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Daytona: On the Grid

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    Daytona: On the Grid

    I basically planned this whole piece just to give me an excuse to make the composite image above, showing my current Daytona collection. So, image made, my work here is done. Thanks for reading!

    Ah what the heck, now I’ve started, I might as well add a bit more detail and a few more pics…

    The Daytona is an iconic timepiece, commanding stellar prices within the Rolex range. Its fame is thanks in no small part to having been worn by legendary actor, racing driver, salad dresser and all-round cool renaissance guy, Paul Newman. Oh, and the massive streamrolling might of the Rolex marketing machine, of course.

    In 1955, Rolex introduced the 6234 – their first manual-wind chronograph in an oyster case. In 1960, the 6238 – known today as the “Pre-Daytona” – made its debut. The first Cosmograph model – the 6239 – arrived in 1963 (which makes it one year older than me). The Cosmograph wasn’t initially called Daytona – in fact in the earliest advertising it was referred to as “Le Mans”. But I guess Rolex cannily realised there was a bigger market to tap into if the watch was named after a famous Florida beach and race track. The name “Daytona” made its first appearance on the dial in 1965.

    The original 4-digit Daytona models were updated in 1988, with the launch of the 16500 series. The case size increased, from 37mm to 40mm, the plexi was switched to sapphire crystal, and Rolex adopted and adapted the Zenith El Primero 400 movement to power the updated watch.

    In March 2000, Rolex launched the 116500 series during Baselworld. The new watch was still 40mm, but slightly slimmer - thanks to the all-new Rolex 4130 movement. The new movement came with subdial changes; small seconds moved from 9 to the 6 o’clock position, and the 3/9 subdials moved up slightly. The now ubiquitous black “Cerachrom” ceramic bezel was introduced in 2016 (the ceramic bezel having made its debut, coloured brown, on the 116505 in 2011).

    As with my other little photo features, I’m not posting with the intention of claiming any expertise in the subject whatsoever. This is just a record of my collection as it stands. I find it helps me to appreciate my watches more when I spend time concentrating on photographing them, and I also learn new things about them while doing the Googling required to add some facts to the waffle ‘n’ pics.

    Above is a snapshot of the collection as it was back in 2019. From this pic, only one of the 6-digit Daytonas is still in my collection – the NOOBARF (Noob v2.2 watch with ARF v2 dial) panda on the far right. To its left is the ARFNOOB – the lesser sibling of the desirable coupling (ARF v2 watch with Noob v2.2 dial), rendered even more unfortunate due to the incorrect stainless bezel it’s sporting. I cracked the Noob ceramic bezel trying to get it re-seated correctly (those things are fragile, so watch out if you’re planning a swap!). Also pictured - I had a couple of Daytona 116506 reps - the 2013 50th Anniversary “Platona” model (far left). They’re pretty, but a little bit too colourful for me, so off they went. As did the ARF 116520 – only for me to regret that and buy another, and then another (see below).

    My current collection, although double the number, isn’t particularly comprehensive or varied; there’s duplications, and the quality is highly variable. This little article is a record of the journey – the destination is still some way off… There are a few models that I’d still like to add: The silver/grey dial 116509. A good exotic dial panda and reverse panda 4-digit (using Vietnam dials to improve a couple of my current incorrect PNs). And I’ll get a pre-Daytona at some point. Anyway, I hope the pics/info/comparisons of what I currently own might be of some use to my reader.

    Getting a really good build of a 4-digit together can lead one down a rabbit hole of gargantuan expense. But there are halfway house solutions where the 4-digit’s concerned; budget Cartel (the catch-all description for reps made by the JK/BP factories) offerings give the opportunity for a pretty decent vintage Daytona – and even pre-Daytona – experience.

    There’s a selection of “Exotic” dial 4-digit models in my vintage line-up. This dial has distinctive art deco styling for the chrono subdials. The exotic dial was offered as an option from around 1967, but customers didn’t want them. In fact, the standard dial outsold the exotics by around 20 to 1. Because of this, the exotics are rare. And that rarity drove their value into the stratosphere, after leading collectors classified the exotic dial variant as the “Paul Newman” Daytona.

