Having been to Japan over Christmas, I noticed that the Japanese were still obsessed with the Rolex Daytona. There are not only books dedicated to this fine watch, but also monthly magazines (dedicated to Rolex in general, but the Daytona is always the main feature). How many times can you photograph the same watch? I thought we’d investigate if the watch lives up to all the hype.
First let me say one thing about watches. There isn’t any other “accessory” that a person can wear that is more noticed than their watch. I cannot stress the importance of having at least one good watch. It’s especially true for men, who do not (normally) own/wear the jewelry (diamond earrings, pendants, rings, bracelets, etc.) that women do. Living in Asia, the measure of a man’s stature is often determined by his watch. In typical Asian “gold-digging” style, women here seem to be trained to monetize men. Women look for certain things: the type of car, the kind of clothes, the color of the credit card, but normally before a woman has a chance to size any of these things, they check the type of watch. Women here can smell money a mile away, and they’ll know the difference between this year’s Cartier collection, and last year’s limited edition Patek. First impressions are critical. Men do it to each other; woman even more so. These days, you can look as sharp in Armani jeans as you do in Gap. So how do you differentiate the elite geeks from the wannabes? Well, it’s the watch. That’s one of the first things that gets looked at. Go to shake a hand, check their watch. Ask for the time, check the watch. The tricks are all there. Was that a Franck Muller, Breguet, Rolex? Watches today are the status symbol of the elite geeks – high gear for the modern man. Don’t get me wrong, a good G-shock/Baby-G is also an important item to own (but there’s a difference between a US$19.99 version and the 2000 Limited Edition Lover’s Collection).
The Rolex Daytona is probably the most easily recognized and highly sought after watch. The difficulty in finding one adds to its status. I started looking for a Daytona in 1994. At that time, I managed to find only one place in Hong Kong that had the watch, but the shop was rude and the markup excessive, so I passed it up. What a mistake that would prove to be because it would take me nearly 3 more years before I would eventually get my hands on another one. I searched the globe looking for Daytonas. If you could find one, they were usually so marked up that you just couldn’t buy it. So finally, one day in 1997, I was down in Singapore on business and I went into a watch shop and they had it. Not only did they have a Daytona, they had it in both the black and the white face. I sat there for nearly an hour, eyeing both pieces. The shop must have gotten tired of me but I kept looking at each one. In the end, I chose the white face Daytona because that’s the classic look but more importantly, I didn’t choose the black face because the “rings” around the different dials appeared somewhat gold in color, and I didn’t like that. The white face is very “black and white”. I eventually walked away with a white face Daytona, for what turned out to be an amazing price.
The Daytona is a beautiful watch. As the only chronograph in the Rolex line-up, the Daytona is striking. It was the largest watch I had ever bought (I have since bought a Panerai Luminor which is much larger, wider, and heavier). I was initially worried it would look too big on my hand, but it turned out to be a good fit. The clasp on the band securely fits the Rolex on your wrist. While I have heard of someone losing a Rolex while water-skiing (they claim the band broke), I have never known or heard of any other problem. The watch is extremely durable. As you can see from the wear, I’ve put my watch through a lot, and it still looks as good as ever. They will definitely outlive us. It’s just a matter of personal preference between the white and the black face. Rolex also just introduced the SS2000 Daytona, a newer, updated version. While I think they are not as nice as previous models, it’s still a beautiful watch. Once you put one on your wrist, you’ll want one.
A watch is a watch — it just tells time. The Daytona is no exception. It does not tell time better, it just tells the time. There is no date function on the watch, which some people have complained about, but because I wear several different watches, this actually is an advantage because I don’t have to keep resetting the date every time I change the watch. The Daytona is an automatic, which means it doesn’t have batteries but “charges” as you wear the watch. Automatics are supposed to be more accurate, but because they require you to continue to wear the watch or else it will stop, changing different watches as I do often proves problematic. The “stopwatch” function is usable, but is there more for appearance than actual function. Rolex has service centers all over the world, and while there are lots of “charges”, they do a very good job of servicing, cleaning, and even polishing your Rolex. You should service the watch every 5 to 10 years depending on how often you wear it.
I love the Daytona, in case you didn’t already guess. Everyone obsesses about the watch, and the hype, in Japan for example, is understood. When you get your hands on one, I think you’ll understand why I, and so many others have fallen in love with this watch. This is definitely what high gear is about. I think it’s a bit crazy the extent of the markup in some places; for example in Tokyo, I found a brand-new Daytona that was quoted by a department store at nearly three times the official list price. Still, as my friend Cliff would say: “Buy it, buy two if you can.” Yup, if you can get your hands on one of the most ESSENTIAL pieces of high gear, get it. Finding one will be your biggest challenge. BTW, if you think a fake one will do just as nicely, think again – we know the difference, and yes, we can always tell.