The Rolex Daytona is currently a hot commodity among watch fans. Rolex’s iconic racing chronograph is incredibly popular with both vintage collectors and those looking for a modern-day chronograph. When I say modern, I mean the automatic Daytona models introduced from 1988 onwards.
The history of the Rolex Daytona can be divided into two: The first is the era of the manual-winding Daytona. The Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” is the most famous watch from this era, which lasted from 1963 until 1988. The second era is that of the self-winding Daytona, starting with the famous Rolex “Zenith” Daytona introduced in 1988. This marked the start of the model we know and love today. It probably won’t come as a surprise that the top references on our list are modern Daytonas. So, let’s find out more about the most popular Rolex Daytona references.
1. Rolex Daytona 116500LN
The most popular Rolex Daytona on Chrono24 is actually the current Daytona in stainless steel. The Daytona ref. 116500LN debuted at Baselworld 2016 and is the first stainless steel Daytona to feature a Cerachrom (ceramic) bezel. The Geneva-based brand offers the current steel Daytona with your choice of a black or white dial. In terms of popularity, the white dial version comes out on top, but only by a slight margin. Prices for both have skyrocketed the last three years. Current Daytonas are offered on Chrono24 starting around $33,000-34,000, or roughly three times their list price.
2. Rolex Daytona 116520
The second Daytona on our list is the ref. 116520 – the predecessor to the current Daytona. The ref. 116520 is the last Daytona to feature a steel bezel, giving it a unique look that first appeared on the “Zenith” Daytona in 1988. This reference was the first Daytona with an in-house automatic Rolex chronograph movement, the caliber 4130. This marked a huge step forward for the brand; the movement still powers current Daytona models. Prices on Chrono24 start around $24,000, making this reference a serious option for anyone who prefers the steel bezel or if you’d like to spend a bit less overall.
3. Rolex Daytona 116509
Next up is the current white gold Daytona ref. 116509 from 2016. This watch has become a very popular reference over the past five years. You have a choice between several different dial colors and variations. The most iconic variant is, without a doubt, the version with a blue dial and red accents. Still, Rolex also offers the watch with a stunning steel dial and contrasting black subdials, as well as a version with a black dial set with diamonds. Earlier this year, the Genevan brand added an edition with a spectacular meteorite dial and black subdials. Prices start at roughly $47,000, which is a couple thousand dollars above its retail price.
4. Rolex Daytona 16520
Next on our list is the iconic Rolex “Zenith” Daytona ref. 16520. This is the reference that started the legacy of modern self-winding Daytonas back in 1988. Since chronograph movements are some of the most complicated movements to develop, Rolex turned to Zenith for their famous El Primero caliber. Rolex didn’t just use the standard El Primero, though; they modified it to comply with their high performance standards, resulting in a great first-generation automatic Daytona with a legendary movement. Asking prices for the “Zenith” Daytona on Chrono24 start at roughly $28,000 and go up to multiples of that for the very rare “porcelain dial” watch.
5. Rolex Daytona 116523
Next up is the gold and steel Rolex Daytona ref. 116523. This timepiece is a funny one because it is one of the most affordable (if not the most affordable) options currently out there. If you purely look at the specs, it’s pretty crazy that you can buy a watch partially made of 18-karat yellow gold for a lot less than its stainless-steel counterpart. Then again, two-tone watches have never been popular except in the 1980s – and 80s style is certainly up for debate. The 116523 was actually part of the same collection as the 116520 (number 2 on our list). This watch has the same iconic look and in-house caliber 4130 but with a stunning gold and steel case and bracelet. Prices start around $17,500 – an attractive price for a cracker of a watch.
6. Rolex Daytona 116503
The next Daytona is the current gold and steel Daytona. While the aesthetics did get an update, you are essentially looking at the same watch as the 116523. The biggest change is the dial design, which actually looks a bit more modern than its predecessor. The watch comes with your choice of a gold, white, or black dial. The combination of a black dial with gold details looks incredibly stunning. Nothing has really changed inside the watch; the same caliber 4130 sets the pace. This current two-tone Daytona is slightly more expensive than its predecessor, with prices starting around $22,500.
7. Rolex Daytona 116508
This is probably my personal favorite Daytona or, rather, series of Daytonas. Rolex uses the reference 116508 to refer to all the 18-karat yellow gold models with yellow gold bezels. It is an absolute stunner of a watch and is available with several dial choices. The one that made headlines, however, is the version with a green dial and red accents. This is the watch that John Mayer talked about in his second episode of Hodinkee’s “Talking Watches,” which explains why many people have started referring to it as the “John Mayer” Daytona. You can actually choose from a total of 8 different dial variations. My personal favorite is the version with a black dial and gold accents. The combination of yellow gold and black is tough to beat. Asking prices for the 116508 start around $53,000, but expect to pay a lot more for the green “John Mayer” model, which demands a minimum of roughly $77,000 on Chrono24.
8. Rolex Daytona 116519
Coming in at number 8 is the Rolex Daytona ref. 116519, the first reference on our list to not feature a metal bracelet. The ref. 116519 launched in the early 2000s and is a white gold Daytona with a leather strap. This watch also features a different dial than the other models in the collection; it has numerals instead of hour markers. The reference was produced for quite a number of years and was available with various dials – some with Roman numerals, some with diamond hour markers. The brand also introduced a stunning meteorite dial version. Asking prices on Chrono24 for the white gold ref. 116519 start at just over $35,000 and move all the way up to $86,500 for versions with limited-edition dials.
9. Rolex Daytona 116519LN
The next entry on our list is the 116519LN. While it has the same reference number as number 8, it is actually that watch’s successor. The most important updates include replacing the leather strap with Rolex’s Oysterflex bracelet and exchanging the white gold bezel for a Cerachrom one. Rolex currently offers this model with a steel dial and black subdials, a black dial with diamond hour markers, and (as of this year) a stunning meteorite dial that pairs very nicely with the white gold case, black bezel, and rubber strap. Prices for the steel dial version start around $44,000 on Chrono24, which makes it some $10,000 more expensive than its official list price.
10. Rolex Daytona 116506
The last Rolex Daytona on our list is also the most expensive. It is the current platinum Rolex Daytona ref. 116506. This watch is the ultimate understated luxury item because people who don’t know watches probably won’t realize it’s platinum. Watch enthusiasts, on the other hand, will recognize its blue dial and brown ceramic bezel. Rolex offers this watch with a blue dial and either “regular” or diamond markers. When it comes to modern Daytonas, this is the ultimate luxury statement and, therefore, the perfect closer for our list of the 10 most popular Rolex Daytona references. This last one comes at a price, however. Currently, the most affordable options go for just under $120,000, but prices can easily exceed $165,000. Ah, but what a glorious statement piece it is!
There you have it, our list of the 10 most popular Rolex Daytona references. This line-up shows the incredible depth and variation of one of the most popular watches in the world. If you are on the lookout for a Daytona, be prepared to spend a significant amount of money. After all, popular Rolex watches do not come cheap!