    Below are two examples of these dials, from my Cartel set. Exotic variant on the left, standard on the right:

    Cartel Daytonas don’t have correctly positioned subdials (the size can be off too), and this is acutely noticeable on the exotic dial models, due to their spartan appearance; the dimensional errors really stand out. The Venus 75 (seagull ST19) hand wind movement used in the various Cartel offerings has its hour (6) subdial pinion positioned just a little too low. To compensate for this, the rep subdials either bleed into the outer track, or are made smaller than the gen subdials so they all fit without clipping the track. I’ve collected a selection of the variations on this incorrect subdial theme.

    I overlaid the outline of the gen exotic subdial size/layout (pink line) over pics of my cartel dials, to illustrate how far out the rep dials are:

    Gen spec dials can be fitted to the Venus 75 movement; the 6 o’clock subdial pinion just needs to be moved up precisely one smidge (it’s non-functional anyway). I plan to do it myself on a couple of my watches – the mod isn’t too tricky (famous last words eh).

    I’d have started modding already, if it weren’t for my horribly ham-fisted attempts to “clean up” a VN dial that I got cheap from Alhig72. It had some tiny blobs of yellowed lacquer on it, which I tried to remove… I quickly discovered that acetone dissolves Daytona dial paint as well as lacquer, and ended up with a soupy mess where a perfectly usable dial once sat. Ouch.

    6239 exotic white dial – latest Cartel release

    This was to be the donor for a VN dial… till I ruined the dial. I’d stripped the watch down to its parts, vintagized and repolished the case and plexi. After I bashed the whole thing around in my Tupperware box of stones and screws, I washed it in the ultrasonic cleaner… which shook all the paint out of the bezel markers. D’oh. So, I repainted them with black acrylics, and scraped off the excess. The engraving of the markers is so shallow, most of the paint came off again. Anyway, the overall impression is of a Daytona that’s had a long, hard life, and I’m fine with that (I will almost certainly go back to it, and do more work, now I’ve taken these close ups!).

    I threw the parts back together with the original dial to take these pics, while I await new gen spec exotic dials from Ruby. So don’t fret about the wonky big seconds hand etc. – it’s going to be coming apart again as soon as I get a dials.

    As you can see from the pics, the most recent Cartel exotic dial has very diddy little subdials. Yes, this means there’s no bleeding into the outer track, but it really messes up the visual balance of the dial IMO.

    6239 exotic off-white dial – Cartel

    This is an unmolested, vanilla Cartel offering. All I did was swap it onto a leather sport strap. Note the size and position of the subdials. The bottom subdial is just kissing the outer track – but it’s barely noticeable and the size of the subdials looks visually okay-ish… however, the subdial size is still a little smaller than gen. It’s a reasonable compromise. But god, I wish they’d just positioned the 6 o’clock pinion correctly by drilling the cover plate hole a little bigger and gluing the pinion in the right place, and then the dials could’ve been bang on. Grr.

    Note that both my steel bezels have bad letterspacing, so they read UNIT SPER HOUR, which is slightly depressing, as I’ve seen what I guess must be earlier Cartels with decent lettering.

    6263 (could also represent a 6240) exotic white dial - Cartel

    This is the oyster case version of the Paul Newman, with screw down pushers. The 6240, which this Cartel could represent, was the first truly waterproof Daytona, thanks to these pushers. The dial has the word “Oyster” added. There’s no “Daytona” printed on the dial. It has a black Bakelite bezel, and triplock 700 crown (3 dots under the crown). These details can all be found in equivalent gen examples.

    This Cartel has another variation on the exotic subdial dimensions – and these are pretty much bang on for size, compared to the gen (see the diagram above). They all almost bleed into the outer track - in an almost uniform way. For me, this one is the best of the Cartel bunch, visually.

    So in summary then – all the exotic dial Daytonas that Cartel has released are wrong, in slightly different ways. It’s up to the Daytona rep fan to pick which version of wrong they can live with – and then find one of course, as some versions are no longer made. But the addition of an aftermarket Vietnam made dial can certainly transform these inexpensive reps. A dial will cost more than two watches, but it’s arguably well worth it.

    Slightly less noticeably flawed are the standard stick baton dial 4-digits. So, if you’re not a fan of the exotic dial, one of these could be right up your race track.

