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For most of Rolex’s history, chronographs took a back seat to three-handed models. The company did produce some chronographs, but equipped them with third-party calibers that ticked in conventional, classic cases, not its well-known Oyster case. mens Rolex repica watches introduced its first Oyster-cased chronograph during WWII, but it was anything but a hit.
In 1955, Rolex launched its Reference 6234 chronograph. Neither “Cosmograph” nor “Daytona” appeared on the dial; the watch was simply labeled “Chronograph.” Rolex made about 500 of these watches each year until 1961, when the reference was discontinued. The watch sold for about $200 in the early 1960s. This model wasn’t very successful, either: it and other early Rolex chronographs often languished on dealers’ shelves because other manufacturers had long since established themselves as chronograph specialists. Nowadays these so-called “Pre-Daytonas” are rare and desirable: $20,000 is merely the entry-level price for one of these hard-to-find models with a silver or black dial and stainless-steel case.
The first automobile races were organized on the beach at Daytona, Fla., in 1902. Many new speed records were set in the following years. Sir Malcolm Campbell of Great Britain was among the most successful racecar drivers on the stretch: he wore Rolex copy watches both on and off the racetrack in the 1930s, when he held the world land speed record. Campbell wrote a thank-you letter to Rolex in 1931, telling the company he was very impressed by his Oyster’s durability.
The newer route of the Daytona racecourse, which formed an elongated oval with a slight bend in it, ran partly across the beach and partly along the oceanfront roadway. It wasn’t until 1959 that the race was run solely on asphalt: namely, at the newly opened Daytona International Speedway.
Rolex first served as Daytona’s official timekeeper in 1962, one year prior to the debut of the Cosmograph Reference 6239. Rolex nicknamed this model “Daytona” the same year to emphasize the watch’s affiliation with the prestigious auto race. This timepiece was conceived expressly for racecar drivers, which explains why the tachymeter scale on the bezel is significantly larger than its counterparts on most other watches.
Reference 6239 attracted a celebrity devotee in the late 1960s. Paul Newman wasn’t just an actor: he was also an outstandingly successful racecar driver. In his heyday, he even had his own racing stable. His Daytona watch accompanied him on his races. In the 1980s, collectors gave the nickname “Paul Newman” to this style of Daytona, which can be recognized chiefly by the contrastingly colored seconds scale along the dial’s periphery.
Paul Newman Daytonas can change hands at auctions for as much as $100,000. But there are obvious differ- ences between them. The original Paul Newman watch had a white dial with black elapsed-time counters and large, easy-to-read numerals in art deco style.
The other dial variation, which has small and simple numerals in the subdials, can be bought for prices ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. The increase in value is immense: these best replica watches sold at auctions in the late 1980s for the equivalent of $3,000 to $4,000. That means their price has increased nearly tenfold since then.
If you’re thinking about buying a Paul Newman Daytona, be careful. It’s relatively simple for a crook to convert a standard Daytona into a “Paul Newman”: experts believe that more counterfeit Newman dials are in circulation than genuine ones. And some seemingly complete watches aren’t entirely original, i.e., they’ve been cobbled together from various individual components.
All classic, hand-wound Daytonas contained the Valjoux Caliber 72 in one of its variations. Rolex comprehensively reworked this caliber, equipping it, for example, with the brand’s own shock-absorption device. This caliber was produced in large series, which makes counterfeiters’ lives easier: they can find it inside diverse no-name chronographs, which they can buy for a few hundred dollars. (But there’s an advantage to a caliber that was produced in large series: spare parts for the movement are relatively easy to find.) The differences among the several caliber variations are apparent only under close scrutiny. Watches purporting to be Daytona models should therefore be purchased only from reputable auction houses or dealers. You can also send the watch to Rolex, where the company’s experts can substantiate its authenticity or unmask it as a fake.
Rolex switched to screw-in push buttons with the debut of Reference 6240 in 1965. These seal the watch’s case nearly as hermetically as the Oyster models without a stopwatch function. The bezel of Reference 6240 was black with an acrylic inlay. Reference 6262, which was manufactured in one year only, 1970, and is therefore extremely rare, marked Rolex’s return to an engraved steel bezel and to unthreaded push buttons. The movement was also modified: Rolex raised the frequency of the Valjoux caliber from 18,000 to 21,600 vph.
