Rolex has a reputation for being an overly conservative watch company. Every year when they announce the latest updates to their watch lines, the enthusiast community bemoans the minor updates and begs the brand to take more risks. However, while the brand does have a rigid design language, I think the criticism that the brand is risk-averse is unfair. The watch we have here is a perfect example of this. This baby blue “Beach” Daytona reference 116519 in white gold on a matching lizard leather strap could not be less “boring.” It is an assault on the status quo and a must-have for any die-hard Rolex collector.
While the Daytona is now widely loved and worn by everyone from Real Estate agents to your boss’s boss, the Rolex Daytona is, first and foremost, a racing watch. It was made for motorsport professionals and was named after the famous Daytona Beach in Florida, where numerous land speed records were broken. Introduced in 1963, the reference 6239 Daytona was the first Rolex chronograph with a tachymeter bezel that allowed its wearer to measure the speed of an object. The watch gained traction in the racing world but did not gain widespread acceptance until later, thanks in part to a handsome actor/race car driver named Paul Newman. Once the watch was given the stamp of approval from a ruggedly good-looking heartthrob, it started to become much more popular, go figure.
Over the years, the model has seen various updates and has become one of the most desirable watch models in the world. Standard production steel models trade for a substantial premium on the secondary market, and rare models like this one have become are insanely collectible. This white gold example with a turquoise blue dial was released in the early 2000s as a part of a low production special series of Daytonas that would go on to be nicknamed the “Beach” Daytonas. The series consisted of four loudly colored models, two mother of pearl dials in yellow and pink, a green hardstone dial, and this blue lacquer one.
Despite obviously being a special Daytona, this watch retains many of the traits that made the Daytona a modern classic. The 40mm white gold oyster case is identical to the other early metal bezeled early 2000’s Daytonas, which is to say it’s nearly perfect. The curves of the case are elegant and timeless, a result of Rolex mercifully sparing the Daytona from the “super case” trend that the brand is just now walking back. However, while the case design is great, it gets massively overshadowed by the dial and strap.
The Beach Daytona series, in general, are very reminiscent of the Stella dial Day-Dates Rolex released in the 1970s, but of the Beach series, this model most reminds me of the Stella collection because of the lacquer dial. It’s perfectly smooth and reflective and gives off a perpetually wet look. Incidentally, the use of lacquer instead of, say, mother of pearl is also what makes this my favorite model in the Beach collection. The blue on the dial is a bit closer to a robin’s egg or a baby blue than a Tiffany blue, but like Tiffany jewelry, this watch actually does come with a matching blue box and document folio, which is a nice touch that you don’t often see from Rolex.
Another detail on the dial that sets this watch apart from most other Daytonas is the white gold Roman numeral hour indices complete with a watchmaker’s four for visual balance. Roman numerals are not very common on sports watches in general, though we have seen them on other precious metal Daytonas. Overall I think they work really well on this timepiece. The larger size of the white gold indices as compared to baton markers helps add a bit of balance to the loud blue background.
However, of all the details on this watch, I think the blue lizard strap is the one that really drives home the theme. This watch would be much tamer and probably more widely appealing if it was on a bracelet, and that’s what makes the strap so great. It is unapologetically bold. Scaled leather straps are already a bit showy, but this bright blue one is straight-up mob boss gaudy. You just don’t see leather straps dyed this vibrantly very often, and it adds a level of flamboyance that I really dig. What’s even better is that due to this watch’s excellent condition, the strap has essentially no fading in color and still matches the dial perfectly.
The loud exterior of the watch is certainly the star of the show, but the movement inside is actually pretty significant as well. This Daytona uses the caliber 4130, which is one of Rolex’s most notable watch movements. At the time of its introduction, it was the first new in-house movement from Rolex in fifty years, and it was also the brand’s first-ever in-house chronograph movement as they moved away from decades of using modified Zenith movements. The 4130 was a huge step up from its Zenith predecessors in multiple ways. It is thinner, easier to service, more accurate, and more efficient than the previous calibers, ultimately leading to a much better experience for the wearer.
Versus The Competition
This baby blue Beach Daytona, while rare, slots nicely into a popular category of watches right now which is bold, precious metal sports watches. Here are a few alternatives to consider before pulling the trigger on this fun-loving Daytona.
Consider this white gold Patek Philippe Aquanaut. While this is a standard production watch, it’s still a precious metal Patek Philippe sports watch, and it is tough to get. It offers arguably more prestigious brand cachet, along with a more reserved blue dial and strap combo that manages to stand out but not nearly as loud as the Daytona. I don’t believe the Aquanaut is as collectible as the Daytona, but it certainly fits the bill as a left-of-center ultra-luxurious sports watch.
If you want to go the opposite direction and are looking for something bolder than the Beach Daytona, well, then you need the Leopard Daytona. Famously worn by Nicholas Cage—among other celebrities—this yellow gold, diamond-encrusted Daytona with its leopard print dial and strap makes the bold Beach Daytona look like a black dial Datejust in comparison. Rare and collectible and for around the same price as this blue Beach Daytona, the Leopard Daytona is powered by the same 4130 movement and takes things up about five more notches.
I think this watch appeals to more people than one might think at first glance. Yes, it’s incredibly loud, and that lizard leather strap gives off an intense vibe, but, at the end of the day, this is still a rare, white gold Rolex Daytona. It is objectively collectible and is a must-have for any serious Rolex or Daytona enthusiast regardless of their personal style.
This Beach Daytona is one of the most daring takes on a classic watch model I’ve ever seen. It shows pretty definitively that despite the narrative, Rolex is very capable of taking bold risks. The question then isn’t “Is Rolex bold enough?” it’s, are you bold enough for this Rolex?