    6263 standard silver dial – Cartel

    The low position of the 6 o’clock subdial means there isn’t room for both the T SWISS T and the lume dot, so the latter is missing. Apart from that, this is a very attractive looking watch, with decent detailing and a pretty sunburst silver dial. I bought this one M2M off RG quite early in my rep collecting frenzy, and didn’t even notice the bezel was all bashed up until months after. I’m really not the most observant chap.

    6263 standard dial, full gold – Cartel

    Same as the watch above – but in gold. Swanky.

    The 5-digit Daytonas were never made by main rep factories (to my knowledge). Thus, building one requires sourcing hen’s teeth VN parts at stellar prices. I haven’t found one of these builds at an affordable price, so to date my collection of Daytona reps has only featured 4-digit and 6-digit models. Well, that was a nice short section. Moving on…

    The 6-digit Daytonas are widely repped. And as any collector will know, the current best versions are by ARF and Noob. ARF has consistently been lauded as producing the nicest dials in their Daytona reps. Dials which, BTW, are slightly over-sized – causing a headache for those who want to swap an ARF dial into a Noob case. ARF stainless and ceramic bezels were also considered the best, until the upstart Clean Factory burst onto the scene with theirs.

    ARF Daytona models are powered by the A7750 movement. For reasons best known to them, they fit a mock 4130 style rotor – in a watch with a solid caseback – which increases the depth of the movement and the overall case height, giving it an even less gen-like thickness. Go figure. The A7750 doesn’t have full chrono functions - the second hand at 6 works normally but the subdials at 3 and 9 are frozen; only the big seconds hand operates when the chrono is used.

    Noob pioneered the proper “Super Clone, AAA, 1:1 Best Edition” movement when they introduced their 4130 clone; a movement that not only looked like the real deal, it functioned exactly as it should too. Everyone’s doing a super-duper clone movement these days, but Noob did it first – and with a very complicated subject. So three cheers for them. I was so impressed, I bought the display caseback for both mine. Although I’m past that stage now – and have just reinstated the steel back on my gen dial watch. And I’ll switch the one on my panda, when I can find it…

    Noob seems to specialise in breaking the balls of rep fans more than any factory when it comes to inconsistent detailing in their dials and bezels. Their subdial thickness is wrong. Then it’s right. The bezel font sucks. Then it gets better – oh, but the subdials are wrong again. It’s a rich territory for the keen modder though - to take their excellent movement and case, and transplant a better dial and bezel.

    116520 Noob v.2 with gen dial and latest CF bezel

    When I bought this Noob M2M it was listed as a 116500, with gen dial, Prof 2x AR crystal and CF ceramic bezel fitted. The watch was built for its previous owner by forum legend Domi, who serviced the 4130 clone at the same time.

    The gen dial is from a 116520, but as the seller said, gen owners of the 116520 updated their watches by fitting the newer ceramic bezel (I’ve read threads over on TRF with owners proudly discussing having done this) – so it was a perfectly legit move to install the earlier dial in a Noob 116500.

    But I wasn’t happy with the updated look, and decided that the gen dial deserved to be framed by an appropriate stainless bezel. Being reluctant to fork out £600+ on a gen, I kept an eye out for a good rep; the ARF v.1 or the new CF stainless bezel. In the end, I got both (see the ARF below). Actually, I got three – one being the limited edition, rare “missing tick between 120/130” CF bezel. Like others, when I bought it, I had no idea of this special feature… but once you see it, it cannot be unseen. Anyway, I now have it stashed away, sealed in plastic, just waiting for the value to rocket.

    Soon after buying that CF duffer - er I mean future classic, I got hold of the very latest CF stainless bezel, which has the missing tick mark reinstated, plus deeper, glossier engravings. At the same time as installing it, I removed the Prof crystal, and replaced it with the Noob LEC crystal; again, for reasons of original look and feel.

    116520 ARF v.1

    The ARF v.1 has ARF’s best version of the stainless bezel – which is why I snapped it up M2M some months back. My intention was to switch the bezel from the ARF to the Noob and satisfy my desire for a decent bezel. However, upon arrival I discovered a scratch on the bezel which resisted my cautious attempts to polish out. So I decided to keep looking, and ended up with two CF bezels and a spare ARF 116520. I’ll get round to popping it on M2M one day...

