"Zenith" Daytona | P Series | steel
The origins of the Cosmograph begin in 1963, with the reference 6239. Designed as the ultimate tool watch for endurance racing drivers, the Daytona, featured clean styling, with excellent resistance to both shock and moisture. The original concept was ‘The Rolex LeMans’, featured in early Rolex advertisements. In 1964, Rolex later introduced the “Daytona” signature to the Cosmograph dial, signifying the brand’s sponsorship of the annual 24 Hours of Daytona race, held in Daytona Beach, Florida. The signature was first placed at 12 o’clock, under the word “Cosmograph”.
In 1988, Rolex introduced the the first generation of automatic Daytonas, with the ref. 16520 in steel and the ref. 16528 in yellow gold. Housing the Zenith-based caliber 4030, the new generation featured a larger case and was fitted with a sapphire crystal. The new caliber was based on Zenith’s iconic El Primero caliber, which was first introduced in 1969, amid the race between several manufacturer’s to design the first ever automatic chronograph movement.
After Zenith was sold to Zenith Electronics during the quartz crisis, the company discontinued production of mechanical movements. However, it is believed that Charles Vermot, a senior engineer at the factory where the El Primero was manufactured, secretly disassembled the tooling for the El Primero over a period of months, and stored it in the factory attic after the closure had been announced. Years later, when Rolex expressed an interest in using the El Primero to power a new generation of Daytonas, Vermot showed company leaders where he had saved the tooling and production notes. Satisfied the company could meet its needs, Rolex awarded the ten-year contract to Zenith.
The ref. 16520 'P Series' offered here has a Luminova dial, which is consistent with the watch’s late serial production. The dial also features text on 5 lines, with the words “OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED” reappearing after having disappeared on the earlier Mark II dial. The black dial on this particular example, beyond the appealing contrast and stark visual presence it gives the watch, also enhances its rarity.
The watch also features the correct Mark III bezel, where the phrase “UNITS PER HOUR" is located at the one o'clock position and 240 is noted, whereas 225 and 250 are missing.
It is no surprise that the the Zenith Daytona has developed a following in recent years. It is possibly one of the last production Rolex watches to feature a number of significant variations to the dial and bezels. It could be argued it marks the last generation of Daytona’s before Rolex evolved into its more polished, commercial incarnation, where these small quirky details and variations disappeared. The Zenith Daytona was eventually discontinued by the P Series, making these more elusive, late examples all the more special.
This watch is a truly fantastic example of a ref. 16520, featuring a seemingly unpolished case with thick lugs and strong bevels. The case shows minimal signs of wear and the bracelet is preserved in excellent condition, with minimal stretch throughout. Moreover, the watch comes as a full-set, with its original box and paperwork, along with a service guarantee from Rolex (dated 2013).
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.
|Model:||Daytona Ref. 16520|
|Movement:||mechanical automatic Zenith caliber 4030|
|Functions:||chronograph, hours, minutes, sub-seconds|
|Features:||chronometer grade, screw-down crown, screw-down pushers, Luminova|
|Case:||40mm stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||stainless steel Oyster bracelet (78390A)|
|Box & papers:||full-set; box, papers, Rolex service guarantee|
The applied hour markers are Luminova, matching the handset. The dial of this ref. 16520 is further distinguished by its condition, with no visible imperfections. The original, stainless steel oyster bracelet has virtually no stretch, with flush ends links and corresponding references. The 4030 calibre movement of this ref. 16520 has perfect mechanical functionality, keeps good time and comes with a service guarantee from Rolex (dated 2013), along with a two-year warranty from A Collected Man.
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