed as an updated and improved version of the previous caliber 4030 which had been Zenith based.
In terms of reliability, it’s undoubtedly a workhorse movement, and it was an important milestone in the evolution of Rolex watches from third party modified calibers to full vertical integration on production. While the 4130 is not the centerpiece of this watch, it is noteworthy on its own.
Getting back to the specs of the calibre, the 4130 is equipped with 72-hours of power reserve, which was quite advanced for 2000 when it was originally introduced. Also of note, this piece features the Parachrom hairspring utilized in many modern Rolex movements, which provides a great deal of added shock resistance. The most recent iteration of the Daytona features the new caliber 4131 which comes with a number of updates including Paraflex shock absorbers, a Chronergy escapement, and several aesthetic improvements designed specifically for the new platinum Daytona which features a sapphire caseback for the first time in the history of the model.
Versus the Competition
Arguably the greatest competition for the meteorite dial Rolex Daytona ref. 116508 outside of Rolex’s own catalog is the Platinum Omega Speedmaster Caliber 321. Introduced in 2019, this new 321 Speedmaster recreates the iconic movement down to the smallest of details. This edition directly preceded the 321 Ed White Speedmaster that has since become incredibly popular. The platinum variant linked above is incredibly rare, and only the savviest collectors are even aware that Omega ever made it. This model came outfitted with, you guessed it, meteorite sub-dials. Sure to be a future collector’s item, I think that a strong case can be made for this watch both as a result of its historical significance and modern details such as the exhibition caseback.
Next, I’d look at some of the other iterations of the meteorite Daytona. The model was produced with full white gold construction, a white gold case, ceramic bezel, and an Oysterflex rubber strap, and also in full rose gold. It’s quite interesting to note how much subtler the white gold Daytona versions are, while the yellow and rose gold variations have the effect of enhancing the details of the meteorite dial. The texture of the meteorite captures some of the surrounding gold tones, which slightly alters the hues of the dial.
Finally, another interesting alternative to the meteorite Daytona is Rolex’s Mother of Pearl dial Daytonas. One variant of the MOP ref. 116508 even has diamond hour markers. Some find the square settings that the diamonds sit in to be a bit clunky, and I personally agree, but this is a matter of preference. To me, the more conventional indices of the meteorite 116508 are a bit less garish. It’s a slightly different look, but it achieves the same effect, providing an elevated dial aesthetic alongside the classic Daytona design language.
We touched on this briefly earlier on, but the ideal collector for a luxury watch like the 116508 meteorite is the person that wants the classic, iconic (as overused as the word is, it really does apply to the Daytona) aesthetic of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, but with a bit more of an individualistic twist. To me, this is what collecting should be about. It’s true that this is a hyped watch, and that many want the piece purely because others like it, but on the more romantic side, having a watch that is unique to you is quite enticing. Taking what normally is a mass produced item and incorporating an organic element adds a level of appeal that I feel conventional models, as great as they are, sometimes lack.
The Daytona is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable men’s watches in the field right now. That has its advantages and disadvantages. With the Rolex Daytona meteorite ref. 116508, you get all of the iconic aspects of the Rolex Daytona, with just a bit more panache and visual interest than a standard stainless steel variant. Plus, with this piece, you get to say you walk around with a chunk of meteorite on your wrist. How many collectors can claim that?