    116500 ARF v2

    This one came up M2M and I fancied comparing the 116500 and 116520 dials. It’s another that’s largely superfluous, but it has a ceramic bezel and less shiny subdials, so that’s enough justification to have it as well… isn’t it..?

    116500 NOOBARF

    I was totally blown away when I read about Noob’s fully functional clone 4130 movement, and having fallen in love with the panda dial, I ordered a Noob v2 from JTime. But the Noob is a pricey piece, and I have no practical use for a chrono – having long since retired from professional Formula One lap timing. So shortly after the Noob arrived, I put it up for sale. It headed off to Germany, and promptly got lost en route. And while that drama played out, I bought the ARF version. About 3 weeks later the Noob turned up at its destination, the package looking like it had been kicked all the way there. And… it wasn’t working. So I refunded the buyer and he sent it back.

    And that’s how I got to send both ARF and Noob to Ado213; to fix the Noob, swap the ARF dial into it, and vice versa (he shaved the inside of the Noob case to get the oversize ARF dial to fit). And bingo! I had the NOOBARF. Or the NARFtona. “The best a rep can get” (without being a gen parts Franken).

    I was so smitten with the idea of a gen-like movement in a rep that I bought a display caseback for the NOOBARF, which it's still wearing. But I'm over the novelty now (and also discovered a long time back that the movement isn't an exact copy), so the original caseback will go back on, when I get round to it.

    116528-IVRA BP

    What does IVRA stand for? Answers on a postcard please. My guess is Ivory and Arabic. Whatever, this one was an M2M cheapy, running on a 7750. Well, I say running – it was DOA. When I’m feeling brave, I’ll whip it apart and take a bemused look at it before breaking it even worser and sending it to someone competent to fix. Anyway, this has a really nice-looking dial (I always like BP’s dials) and for me it’s improved by being on a leather strap – the FG bracelet makes the whole package just a little OTT. A tad ostentatious. Bloody lairy.

    So that’s it, we’re finished!

    As is probably abundantly clear, I’m in no way an expert on the Daytona. The notes above are merely what I’ve observed from my short time owning some reps; comparing them to photos of gens and builds by knowledgeable, skilled modders. There’s a ton of details and stuff I don’t know that I might pick up in the future, or remain blissfully ignorant of. And there are some excellent detailed analyses, discussions and build threads about all these models in this section of the forum. But if any of this has been interesting or useful to anyone, then that’s a bonus.

    Thank you all for taking part in this Daytona decathlon with me, and if you made it to the end – well done! It must feel like you won the 24 hours of Daytona. Please comment, or add your own contributions. Corrections to my text are also welcome – I am keen to learn (actually I’m too old and too brain damaged from past years of dedicated drinking to learn anything new, so probably better not to bother) … Anyway, by all means feel free to ask questions – I can almost guarantee I won’t be able to answer them!

    Whenever it’s appropriate, I like to give a shout out to Marvellous Replica for attending to all our Cartel vintage Rolex needs. M is a top TD here and does great deals on these little diamonds in the rough. Check their long-running posts in the TD section for special offers on vintage Daytonas and Subs. I’d also like to thank Ruby’s Watch for their patience in politely answering many, many email enquiries from me, where I always chickened out before taking the plunge and ordering a pair of exotic PN dials to transplant into cartel donors. These are arriving soon, and once I’ve crowbarred them in, I’ll update this thread with new pics. I might even blog the process… it depends on how embarrassingly bad my bodging gets.

    And of course, the best thing about the Daytona is… it has a theme song!
    Last edited by p0pperini; 04-04-21, 12:51.
    FrankenSubs! - Subs! - Kermits! - Daytonas! - Seamasters! - A 1675 Adventure - A Budget 6538 build - Tudors! (COMING SOON!)

    Flippin' 'eck! Who knew there were so many? We are allowed out again btw . Just kidding - seriously top post, informative, great pics and shizz. So do you like Daytonas then?


      Beautiful works and collection!
      I was king of Daytona the game lol., you my friend mastered it rep game!
      Thanks for sharing.

      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
      Divers, Chronos, Cars and Coffee


        Nice write up and photos, I enjoyed reading the background and a bit about your Daytona journey!

