Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger

A True Survivor: The Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger”

As the world’s most famous luxury watch manufacturer, Rolex is very much a known quantity within the industry. Many of the brand’s models have been around for well over half a century, and the consistency of Rolex’s designs means that there are countless collectors and enthusiasts out there who are intimately familiar with its current catalog. However, in addition to the regular, standard-production models (namely those that you can see on the brand’s website), Rolex also produces a small handful of ultra-exclusive and unapologetically luxurious watches that are not part of its regular catalog, and that you won’t find listed anywhere in its official marketing materials. Watches such as the Rainbow Daytona, or the gem-encrusted Submariner and GMT-Master II models are perfect examples of these off-catalog watches that are exclusively sold to VIP customers; however, these are hardly the only ones that are out there, and the Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” represents one of the most luxurious and unconventional models to join the catalog within the last several years.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

History

The history of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona dates all the way back to 1963 with the launch on the reference 6239. However, the ultra-lavish Daytona watches covered with gemstones didn’t start appearing until the mid-1980s, during the era when Rolex was asserting itself as one the the world’s premier luxury manufacturers. Since that point in time, the Daytona collection has increasingly offered more luxury-oriented options, and while you have always been able to purchase a stainless steel model (well, maybe not at retail), you can now also get Daytona watches that are crafted from all three different shades of gold, along with two-tone variants and even solid platinum models. That said, the ref. 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” is even more luxurious than any of the Daytona watches that appear on Rolex’s website.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Although it was officially launched in 2021, the history of the reference 116589TBR technically starts in 2019, when Rolex unveiled its yellow gold counterpart (ref. 116588TBR) and first debuted the “Eye of the Tiger” design for the Daytona collection. With that in mind, Rolex’s history of producing ultra-lavish and in-your-face Daytona watches inspired by big jungle cats significantly pre-dates the various “Eye of the Tiger” models. The 2004 release of the “Leopard” Daytona ref. 116598SACO — with its leopard print dial and matching leather strap — is typically the first model that comes to mind whenever someone thinks of feline-inspired, gem-set Daytonas.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Two years after the original “Eye of the Tiger” Daytona made its inaugural appearance in yellow gold, Rolex quietly released the reference 116589TBR in 2021 as a follow-up model, which swapped out the yellow gold components of its predecessor for equivalents crafted from 18k white gold. Just like all of the previous big cat-inspired Daytona watches, the ref. 116589TBR was an off-catalog release, and it never formally appeared among the rest of the Daytona collection on Rolex’s official website. With much of the enthusiast community fixated on the new Explorer watches, many people completely missed the release of one of the most luxurious Rolex Daytona models currently in production.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Design Details

Although the reference 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” is anything but your normal everyday Rolex, it is still a Daytona at its core, and it therefore features the same fan-favorite Oyster case that measures 40mm in diameter by 12.5mm thick, with 20mm wide lugs and a flat sapphire crystal protecting its dial. Similarly, just like other current-production Daytona models, the ref. 116589TBR features a Triplock crown, a solid caseback, and a pair of screw-down chronograph pushers, which collectively help provide it with 100 meters of water resistance, despite its overtly lavish appearance. Additionally, just like other solid gold Rolex Daytona watches that are fitted with Oysterflex bracelets, the ref. 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” features small lug-hoods that play the role of end-links and fill the gap between the edge of the case and where the bracelet attaches to the lugs. 

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger
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However, this is more or less where the visual similarities to the standard-production models end, and the dial and bezel fitted to the reference 116589TBR are unlike anything else you will find within Rolex’s current lineup. The “Eye of the Tiger” nickname comes from the watch’s dial, which features a striking motif consisting of a diamond-paved surface punctuated by black lacquer tiger stripes. The silver colored sub-dials feature black contrasting rings and remain largely unadorned, while the hour markers themselves are represented by additional brilliant-cut diamonds, with applied white gold Arabic numerals at the 15, 30, and 45 minute markers. Additionally, unlike the the normal Rolex Daytona models, the reference 116589TBR swaps out the usual tachymeter scale bezel for one that is set with 36 flawless trapeze-cut diamonds, and this immediately gives it an ultra-lavish appearance that is further elevated by its unmistakably opulent tiger stripe diamond dial.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Inner Workings

Powering the Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” is the brand’s in-house caliber 4130 automatic chronograph movement, which is the exact same caliber that can be found throughout the rest of the current-production Rolex Daytona range. Originally introduced in 2000 as Rolex’s first in-house chronograph, the 44-jewel cal. 4130 runs at a frequency of 28,800vph and offers users a 72-hour power reserve with chronometer-certified timekeeping performance of +/-2 seconds per day. An integrated chronograph that features both a column wheel and a vertical clutch, the Caliber 4130 also includes Rolex’s proprietary blue Parachrom hairspring for increased resistance to magnetism and temperature fluctuations. It is often regarded as one of the best and most reliable mechanical chronograph movements in modern history. 

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Versus the Competition

If you have your heart set on a gem-encrusted, big-cat themed Daytona but feel that the ref. 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” isn’t quite feline-inspired enough, then the Rolex Daytona 116598SACO “Leopard” is the perfect alternative that is arguably even more on-the-nose when it comes to its design inspiration. Not only do you get a leopard print dial, but the ref. 116598SACO also comes with a cognac-colored sapphire bezel and a matching leopard print strap for an overall appearance that is one of the most unique and unexpected designs that Rolex has ever put forward.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Conversely, if you want a mega-exclusive, gem-encrusted Daytona that isn’t inspired by a large jungle cat, then the Rolex Daytona 116595RBOW “Rainbow” may be the perfect timepiece for you. Arguably the single most famous off-catalog Rolex model, the ref. 116595RBOW makes an even bigger statement on the wrist due to its rainbow gradient sapphire bezel, diamond-set lugs, and matching rainbow colored baguette hour markers.

Lastly, if you like the general appearance and configuration of the reference 116589TBR but want something far less ostentatious (and expensive), then the Rolex Daytona 116519LN is an excellent alternative, as it essentially the exact same 18k white gold watch but without the flashy diamond-set bezel and in-your-face “Eye of the Tiger” dial. 

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Personality

The Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” is for the person who wants a timepiece that is overly luxurious and instantly recognizable, yet who also wants something that they aren’t likely to ever spot on another person’s wrist. The ref. 116589TBR isn’t your everyday, goes-with-everything timepiece, and the person who buys one of these probably already has a collection of at least several other high-end watches. Given its striking dial design and ample use of diamonds, the Rolex Daytona ref. 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” is objectively an in-your-face statement piece, yet it also happens to be a watch that a lot of people may not even know exists.

Rolex Daytona 116589TBR "Eye of the Tiger
Rolex Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger

Final Thoughts 

Slightly whimsical, yet expertly crafted to the highest possible standards, the Daytona 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” represents the pinnacle of Rolex as both a watchmaker and luxury brand. Rolex is best known for its classic, timeless, and relatively conservative designs, yet the exclusive off-catalog watches that it produces are proof that the manufacturer is capable of far more than just creating purpose-built stainless steel sports watches. While they may never appear on Rolex’s official website, watches such as the ref. 116589TBR “Eye of the Tiger” can almost be seen as Rolex’s creative outlet, where the brand is free to lean into its artistic side and produce something truly striking and unconventional, without any consideration of production costs or the resulting retail price.

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