Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona 116503

Sivakumar Sathiamoorthy, keen to raise his spirits, walked into his local retailer and immediately succumbed to the charms of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona 116503. While many collectors yearn for the stainless-steel Daytona, Sivakumar makes a strong case for the two-tone model. Indeed, his ownership experience has proved very enjoyable and reinforced his positive image of the prestigious brand.

The underrated Daytona

The Rolex Daytona has proven to be one of the most successful watches from the Genevan marque, albeit the prize for the most popular model goes to the Submariner. Demand for the Daytona reached its zenith when Paul Newman’s personal Daytona fetched a record $17.8 million in 2017 (Phillips, New York). Even before this auction, stainless steel Daytonas were fetching premiums over recommended retail prices. Indeed, demand was stimulated by hordes of speculators who merely wanted the stainless steel Daytona in order to ‘flip’ it and make some easy cash.

The solid gold and platinum Daytonas were commensurately expensive and typically worn by celebrities, often proving beyond the grasp of regular souls. The previously unloved Daytona 116508, featuring an eye-catching green dial / yellow gold case combination soon became sought after, once the famous singer, John Mayer, spoke about it during an interview on Hodinkee. However, for most watch collectors, the two-tone Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116503 has remained under the radar, a comparative underdog. In my view, it makes a good value proposition. This article talks about my personal experience of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116503 and why I feel it is a worthy addition to their watch collection.

Purchasing my Daytona

Window shopping is one of my favourite lunchtime activities, especially looking at watches and discovering new horological delights. Moreover, I find looking at timepieces to be a very effective way to de-stress. One day, I was feeling dejected and having had my lunch, I walked into an authorised Rolex dealer, located at Raffles Place in Singapore. A member of shop staff immediately recognised me and asked what I was looking for. I said I was interested in a Daytona and casually selected the two-tone Daytona 116503 from the Rolex catalogue. The attentive lady placed my name on the waiting list and I left the premises.

All Daytonas, whether in steel, precious metal or two-tone metal are virtually impossible to find in my native Singapore. The next day, the retailer sent me a message saying that she had my preferred model and asked me If I was interested. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised and immediately said “yes”. Whilst I had simply walked into the watch shop intending to merely browse, I could not resist the opportunity to acquire a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116503, my very first Rolex.

First impressions

One reason why I was originally drawn to the two-tone Daytona 116503 was its old school metal bezel. Several of the Daytona models in the current collection are fitted with the brand’s Cerachrom bezel made of ceramic. In my opinion, the yellow gold bezel contrasts wonderfully with the black dial. I was also drawn to the Daytona because it possesses a relatively slim case profile despite being a chronograph. Indeed, I have shunned many chronographs because of their bulky thickness.

The modest 40mm case diameter perfectly suits my physique and the watch sits neatly upon my wrist without any hint of annoying rotation. A welcome benefit of the Daytona’s svelte torso is that it readily slips beneath the left cuff of a shirt. Having worn a Patek Phillipe 5712R for the past few years, handling the Rolex is a very different experience. Unlike my Patek, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116503 exhibits a utilitarian character and possesses a sense of ruggedness capable of handling the rigours of daily wear. Turning the crown of the Rolex feels a tad coarser than winding my Patek Phillipe, but does little to diminish my affection for my Daytona. 

The dial

The 18ct gold appliqué hour markers and hands remarkably contrast well with the black lacquer dial and make reading the time extremely easy. The hands and hour markers also contain Chromalight which enhances legibility in dim light. I have noticed that when I view the dial from certain light angles it can appear dark green. The dial has three sub-dials, a small seconds indication at 6 o’clock, a 30-minute chronograph register at 3 o’clock and, lastly, a 12-hour chronograph register at 9 o’clock. Despite the dial being executed to a high standard, I do sometimes struggle to read the sub-dials due, albeit this is possibly a consequence of my ageing eyesight. However, having said that, I rarely use the chronograph function.

The case and bracelet

The watch is made of Rolesor, a combination of ‘Oystersteel and 18 ct yellow gold’. As stated earlier, the yellow gold bezel is one of the elements that attracted me to the Daytona 116503. The bezel is engraved with a tachymetric scale and proves effortless readable. The Daytona watch was actually meant for racing car drivers, allowing them to determine the average speed of a vehicle over a known distance. 

The Oyster bracelet and clasp, made of Rolesor and Oystersteel, and are beautifully executed. The bracelet consists of three-piece links attached with very small screws. The folding Oysterlock safety clasp is one of the best clasps I have seen. It features a double lock clasp, providing welcome assurance that the watch is secure and delivering exalted levels of comfort. The Rolex “beak” allows one to effortlessly use a fingernail to unlock the clasp. Also, the Easylink feature extends the bracelet by 5mm, proving ideal on warm summer days. Collectively, these features ensure the watch hugs my wrist comfortably, making it a joy to wear.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116503, unlike some chronographs, has good water resistance (100 metres). This is made possible by the screw-down crown and Triplock triple waterproofness system. The pushpiece has to unscrewed before the chronograph can be actuated. Starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph proves flawless. The crisp action of pushpieces imparts a sense of quality. The fully integrated chronograph movement, the Calibre 4130, features a column-wheel with vertical coupling. This ensures when the chronograph is started/stopped, the central chronograph second hand commences/ends its journey free of hesitation or wobble. In addition, unlike some chronographs the amplitude of the balance is unaffected by actuating the stopwatch function.

The movement

As stated earlier, the is powered by an in-house manufacture movement, the Calibre 4130. The COSC-certified movement is packed with a slew of features. The bi-directional oscillating mass harnesses energy from the motion of the wearer’s wrist. The power-reserve is sufficient for the movement to run autonomously for approximately 72 hours.

The movement is fitted with a Parachrom hairspring. This hairspring is unaffected by magnetism and is very resistant to shocks. Rolex has enhanced the hairspring with a Breguet Overcoil and equipped the movement with a variable-inertia balance. Both of these details enhance precision. Indeed, I am very impressed by the accuracy of my watch. Lastly, the stop-seconds feature proves very useful, allowing me to synchronise my watch with a suitable reference clock. 

Closing remarks

I am very impressed with the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116503. It is my first Rolex purchase and has led me to understand and appreciate why Rolex is revered by vast numbers of people including numerous experts. Rolex clearly understands the needs of aspiring wearers, making top quality watches, ideal for daily wear.

Personally, I would urge watch enthusiasts to look beyond the much-hyped stainless steel Daytonas and consider owning a two-tone Daytona. It retains its value very well and should prove easier to obtain than the steel versions. Personally, I would suggest that if you can get your hands on one now for the recommended retail price, you should seize the opportunity. In fact, based on my enjoyable Rolex experience, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona 116503
  • Reference: 116503
  • Case: Rolesor (a combination of ‘Oystersteel and 18 ct yellow gold’); diameter 40mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph
  • Movement: Calibre 4130; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 44 jewels; power reserve approximately 44 hours
  • Bracelet: Rolesor Oyster bracelet with folding Oysterlock safety clasp and Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link
  • Price: £14,000 (RRP as at 26.3.2020)

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