BUILT FOR SPEED

The Rolex Day­tona is em­blem­atic of the power and ex­cite­ment of mo­tor sport, writes PIN LEE

#Legend - - TIME KEEPER -

DAY­TONA AND ROLEX are great names that de­note tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence and com­mit­ment to be­ing the best. Day­tona has also be­come a syn­onym for speed and en­durance.

The In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion WeatherTech Sports Car Cham­pi­onship is a se­ries of mo­tor races held over three weeks each year. The com­pe­ti­tion be­gins in late Jan­uary at the Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way in Day­tona Beach, Florida, with the high­light of the se­ries, the Rolex 24. For 24 hours, the cars speed around a 5.7km-long track, as they have done for 55 years. The 56th Rolex 24 at Day­tona will be run on Jan­uary 27 and 28.

Top en­durance rac­ing driv­ers from around the world com­pete in teams, the mem­bers of each team tak­ing turns to drive its finely tuned car. Each driver is an ace and each car is a tri­umph of en­gi­neer­ing. The tro­phy they vie for is the Rolex Oys­ter Per­pet­ual Cos­mo­graph Day­tona. Since 1963, the Cos­mo­graph Day­tona watch has been in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with mo­tor rac­ing, the watch and the sport shar­ing their salient qual­i­ties and strengths.

Rolex has been as­so­ci­ated with the 24-hour race at Day­tona for 26 years but the watch­maker's link with Day­tona goes back to 1935, when Sir Mal­colm Camp­bell set a land speed record of 445.5kph on the Day­tona Beach Road Course, driv­ing a ver­sion of his fa­mous Blue­bird. Camp­bell's watch of choice was a Rolex Oys­ter. He sent a tele­gram to the watch­maker, say­ing: “Rolex watch worn yes­ter­day dur­ing record at­tempt and still going splen­didly not­with­stand­ing rough us­age re­ceived”.

Camp­bell was by no means the only leg­end of mo­tor sport to choose a Rolex. Rolex watches are the of­fi­cial time­pieces of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race and

the Fédéra­tion In­ter­na­tionale de l'Au­to­mo­bile World En­durance Cham­pi­onship.

Tom Kris­tensen has won at Le Mans nine times. “Rolex's in­volve­ment in the mo­tor sport world is unique,” Kris­tensen says. “It's the Rolex way, driven by a pas­sion for in­no­va­tion and ex­cel­lence. These are val­ues the mo­tor sport world shares. Watches are con­sid­ered very much a piece of art and technology at the very high­est level. For me, as a rac­ing driver, there is a great link be­tween watches and mo­tor sport, and the legendary Rolex Day­tona per­fectly en­cap­su­lates this, not only as the ul­ti­mate driver's watch but also as the most cov­eted tro­phy in our sport.”

Scott Pruett has won the Rolex 24 at Day­tona five times, wear­ing a Cos­mo­graph Day­tona with the date, the race logo and the word “Win­ner” en­graved on the case­back. “It's all about the watch,” Pruett says.

And, of course, there is Paul New­man, who com­bined a love of en­durance rac­ing with his cel­e­brated ca­reer as a film ac­tor. In the late 1960s the ac­tor's wife, Joanne Wood­ward, gave him a Cos­mo­graph Day­tona, ref­er­ence num­ber

6239, with the words “Drive Care­fully Me” en­graved on it. New­man gave it to a friend in 1984. In Oc­to­ber this year the watch, which cost US$300, will be auc­tioned and is ex­pected to fetch more than US$1 mil­lion.

The New­man watch, model ref­er­ence num­ber 6239, has what col­lec­tors call an “ex­otic” dial. All sub­se­quent Rolex Cos­mo­graph Day­tonas with such a dial were given the ap­pel­la­tion “Paul New­man”. A gold Cos­mo­graph Day­tona Paul New­man, ref­er­ence num­ber 6263 from 1969, sold for more than US$3.7 mil­lion in May this year.

To­day there is a wait­ing list for the Rolex Cos­mo­graph Day­tona. De­mand is great­est for the stain­less steel mod­els. The watch was de­signed in 1963 for rac­ing driv­ers and its as­so­ci­a­tion with mo­tor rac­ing gives it an aura of glam­our. In 1965, the word “Day­tona” was added to the dial.

An im­por­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic of the time­piece is its leg­i­bil­ity. Black coun­ters on a sil­ver-coloured dial or steel­coloured coun­ters on a black dial make it easy to read at a glance. The in­dis­pens­able tachymeter al­lows driv­ers to cal­cu­late av­er­age speed over dis­tance. The tachymeter is read on the bezel rather than the dial.

Clock­wise from above: Ex­it­ing the In­ter­na­tional Horse­shoe in the 2016 Rolex 24; Pro­to­type Class win­ners in Vic­tory Lane; the start of the Rolex 24 in 2016

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