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Cameramen filming Malcolm Campbell as he poses with a new Bluebird on Jan 9, 1935 before his attempt to break his own land speed record in Daytona.
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Visitors will also get to see the new Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona (reference 116500LN) - unveiled earlier this year - in the flesh at the exhibition.

A chronograph that was born to race

Oct 7, 2016 5:50 AM

THE watch that turns boys into men is in the spotlight at the Rolex Daytona exhibition put together by the brand and luxury timepiece retailer The Hour Glass.

It pays tribute to the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, which has become one of the world's most recognisable and sought-after sports chronographs.

Through vintage photographs and interactive displays, the exhibition traces the origins and evolution of the piece which has its roots in Florida's Daytona Beach, one of the most iconic birthplaces of motor sports.

Visitors will also get to see the new Daytona (reference 116500LN) - unveiled earlier this year - in the flesh at the exhibition.

Demand for it is currently so pent-up that it is commanding a street price of about S$25,000 - which is around 40 per cent above retail. (Rolex does not publish prices.)

The good news is authorised dealers are taking orders but the waitlist is estimated to be anywhere from as short as three years, to as long as eight years. (The new iPhones suddenly seem a lot easy to get hold of!)

Created in 1963, the timepiece is prized by both the world's fastest racing drivers and watch enthusiasts alike for its extraordinary track record in performance and reliability.

Celebrities like Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and singer-guitarist John Mayer have all been photographed wearing it. And despite being a men's watch, it has also been spotted on the wrists of fashion icon Victoria Beckham and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who turned it into a unisex accessory.

The timepiece's history can be traced back to the early 20th century at Daytona Beach which was christened "the Capital of Speed" because race car drivers from all over the world would descend on it to compete on a straight and flat 35km hard-sand stretch. The most famous was British driver Malcolm Campbell - nicknamed "The King of Speed" and a Rolex Oyster-wearer himself - who clocked 445kph in his famous Bluebird in March 1935.

The racing tradition at the beach continued until the purpose-built Daytona International Speedway was constructed in 1959. Since then, the gigantic amphitheatre - 4 km in circumference, with 31-degree banked turns - has been home to the annual Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona races.

The track's rich history was enough to inspire the name of the chronograph Rolex created in 1963: the Cosmograph Daytona. The watch boasted excellent legibility thanks to highly contrasting counters and its tachymetric scale on the bezel, making it ideal for measuring time and speed.

One of the most desirable models is the reference 6239 which the late actor-racer Paul Newman wore during the 1960s. This particular vintage, with its distinctive Art Deco style numeral font on the subdial, fetched over US$1 million at a Christie's auction in late-2013.

More than five decades on, the Cosmograph Daytona's design has continued to evolve; but its commitment and passion for performance, innovation, precision and excellence remains the same.

  • The Rolex Daytona exhibition will be on display for the first time in Singapore exclusively at VivoCity Central Court B until Oct 9, 2016