It’s currently a little past midnight in Texas and the 24 Hours of Le Mans is still taking place in France. As of now, Ferrari AF Corse (#51) is currently in the lead, but with eight hours left to go, anything can happen before the dust ultimately settles. As Rolex has been a major sponsor of the race for many years and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the event, Rolex made a rare mid-release-cycle announcement earlier today that they have a brand new Daytona to share with the world.
This new 100th Anniversary of Le Mans Daytona, Ref. 126529LN, is a very special full white gold Daytona with a number of unique features, so let’s go ahead and see what this new model has going for itself. For starters, unlike the vast majority of Daytonas with precious metal bracelets, this version has a ceramic bezel insert. This model joins the platinum Daytonas in that regard. As this is part of the new “12” series of Daytonas, instead of having a full ceramic bezel, it has a ceramic bezel insert with a bezel matching the case material. I was not a big fan when Rolex announced the new bezel design for ceramic bezel Daytona models earlier this year, but I do surprisingly think it looks good here, or at least this is the version that I have the least issue with. One of the four biggest changes to this watch is also on the bezel; if you look at the tachymeter, the “100” is in red as a reference to 100 years of the French race.
Moving on to the dial, the base colour for the dial is what Rolex is calling “bright black”, their new black dial they’re featuring on a number of Daytona models. My sense of the dial so far is that it’s a sunburst black as opposed to previous iterations of more matte black dials that they have offered. The big deal here though is with the chronograph registers on the dial… For starters, they’re in a stark, contrasting white with black Paul Newman style indices within. This is, of course, a reference to a highly-collectible subset of the “62” series Daytonas that feature what have come to be known as “Paul Newman dials”. Paul Newman’s own Paul Newman Daytona was auctioned in 2017 for 17.8 million USD, where all of the proceeds were given to charity.
Staying on the topic of the registers, but moving to incorporate the movement as well, you’ll notice that the register on the left side of the dial displays a possible 24 hours instead of the Daytona’s usual 12. This is a callback to the “24 Hours” of Le Mans. In order to accommodate a 24-hour chronograph register, Rolex had to develop a brand new movement, the Cal. 4132. At least to my knowledge so far, the 4132 is the same as the 4131 in every other way. It still beats at 4Hz, has a 72 hour power reserve, and possesses all the other usual specifications of the 4131 that was released earlier this year.
This watch follows the new platinum Daytonas in one additional way, as it is now also joins them in being one of the few Daytona models to feature an exhibition caseback. It’s kind of neat, but with throwing away that much open real estate, you really lose the ability to engrave the watch properly … like how Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona was engraved. Again following the platinum Daytona’s display caseback, this Daytona movement also gets its own 18kt yellow gold rotor and movement decorated with Rolex Côtes de Genève.
Overall, this is a pretty great watch. Looking objectively, it has a mostly ceramic bezel and goes for a good bit more than comparable white gold Daytonas with white gold bezels. Does that make sense? No, but being objective with the price here kind of gets thrown out the window. I like what I’m thinking the “bright black” of the dial to be against the white chronograph registers with their Paul Newman markers. I like the red accent on the bezel. I like the multiple Le Mans 100th Anniversary tie-ins between the bezel and the chronograph register. Overall, I wasn’t expecting a release from Rolex, but if I had been, this would have beaten my expectations. This is easily their best release of the year and maybe their best in a long time. All I can say is it is a huge improvement over, what I consider to be, the absolute mess that was their showing at Watches & Wonders earlier this year. Who would have thought Rolex would have transitioned from that occurrence in March to now be releasing a true modern-day iteration of the Paul Newman Daytona? My only wish is that it had been released in yellow gold instead of white. Aside from that, this is a day that I finally am excited about a Rolex release again and can’t wait to see it in person
It seems this watch will be part of Rolex’s main collection of Daytonas, but considering the fact that this is the year that celebrates 100 years of Le Mans, I’d be surprised if it were to still be available beyond this year. The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 100th Anniversary of Le Mans in 18kt white gold is priced at 51,400 USD.