Mamma mia, the Swiss movement fake Rolex Daytona: Where do I even begin? According to Kareem Rashed—with whom I worked at Sotheby’s to create a written series of select GOAT watches—“Rolex is king” to many collectors, “and, among the brand’s many coveted models, the Daytona is the king of kings.” It’s not overly complicated or intricate. In fact, when it debuted in the ’60s, it was kind of a flop.
But look at it now; consistently sought-after and obsessed over, with one model sold at Sotheby’s auction for a record-breaking $1.5 million this past summer. But $1.5 million is cheap compared to the $17.8 million that was spent on the legendary grail that is the Paul Newman high quality copy Rolex Daytona. For all you Zoomers out there reading this, Paul Newman is not just the handsome face of Newman’s Own salad dressings and canned soups—he was a certified iconic actor, and Rolex has him to thank for the Daytona’s zero-to-hero cult status.
But, back to the Daytona’s flop era. When the first iteration of the watch hit the scene in the ’60s, Rolex was hot, but it wasn’t known for chronographs, a.k.a. watches equipped with a stopwatch function. Rather, Rolex was esteemed for its Oyster and Datejust models, worn every day by people who didn’t quite have the need for a stopwatch on their wrist. But over time, Rolex forged associations and partnerships with the race car industry (the name Daytona appeared on the dial after the brand’s partnership with the Daytona Speedway). And then came its big break: Legend has it that actress Joanne Woodward bought her husband, Paul Newman, a Daytona as a gift once he began devoting more time to the racetrack. (Side note: We love when a successful woman gifts her man a timepiece; such a power move.)
Newman’s lifelong association with the watch is to thank for its surge in notoriety, and, as mentioned, it’s $17.8 million value.Enough with the history lesson, though, and on to the good-good: women and their Daytonas. First, let’s get something straight: The Daytona is not a small or dainty watch; in other words, it’s not traditionally considered a “lady’s” watch (*yawn*). Today, women are spotted wearing bigger watches all the time, but this was the result of a few trailblazers. Take supermodel Elle Macpherson, for example, who’s been wearing her 40mm 18-karat gold Rolex Daytona replica watch for years now.
“I started wearing a Paul Newman Daytona in the ’80s,” Macpherson says. “I had never seen another woman wear a men’s watch, but it suited me, because I’m six feet tall and sporty. From then on, I always wore a men’s watch, and it became my trademark. Over the years, I’ve seen friends like Victoria Beckham join the club.”
In addition to Beckham, mega stars like Sofia Vergara and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley wear Daytonas; and one of my all-time favorite photos features Mary-Kate Olsen leaning on her Daytona-decked arm (with a suspect can of whipped cream in her other hand). Now, we see the Daytona transcending generations, with 22-year-old singer Madison Beer frequently sporting it on shopping sprees at Reformation.
I spoke with Emily Oberg about the Daytona, and she loves it for its borrowed-from-the-boys quality. “To me, the cheap fake Rolex Daytona is the perfect woman’s watch,” she says. “I love the chunky-ness of it—like you stole it from your incredibly chic husband who plays tennis on the weekends and takes you to Positano in August. Pair it with a Charvet button-down and denim, and you’ll be the chicest person in the room.”