60 Years Of Making Legends At Daytona Speedway

60 Years Of Making Legends At Daytona Speedway

Having taken place just this past weekend, this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona Speedway marks the 60th anniversary of the legendary endurance event. Sixty-one drivers representing racing’s finest competed for the first place title- and the coveted Rolex watch that is awarded as a symbolic prize to every winner. The watch brand has been the Title Sponsor of the race for three decades, in an ode to the 1935 victory of Sir Malcolm “King of Speed” Campbell, who took on the track wearing a Rolex Oyster. The prize was the engraved Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, a 1963 model that has evolved through nearly sixty years of racing history to become the cutting edge yet classic emblem of a world famous racing destination. The cool weight of an archetypal timepiece around a champion’s wrist is the perfect metaphor when it comes to Daytona’s ultimate race against time. The award holds a history so closely intertwined with racing culture that celebrity driver and recent Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett sums up so well- “It’s all about the watch”. 

This year’s event saw sixty one vehicles split up into five categories, all having secured their entry at a 100 minute qualifier that took place a few days earlier. NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson was one of a handful of big names on the entry list, which also included Kamui Kobayashi, Alex Palou, Pato O’ Ward and 24 Hours of Le Mans champions Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Rockenfeller. The official winning vehicle was the Meyer Shank Racing W/Curb-Agajanian #60 Acura, driven by Oliver Jarvis, Helio Castroneves, Tom Blomqvist and Simon Pagenaud. After completing 761 laps, Castroneves described his team’s experience as follows: “When we accomplish something as we did today, it’s priceless. You push as hard as you can to win that Rolex.”

A seamless blend of function and high end design, the Cosmograph Daytona has become synonymous with the oceanside track as well as the challenge itself. In 1963, the original Cosmograph was introduced especially for racers, following in the footsteps of previous Professional Rolex models, made with mountaineers, divers, and other outdoor adventurers in mind. The Cosmograph’s signature chronograph counters and tachymetric scale, tactfully placed around the dial and on the bezel merged a utilitarian approach with a sleek, high contrast look that reflected the era. Over the next few decades, the Cosmograph would see a number of technical tweaks and slight changes, from a black bezel and 18 ct gold chronograph to the self- winding function. The most recent change to the model went into effect in 2016, when the Monobloc Cerachrom Bezel was introduced. As opposed to the previous metal bezel, the new piece was sculpted in black ceramic, referencing the 1965 version of the model, which featured a black Plexiglass bezel to highlight the dial. This is the watch that was awarded to this year’s Rolex 24 Champion on January 30th. 

When it comes to the relationship between Daytona Speedway and the Rolex, those who won and wore the famous watch represent its lasting power as a symbol of not only victory, but perseverance. The drivers who received the watch went down in history as both racing legends and endurance athletes, pushing their cars to greater speeds and their bodies and minds to the limits. The first man to surpass 300 mph, Sir Malcolm Campbell set many of his records in his Bluebird at Daytona, becoming racing’s first Rolex Testimonee thanks to his Oyster. Other prominent names to claim the Cosmograph include Vic Elford, Hurley Haywood, and Tom Kristensen.  

Always rare and always in demand, the Rolex Cosmograph has come to define the desire to conquer time itself. Considered the company’s “Ultimate chronograph” the Cosmograph passes the Rolex 24 torch on to a new (or returning) champion each year, upholding the company’s legacy within motorsports. Tying the worlds of endurance and design together, the model is efficient and glamour, all in one flick of the wrist. Racing fans across the world are already looking forward to next year’s Rolex 24, when the Daytona Speedway will once again play host to the event that launched some of the racing world’s biggest stars.