This movement was used in Reference 6264 from 1970 to 1972. Unlike the 6262, Reference 6264 had a bezel with an acrylic inlay and screw-in push buttons. The last references with hand-wound movements were 6263 and 6265, which were produced from 1971 to 1988. The first of these is especially valuable: Christie’s auctioned off one of these watches in 2013 for nearly 1 million Swiss francs, a record-breaking price.
In 1988, mechanical Rolex Replica Daytona watches online seemed like quaint relics from a bygone era because quartz technology had long since superseded them. That year, Rolex decided to introduce a self-winding Daytona. Rolex used Zenith’s El Primero movement, which had been introduced in 1969. Rolex made major changes to the El Primero, including slowing its frequency from 36,000 to 28,800 vph. This resulted in a longer power reserve and longer service intervals. Rolex renamed the movement the 4030.
Demand for sporty chronographs took off at this time. Waits of up to three years were not unusual for would-be Daytona buyers. Rolex continued to offer the models in all steel and all yellow gold, which were later joined by steel- and-gold and white- and rose-gold variations. With prices starting at about $6,000, steel-and-gold models from the late 1980s and afterwards are now the least costly Daytonas on the used-watch market. All-steel models in good condition are somewhat more expensive: their prices start at around $7,000. Here, too, caution is in order. Accompanying papers and an original box increase the watch’s value, but cannot guarantee its genuineness because these accessories, too, are often skillfully counterfeited.
IN 2000, Rolex launched the first Daytona with an in-house movement. Caliber 4130, still used in today’s Daytonas, has 44 jewels, a 72-hour power reserve, and Kif shock absorbers for its balance and escape wheel. Vertical coupling assures a smooth start for the elapsed-seconds hand. The new movement, like the El Primero it replaced, has column-wheel switching.
The change in calibers is visible on the dial, where the running seconds subdial has been shifted from 9 o’clock to 6 o’clock and the centers of the elapsed-minutes and running seconds subdials are now positioned slightly north of the dial’s equator.
The 4130 has had Rolex’s in-house blue Parachrom hairspring for the past decade. Prices for the cheap fake Rolex watches are high – used models in steel can cost nearly as much as brand new ones. The most recent addition to the Daytona lineup is a platinum version with a brown ceramic bezel, introduced in 2013 to commemorate the Daytona’s 50th birthday. This longevity is what distinguishes a true classic.
If the Replica Rolex Submariner is the original sports copy watch, then the Swiss Replica Rolex Explorer II watches would be the original extreme sports copy watch. Introduced in 1971 as a timepiece for cave and polar exploration, this was a fake watch with a very narrow target market. Though it was never a big seller for Rolex, the Explorer II is perhaps the purest emblem of what Rolex does best, thanks to its purpose-built design and legendary build quality.
It remains the only Rolex sports replica watches, along with the equally capable Sea-Dweller, to have not been rendered in a precious metal. While the original Rolex Explorer had a bulletproof backstory — the summiting of Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953 — it still remained, by the ’70s, a small, quaint watch, belonging to an earlier era and devoid of complications or even crown guards. So, Rolex created its bigger, badder descendant.
The Explorer II was housed in a burlier 40mm case and featured the same protective crown guards as the Submariner. It also sported a fixed, engraved 24-hour marked bezel and an extra hand on the dial. That oversized blaze-orange hand gave the ref. 1655 its Italian nickname, “Freccione”, or “big arrow”.
Powered by the same cal. 1575 movement as the GMT-Master, the extra hand travelled the dial once in 24 hours, pointing to its corresponding time on the outer bezel. Unlike the GMT-Master, whose bezel rotated and thus could display time in a second time zone, the Explorer II was meant only to tell its owner whether it was 2:00 or 14:00. In the dark underworld of a cave or in the perpetual blackness of the polar winter, time can be confusing and a reassuring glance at the wrist could be reorienting.
With its singular uncompromising purpose, the original Explorer II was a pure tool. True to its name, it became the cheap fake watches of choice for real-world explorers like French spelunker Jean-François Pernette and Tyrolean mountaineering legend, Reinhold Messner.
In the mid-’80s, the Explorer II got a refresh. Its dial got the more familiar circular hour markers and Mercedes handset. The 24-hour hand was reduced in size and painted red instead of orange. A white-dial version was introduced. Though it remained the most purely utilitarian watch in the Rolex lineup, some of the magic of the original was lost, and the watch languished in display cases, bought only by those who appreciated its minimalist magic, as well as the odd cave explorer.