        I have been debating a Panda for a while and your post hasn’t helped me! In fact I am even more torn between the black and white and seeing your pics is pushing me more and more towards both!...

        Enjoy and looking forward to see what comes next.


          Originally posted by ZMCoupe View Post
          seeing your pics is pushing me more and more towards both!...
          In that case, my work here is done.

          Thanks for the comments everyone!
          FrankenSubs! - Subs! - Kermits! - Daytonas! - Seamasters! - A 1675 Adventure - A Budget 6538 build - Tudors! (COMING SOON!)


            Contagious! I want one now...

            Great write up, thank you for this

            Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


              Entertaining and informative, as always!


                Wow another great write up after your submariner threads. Very educational!
                I fully agree with all of your sentiments expressed!
                I have a JKF panda too, incorrect dial for the case which I found out after finding this site.

                For me it's good enuff, even with the subdial imperfections. Just a fun little watch with a cool 70s vibe that goes nicely with my 1966 Alfa Romeo.

                Although I admit that maybe one day I might be tempted by one of the gen spec reps that show up on m2m every now and then- but those are $4k jobbies. Not ready for that kind of commitment.
                Although compared to the real pandas going for a million bucks a gen spec rep certainly is a bargain!

                My own foray into the 116500 NOOBARF world became a bit of a barf- American slang for spewing up - came with the wrong ARF dial so I have had to pay a modder to put the V4 dial back in .... oh well. Still looking forward to its arrival.

                thanks again for the entertaining and educational write ups!
                Last edited by RiffRalf; 04-04-21, 15:20.


                  riffraff thanks! The 66 Alfa sounds interesting, and has to be the perfect companion to a vintage Daytona.

                  And it’s kind of you to explain, but I’m already familiar with the meaning of “barf” - as a frequent visitor to the US, and of course there’s also the fact that 99% of TV and films are made in American.

                  Sorry to hear about your NoobARF mess. I’ve heard that the v4 Noob dial is perfectly good though.

                  Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
                  FrankenSubs! - Subs! - Kermits! - Daytonas! - Seamasters! - A 1675 Adventure - A Budget 6538 build - Tudors! (COMING SOON!)


                    Love everything about this thread. If you ever want to sell the 6263 in gold, let me know. Looking to really build out a nice Daytona collection for keeps.


                      Amazing write up and photos. I’ve been looking a bit at vintage Daytona’s for a while, and this really gives me a good place to start

                      The Perfect Franken 5711 Nautilus build

                      The Perfect Daytona Parts 2 CF Based

                      The perfect Daytona Part 1 Noob Based

                      Hulk budget franken


                        This reminds me of a museum, with those little buttons you press at each station to get interesting facts about the displayed piece. Each station would have your enlarged photos arranged strategically around the actual piece. Yeah, that's the ticket!

                        So well done bro, your presentations are masterful and the narratives are informative and humorous. Thanks for yet another enjoyable ride through the wild world of p0pperini's eYe p0ppin' reps!
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                          Originally posted by KJ2020 View Post
                          This reminds me of a museum, with those little buttons you press at each station to get interesting facts about the displayed piece. Each station would have your enlarged photos arranged strategically around the actual piece. Yeah, that's the ticket!

                          So well done bro, your presentations are masterful and the narratives are informative and humorous. Thanks for yet another enjoyable ride through the wild world of p0pperini's eYe p0ppin' reps!
                          Thanks KJ, it means a lot to be complimented by a veteran collector (by which I mean a long-standing member with a massive watch collection, not someone who collects veterans) such as yourself. I know that if you were to embark on a similar post showing off any single model in your collection, it would probably take a year to compile and demonstrate more modding skills than I can ever hope to achieve.
                          FrankenSubs! - Subs! - Kermits! - Daytonas! - Seamasters! - A 1675 Adventure - A Budget 6538 build - Tudors! (COMING SOON!)


                            p0pperini this is a spectacular piece of work that I thoroughly enjoyed on a lazy bank holiday morning. Thank you for the story and the stunning photos.


                              Good morning all.
                              Seeing a new Popperini Post, I told myself that it will be heavy ...
                              As usual it's superb, texts and photos.
                              Thank you for sharing.