The Rolex Daytona is one of the most iconic watches ever made. That’s an indisputable fact. Even before Paul Newman shot it into the collectors’ stratosphere it was one of the most sought-after timepieces around and things haven’t changed. In fact, if anything they’ve gotten worse. Getting hold of a Daytona is a waiting game.
That said, if it’s not simply a Daytona you’re after but something in a similar vein, there are other options out there. Yes, yes, none of them were on the wrist of a Hollywood icon of Mr Newman’s stature, but they’re all solid watches, some of which are iconic in their own rights. Here then are five alternatives to the Rolex Daytona.
1. TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16, £3,850
Let’s start with what is probably the Daytona’s closest competitor, at least thematically. Just like the Rolex, the Carrera Calibre 16 was designed by TAG Heuer with professional racers in mind and just like the Rolex took a track’s name as its own. The difference is that this came first. It’s slightly sportier look comes from a thinner tachymeter bezel, asymmetrical dial and pushers imitating vintage racing stopwatches. If you really want to push the boat out, there’s also a tourbillon version, the Calibre Heuer 02 T, but we prefer the classic, particularly in the vintage brown.
2. OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Chronograph, £4,320
The Omega Speedmaster needs little in the way of an introduction. Buzz Aldrin wore it to the moon, what more do you need to know? It’s seen more iterations than nearly any other watch over the years, but you can still get the original version easily enough. This version is a little cooler than the usual black on black Moonwatch professional though. Not only does it have a nice vintage size at 39.7mm, but it has a panda dial, the kind that makes Daytona collectors start salivating, while the perforated leather strap adds a final sporty touch. More at Omega Watches’ website.
3. Bell & Ross BR V2-94 R.S.18, £4,300
Bell & Ross do a lot more than their famous square, cockpit-inspired aviation watches. A lot more. The BR V2-94 is a brilliant racing watch, boasting a more toned-down look than most similar chronographs. Well, except for their partnership with Renault Sport. Plenty of carbon fibre, colours lifted from Renault’s F1 livery and speedometer-inspired displays, if the Daytona just isn’t intensely high-octane enough for you, the BR V2-94 R.S.18 is the watch you need in your life. Just get in there soon; it’s limited to 999 worldwide.
4. Zenith Chronomaster El Primero, £7,200
Zenith has actually had a long-time relationship with the Daytona; the original Rolexes were actually powered by the famous El Primero chronograph calibre. While Rolex has moved on to their own movements, the El Primero itself remains a mainstay of Zenith’s collection, no matter how much they want to shift focus to the Defy. The open dial version is their flagship, but if you’re looking for something closer to the Daytona this closed dial, bi-colour edition is a serious alternative. It’s not much cheaper, but it’s far, far easier to get hold of.
5. Graham Silverstone RS Racing, £3,670
Named after the home of British auto sport (a bit of a tendency among racing watches) Graham’s 45mm Silverstone RS Racing is a beast. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve with a carbon fibre dial, bright yellow highlights and a British racing green tachymeter. The printed rubber strap is even less subtle, with visible tyre-treads throughout. It’s around the same price as the TAG, so if you want something a little more striking, this is the one for you. Don’t worry about accuracy; The G1749 movement is better than the price suggests, with some serious shock absorption should you spin off the track.