A few years ago, ahead of the BaselWorld watch fair, a teaser image made its way around the Internet, showing a distinctive orange hand against a white dial. Could Rolex be introducing a new, modern Explorer II? Indeed, when the watch was officially unveiled, it was a hit in the watch community. Rolex endowed the watch with a larger 42mm case, solid-link bracelet with its excellent Glidelock clasp, blue Chromalight luminescent dial markers (for dark polar nights) and, most importantly, a return to the orange hand, which was now driven by the cal. 3187.
This motor allows for independent setting of the 24-hour hand for second-time-zone tracking, a function its predecessor never had. The movement also features Rolex’s Parachrom hairspring, which renders it more resistant to temperature fluctuation and magnetic influences, making the copy Rolex watches online even more perfectly suited for polar excursions. While this may not be on the minds of most Rolex buyers these days, it is evidence that Rolex hasn’t forgotten its tool-watch roots.
Les Artisans de Genève is a new company that focuses on recreating classic Swiss replica watches from the past, but updating and personalising them where they see fit. There is no doubt in my mind as to the quality of their work, or the qualifications of their artisans, but this is a novel practice that I imagine will divide the community down the middle. Using a base model from a brand’s current range, elements of the case, movement, and dial are modified or replaced in homage to an old, out-of-production model. Their first piece – Les Artisans de Genève Tribute to Replica Rolex Daytona 6263 – takes inspiration from one of Rolex’s most iconic models, but brings it back to life and up-to-date, in their own way.
This is the first watch from Les Artisans de Genève, and it is available with either a black or white dial. These watches, produced in seriously limited runs, start life as a Rolex Daytona 116520 before being transformed into a ticker from antiquity. Before I delve into the specifics of this watch and how these craftspeople have simultaneously changed and stayed true to the Rolex Replica Daytona 6263 watches in the creation of this homage, I feel it would be beneficial to place this company in the wider context of watchmaking and ask whether we have seen anything like this before.
When I first read the press release, I thought I was looking at the proposal for a Swiss-based Bamford Watch Department, but that’s not the case at all. This company takes a different tack to the concept of customisation of a Rolex in the style of Bamford or Made Worn. This is more like an homage, with a restoration to make the replica watch a contemporary piece. It kind of reminds me of ICON Automative and what they do with cars.
Getting to the nitty-gritty… The original Replica Rolex Daytona Big Red 6263, released in 1967, was powered by a Valjoux 75. That was a manual movement. This version features a modified 4130 base calibre, an automatic movement. Two major customisations have been made by Les Artisans de Genève to put their stamp on the project: a nicely decorated 22 carat gold rotor weight bearing their name has replaced the standard oscillator; additionally, a gold balance bridge has been installed, changing the overall appearance of the calibre.
The Replica Rolex Daytona 6263 watches, takes its “Big Red” nickname from the large, red Daytona that curves around the top of the six o’clock sub-dial, and this was essential for Les Artisans de Genève to get right. Reputedly, the team spent over two years researching its nuances, and the combined efforts of nine craftsman over a 78-hour period were required to assemble the dial. The dial and the updated hands (which are not identical to the original, but a nice evolution) offer exceptional legibility, and are the epitome of a racing chronograph when paired together.
Other exterior modifications include the hand-made “push-pump” pusher pieces, which still guarantee water resistance to 100m, but also offer a smooth look and feel during operation. The sleek form is complemented by the bakelite bezel, which mirrors the fashions of 1970. These days, we’re used to seeing steel, aluminium, or ceramic as the main material for bezel inserts. This material gives a really vintage, authentic feel to the piece, and was worth the necromancy it must have taken to resurrect the almost forgotten skill of working bakelite into a luxury product.
The last modification made to the outside of the case and bracelet is the re-polishing (done by hand) to match the original model’s finish. This is performed by Tiago, their in-house master polisher. Judging by the results, they’ve reason to shout about it – the fake watches online does look like the original, from the front at least. Turning it over to see the glass case back, a customised gold rotor and balance bridge, and a name other than Rolex decorating the movement might shatter the illusion – or maybe not. Les Artisans de Genève will produce just two watches per month, and I look forward to what comes next.