Regular readers will remember that a couple of months ago we were delighted to be able to offer readers an up close and personal look at the king of the Zenith-era Rolex Daytonas – the Porcelain Floating 16520. The Porcelain Floater (mmm, maybe I phrased that wrong!) is now the hot ticket in terms of steel Perpetual Daytonas, but it’s not the only iteration that gets collectors hot under the collar. In fact, there’s a version that might even be a little rarer than the floating Cosmogrpah. Step forward the second version of the 16520 dials, the stealthy Four Liner… also available in our shop.
The Rebirth of a Legend
I have written about this previously, but I cannot emphasise enough what a radical redesign of the Daytona it was that Rolex unveiled in 1988. The Daytona had become sluggish in terms of sales for the brand. Authorised Dealers had them sitting in display cabinets for years and even pre-owned dealers weren’t interested in buying them. With the launch of the Perpetual Daytona Rolex achieved the very difficult task of completely starting again but emphatically keeping the DNA of the line intact. This was a feat that, in my opinion, might make the watch one of the best pieces of watch design of the 20th century.
The 16520 (plus the yellow gold 16528 and two-tone 16523) were like Daytonas on steroids. The biggest advancement was that this was officially Rolex’s first automatic winding chrono. Rolex had procured a supply of Zenith El-Primero movements, which underwent more than 200 modifications before was ‘worthy’ of the Rolex name. The end result was the calibre 4030 movement, which was housed in a new 40mm case with crown guards and a sapphire crystal. This was the watch that began the now legendary Rolex waiting lists, which are still in place today for the current production model steel Daytona!
Four Lines are Better Than Five
Following on from the Mk 1 dial, which had the detached or floating ‘COSMOGRAPH’ text came a second version of the dial. This time the word Cosmograph was grouped with the rest on the text at the top of the dial, but a line of text was omitted: ‘OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED’. The dials were still being produced by Singer and retained certain common traits with the Mk1 dials such as the inverted 6 in the hour totalizer.
Known as the Four-Liner, this dials is both rare and interesting. Interesting because nobody can really explain the reason for the omitted line of text. It is certainly not a mistake. Error dials have been discovered over the years, but there are too many four-line dials in existence for this to be the case for the Mk2. One thing is for sure – the balance of the four lines is lovely. These dials appeared on watches in the L serial range from the end of 1988 to the middle of 1989, more precisely L6xxxxx serial numbers
The there is a dial and bezel combination with the L serial four-line dials that is the perfect storm – the presence of the rare and elusive so-called 225 bezel. The early MK1 bezels had a similar layout to the previous vintage Daytona bezels. They featured the ‘UNITS PER HOUR’ (‘UPH’) text a three o’clock and the tachymeter scale went up to 200 units only.
Following the Mk1 bezels, the ‘UPH’ text shifted to one o’clock on the bezels and the tachymeter scale increased to 400 units. For a very short period of time, between serials L23xxxx and L5xxxxx, the scales featured readings for 225 and 250 on the scale. Following on from this with the Mk3 to Mk7 versions the scales ran at 200 – 240 – 300 ie without the 225 and 250. The Mk2 bezels are rare and very cool to have on your MK2 four-liner dialed watch.
Of course, if you think of Paul Newman and his Daytona you will immediately conjour up images of the iconic vintage Daytona reference 6239 with exotic dial that was given the name Paul Newman by collectors. It wasn’t just Newman dials that Newman rocked, he also wore 6263 and 6265 Daytonas. Later in his life he also wore 16520 Perpetual Daytonas and was actually awarded one in 1995 at the 24 Hours of Daytona. His team came first in its class and he was awarded the 16520.
The Bulli Shot
We are delighted to offer you a beautiful example of a four line 16520 steel Daytona. And yes…of course it has a 225 bezel! This example is exceptional because it is flawless. Where sometimes you might see a few bubbles, under the magnification of a loupe, the black dial in this example is stunning. And the ‘DAYTONA’ text is a thick rich crimson coloured arc over the hour totalizer; a trait that is present on all production model Perpetual Daytonas (except pave set dials of course). Rare, cool and maybe one of the most versatile chronos that you can buy – the four-line, 225 bezel 16520 Daytona is a winner’s watch in anybody’s book!