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Timepiece Tuesday: Rolex & Racing, a Tale as old as Time Itself

Over the years, numerous watch makers that have played their part in motorsport but none have a larger presence or pedigree than Rolex. Their history of motorsport and speed dates back to the 1930’s, when motor racing was still in its infancy.

Rolex’s rise to prominence began in the late 1930’s, when marketing opportunities caught the attention of Rolex co-founder Hans Wilsdorf. After a successful partnership in 1927 with Mercedes Gleitze, who wore a Rolex while being the first person to swim across the English channel (her second time), Wilsdorf saw the next opportunity. At the time, British gentleman Sir Malcolm Campbell was on a quest to hit 150mph, 200mph and then eventually 300mph in his custom Bluebird speed cars. Rolex began a partnership with Campbell and as he broke speed records year after year, he was wearing a Rolex Oyster on his wrist. This event prompted the classic 300mph Rolex ad, marked the first ever Rolex partnership in motorsport, and subsequently led to a prosperous future in racing for the Swiss based brand.

Rolex Daytona 300mph racing ad

Fast forward many years and Rolex is now synonymous with racing. Their most notable partnership, alongside F1 and various classic car events, is the 24 Hours of Daytona race. Rolex became the title sponsor in 1992 and since then the event became known as the ‘Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona’.

It was in 1962 that Rolex became the official timekeeper of the 24 hour race and in 1963 Rolex nicknamed their Cosmograph Reference 6239, the ‘Daytona’. It was this watch that attracted the attention of celebrity actor and race car driver Paul Newman. His association to racing and the Swiss-based brand led Rolex to create their own Paul Newman edition. The Paul Newman Daytona is extremely difficult to acquire and often trade at auctions for over $100,000. And if you’re wondering, in 2017 Pauls’ personal Daytona sold for $17,752,500 at auction, setting the record for the most expensive watch ever sold.

Paul Newman Rolex Daytona racing

In recent years, for the lucky few who’ve been able to win the gruelling 24 hour race around Daytona International Speedway, they receive a limited edition Rolex Daytona. For the winners of each class they receive a two-tone, white-face Rolex Daytona with the word ‘Winner’ engraved on the back. As you can imagine these are extremely rare to see, but I get to see one every time I hang out with my friend Daniel Morad, who won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona back in 2017.

Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona racing winner watch

So, Rolex may sell the Daytona (starting at $12,400) but to own a Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Winner watch will require a lot more money, time and skill than that.

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Written by: Zlad Dujsic

Zlad Dujsic Headshot

Zlad Dujsic is a physics fiend. These machines allow him to explore the limits of the physical world and for that reason he’s motorsport obsessed. He’s a full time creative and part time crazy person.