DON’T FEED THE HYPE: 3 alternatives to the Rolex DaytonaZach Blass
Last week we began our “Don’t Feed the Hype” series and, based on your feedback, many of you are on board with this idea of exposing potential alternatives to largely unobtainable watches. To be clear, this is not a take down of watches like the Nautilus or Royal Oak. We love these pieces we are proposing alternatives to. The problem is not with the watches themselves, it is their lack of availability and, for most of us, the feasibility of being able to pay the premium on the secondhand market. The goal here then is to, perhaps, play devil’s advocate with watches. To find timepieces that are not compromises, but genuine alternatives. One reference that many of you have emailed me to tackle, is the Rolex Daytona – a storied chronograph watch made by one of the most famous manufacturers in the world. Unfortunately Daytona-mania remains in full effect, with the watches becoming harder and harder to source at retail and climbing ever higher in price on the second-hand market. So, here are three Rolex Daytona alternatives that pose equal merit and essence to the unobtanium.
Zenith Chronomaster Sport
Probably the most obvious alternative on the list, the Zenith Chronomaster Sport drew many comparisons to the Rolex Daytona upon its release. Rolex and Zenith have a long history together, as once upon a time Daytonas were powered by Zenith El Primero calibers modified by Rolex. This sparked the now discontinued age of “Zenith Daytonas” that remain to this day highly sought-after collectors’ items.
Aesthetically, there are many design cues that bear a resemblance to what you would find on the Daytona – a black ceramic bezel, white/black dial tones, a three-link bracelet polished in its centre, shouldered by brushed links. But this is by no means a homage to Rolex as there are distinctly Zenith elements as well. The lugs of the case are sharper, with a stronger defined bevel to their angular presence. A date aperture peers through the dial at the 4:30 position, a somewhat debated placement, whereas the Daytona has no date complication. On the dials, a clear difference would also be the presence of tri-colour registers – a signature trait of some of Zenith’s timepieces. Its stainless-steel case is one millimetre larger, but the 41mm case is also 100 metres water-resistant like the 40mm Rolex Daytona.
Technically, it must be mentioned that Zenith has taken the chronograph up a notch. The lateral clutch column wheel El Primero caliber 3600 inside is a high-beat movement, with a 36,000 vph rate that speeds past the 28,800 vph of the Daytona. The increased rate also allows the Chronomaster Sport to do something more technically advanced than the Daytona will allow: the ability to measure time up to 1/10th of a second. This explains the different scale utilized on the ceramic bezel, a 1/10th of a second scale in favour of the typical tachymeter. Unlike the Daytona, you can actually see this marvellous caliber beneath an exhibition caseback and watch it ticking away. The watch has caught the eyes of consumers, and has been selling allocations quickly, but the wait, if any, would inevitably be shorter than what most of you would find queuing up for the Daytona.
Price: $10,000 USD
Breguet Type XXI
The Breguet Type XX is a historic chronograph watch, which notably won the approval of the French technical services in 1950. In 1954, the watch was commissioned by the government for the French Air Force, only issued to top pilots, and became so much of a status symbol that Breguet would later go on to produce a version for civilians.
This Breguet Type XXI is an evolution of the Type XX design, brought into the future with a modern caliber, increased complication, and larger titanium case and bracelet. It is 42mm in diameter, 15.2mm thick, and 48.8mm lug-to-lug (excluding the endlink-to-endlink of the bracelet) which is a bit larger than the Rolex Daytona, but it offers equal water-resistance with a 100 metre depth rating. The case and bracelet are primarily brushed, but the bracelet has mirror-finished accents to the sides of the centre and a hairline mirror polish towards the outer extremity of the shouldering links of the three-link bracelet. Interestingly, the case has coining on its sides – a design signature of Breguet.
A rotating 60-minute elapsed minutes timing scale bezel, rather than a fixed tachymeter, works in tandem with the central elapsed minutes chronograph hand. At 9′ you’ll find the running seconds register and opposite it at 3′ is a day/night indicator displaying the current hour in a 24-hour format. The bottom register at 6′ displays a 12-hour elapsed hours scale with a neatly and symmetrically tucked away calendar complication that provides the date with a white on black disc that blends well into the matte black dial.
Inside the watch is the Breguet caliber 584 Q, a 319-component driven cam flyback chronograph caliber that powers each of the aforementioned registers, date complication, and central elapsed chronograph seconds and minutes hands. While beneath a solid caseback it is nicely decorated with Côtes de Genève, perlage, and chamfered bridges. The 45 hour power reserve automatic movement, with an engraved solid gold rotor, also has a silicon balance spring for added resistance against modern magnetism.
Price: $15,400 USD
Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT Steel Silver Black
The least obvious choice, but a unique avenue to walk down, actually came at the suggestion of The Breakfast Club (our weekly clubhouse room) attendee Bruce, and after further evaluation I am in agreement with him. Introduced this year, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT is sporty but stylish. The watch, aside from panda registers, doesn’t really share any aesthetic cues with the Daytona – and even that is a stretch. But in essence, I think for the horlogically inclined there is a lot to love here and it packs a phenomenal complication into a design that oozes robust elegance. The watch is water resistant to 100 metres with a screw-down crown, and leverages both brushed and polished surfaces throughout its case and bracelet.
Measuring in at 42mm in diameter and 13.7mm thick, the Tondagraph GT is also an annual calendar, with an operatic date aperture at 12′ beneath the branding and a month indicator tucked within the running seconds register at 3′. At 6′ you’ll find a 12 hour elapsed hours register and at 9′ a 30-minute elapsed minutes register, with each of the three concentric textured black registers situated against the silver (or black) backdrop of the stepped and guilloched central medallion. A step outward, the hour indexes, filled with a black luminescent coating, rest within a framing ring with a concentric texture that adds further dimension to the dial. The semi-skeltonized delta shaped hours and minutes hands allow you to see more of the clou triangulaire guilloche beneath, their tips filled with a black luminescent coating like the hour indexes.
Inside, beneath an exhibition caseback, is a well decorated caliber PF403, an automatic movement with 45 hours of power reserve. The 22K gold rotor is semi-skeltonized to give a slightly better view of the balance and bridges beneath, finished with Côtes de Genève in arabesque and the manipulate beneath decorated with circular graining (perlage). A total of 443 components and 56 jewels comprise this highly complicated movement, which, perhaps, may not be as shock resistant as what you would find in a Rolex watch. The trade-off here is added decoration and complication, the question is really whether or not the package as a whole is to your taste.
Price: $21,500 USD
Honorable Mention: Omega Speedmaster 321 “Ed White”
Editor’s Note: The Omega Speedmaster 321 “Ed White” was heavily considered for this list, in my mind the perfect rival to the modern Daytona in essence, but unfortunately it was disqualified due to its level of accessibility. Only thousands are made each year, due to its intricacies during movement assembly, and existing demand means it will not be a watch that is readily available without a wait. If, however, you do have a chance to purchase one at retail it would make a perfect alternative to the Rolex Daytona as well.