I was chatting to a friend the other day, saying that I really seem to have “grown out” of divers. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, and there are some beautiful dive watches around, both old and new (and both Rolex and non-Rolex). Without meaning to, though, I seem to have slowly divested myself of them, and my other sports-style watches, in favour of alternatives that are a bit more dressy, or a bit more complicated. For me, this appears also to mean a bit more interesting.
I won’t dwell on those that have gone (there were many) or why I bought them (they were all beautiful, and most had some kind or heritage or, indeed, a status bordering on iconic). The last diver I had was a genuinely stunning Great White, but in the end I allowed it to go the way of the others. I know that many people will think that I’m completely bonkers, but there’s no point building a small collection of watches based on the views of other people. What works for me these days is a little different, and I’d like to think that – in ploughing my own furrow to some extent – I’ve also broadened my horizons a bit. Anyway, onto… the Daytona!
This is a watch that I’ve tried before, both times the modern variant in stainless steel and with a black dial. I was sadly underwhelmed on each occasion, though, and there were a few reasons why. Firstly, the silver on black dial layout was a bit bland to my eye; in certain light it was difficult to read, and the subdials tended to get “lost” such that nothing stood out particularly vividly. Secondly, they wear surprisingly small on the wrist; you’d think the opposite would be the case but they’re pretty slim/flat and seem to have a look and feel that suggests a size less than their 40mm. Finally, I couldn’t help feeling that the Zenith Daytona was the one to go for (well, if one ignores the earlier Valjoux 72 for obvious reasons). I know that the 4130 movement is a masterpiece in its own right, and that the Zenith calibre 400 was heavily modified. In fact, the changes effected by Rolex included some fairly major stuff. For example:
– A new escapement with a much larger, freely sprung balance and balance spring with Breguet overcoil – a preferred, and more costly configuration that leads to higher accuracy.
– A reduction in the balance’s oscillation rate from a speedy 36,000 bph to a more relaxed 28,800 bph – theoretically at least requiring less frequent service.
– Elimination of the date function.
In all, I think I’m right in saying that more than 50% of the individual movement parts were changed/upgraded in some way, so the final product was pretty different to the movement Zenith originally manufactured all the way back in 1969. When all’s said and done, however, I personally find the attraction of the Zenith Daytona outweighs any arguments in favour of the alternative. I’m quirky like that 🙂
Anyway, the history of the Daytona is a complicated one that goes back to 1965, when the name was used on the Cosmograph for the first time (it’s roots go further back than that, in fact). To try to address that history here would no doubt bore the socks off everyone but there’s plenty of info on the Net (and some good stuff over at Jakes Rolex World and Hodinkee amongst other places).
The one that’s sitting on my wrist at the moment is a white gold 16519 that dates back to 1998. The use of gold, as opposed to stainless steel, transforms the watch into an altogether different beast; the heft, the hue of the gold… both give it a wrist presence that I missed in the SS versions that I previously owned. The biggest difference is on the dial, though; it really does pop, and the appearance changes in different light and at different angles to an extent that’s hard to believe. Hopefully, I’ve demonstrated that to some extent in the photos below.
So, do I miss my divers? Errrr, no – not right now, I don’t!