Well here’s something we didn’t see coming: A brand-new Rolex Daytona — debuting just after a whole plethora, an entire cadre, a full-on platoon of Daytonas back in March — in celebration of the 100th year of Le Mans, which is taking place as we speak in France. Dubbed the reference 126529LV, it’s got some characteristics that’ll no doubt be familiar to Daytona devotees. Let’s dive in…
First off — this baby is 18k white gold. (Hence that sheen.) Measuring 40mm wide, it has a black “reverse panda” dial with a black Cerachrom bezel featuring a contrasting tachymetric scale for computing, you know — whatever. (Speed, distance, or my personal favorite: knickknacks produced per hour [KKPH].) Speed can be computed up to 400 mph or kph, so if you happen to be piloting the Starship Enterprise and can jump to Ludicrous Speed — well, find a different watch. (I might’ve conflated two different movies/TV series there, but whatever.)
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On the Cerachrom bezel, you’ll find a special Easter egg: the “100” unit marking is in contrasting red in celebration of a century of racing at Le Mans. Being Cerachrom — a type of ceramic — it’s also highly wear resistant, corrosion resistant, UV resistant, etc. The indices are legible as hell because, well, they’re coated in a thin layer of platinum that’s been PVD’s onto the bezel. (Coooooooool!)
But let’s get to the dial, ‘cause this is the part that’s gonna get Rolex fans’ hearts racing: If you take a look at the typeface used on the chronograph counters, it closely resembles that which was used on the famous Singer-made dials of the “exotic” Daytonas — i.e, the so-called “Paul Newman” models. (The “Daytona” dial text is, of course, red in order to maintain this aesthetic.) However, as this is a modern Rolex watch, the indices are applied in white gold, and the lume is Chromalight.
Eagle-eyed observers will also have noticed that the typical 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock has been replaced with a 24-hour counter in a nod to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is possible thanks to a modification of the Rolex Calibre 4131, which the Crown has dubbed the Calibre 4132: A manufacture movement with automatic winding, a 72-hour power reserve, and Superlative Chronometer certification in excess of COSC standards, it features a 7-piece gear reduction system to affect the 24-hour measurement.
Additionally, you’re getting the rest of the specs associated with the latest crop of Daytonas: 100m of water resistance; a screw-down caseback, screw-down Triplock crown, and screw-down pushers; and a sapphire crystal. The bracelet is an 18k white gold Oyster with three-piece links, solid links and a folding Oysterlock clasp with Easylink 5mm extension. It’s also got a sapphire caseback through which it’s possible to view the movement, which had previously only been available on the platinum Daytona model.
Alright, alright, a new Daytona. But why now? Because not only is Rolex an important partner to the 24 Hour of Le Mans — it’s been the race’s official timing partner since 2001 — but the race itself is hugely important to motorsports, and to endurance racing in general: Now in its 100th year, it’s the oldest endurance competition in the world. While the 1923 season saw 33 teams fielding two drivers each, this year features 62 cars and 186 drivers piloting some of the fastest, most technologically advanced vehicles in the world. Paul Newman himself raced in the 1979 edition, taking home second place for the Dick Barbour race team — so the “Paul Newman”-inspired dial here certainly feels intentional. (And it sure doesn’t hurt that this year is the Daytona’s 60th anniversary.
Aesthetically speaking, referencing a vintage model — even a highly important one — in a current design isn’t something Rolex does often. Sure, one could argue that 2020’s crop of colorful Oyster Perpetual models took some inspiration from the “Stella” dials of the 1970s, but this tip of the cap was much more subtle than the overt Singer-esque dial on the ref. 126529LN. All of which begs the question: what other vintage inspirations might Rolex be willing to work into future watches?
Consider us intrigued!
Case Material: 18k white gold
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Rolex Calibre 4132 automatic
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