With the Rolex 24 at Daytona scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday January 26th and January 27th, it might be worth discussing the role that Rolex has played in racing at Daytona Beach, Florida. In another article I presented the history of the Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. and its world wide reputation. The relationship between Rolex and Daytona Beach predates the famous 24 hour race.
From 1924 to 1935 Sir Malcolm Campbell was attempting to set land speed records, driving his famous Bluebird race car, on the sands of Daytona Beach. He broke nine land speed records during those years and five of them were set at Daytona Beach. From 1930 to 1935 he wore a “Rolex Oyster” on his wrist while attempting those land speed records.
In 1935 he sent a telegram to Rolex informing them that he was wearing a “Rolex Oyster” watch during his record attempts and that it was doing splendidly considering the rough usage that it had endured. That endorsement started a relationship with Daytona Beach that continues today.
In the mid fifty’s William France Sr. the founder of NASCAR, decided that racing on the beach was coming to an end. He had plans for a permanent race track which became the Daytona International Speedway that opened in 1959.
William France Sr. was a fan of both Rolex and Campbell. He also became friends with Rolex U.S.A.’s president Rene D. Dentan and this led him, in the early sixty’s, to name Rolex the official watch of the Speedway.
In1962 the Speedway held the first Daytona Continental, a three hour sports car race that in 1966 would become the 24 Hours of Daytona, later named the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
In 1963 Rolex would introduce what would become one of its most famous watches, “The Cosmograph”, that was a steel-cased chronograph for race drivers. In 1964 Rolex began awarding the watch to the winning drivers of the Daytona Continental. Not long after “The Cosmograph” was introduced the word Daytona was added to the dial on certain models. Before long it was added to all models. It now is simply referred to as “The Daytona”.
The Rolex Daytona is instantly recognizable and its’ minor changes over time has created an intense interest among collectors. It is also known as a racers watch that creates a higher level of appreciation and understanding in the motor sports world. Those watches are being worn by famous race drivers that have actually won at Daytona and it becomes more than just a time piece.
In 2015 Rolex announced that it had extended its sponsorship contract for Daytona’s 24 hour race to 2025. At the same time Daytona International Speedway began a $400 million remodel of the facility. Rolex announced itself as a partner in this undertaking and now has its name on the new luxury lounge located along the front stretch. The financial details have not been disclosed and the partnerships value has not been revealed.
Rolex will continue to spend huge amounts of money on motor sports along with its continued partnership with the Daytona International Speedway. Rolex declines to discuss its return on investment. It’s a brand with a great history and what can’t be measured in dollars is the influence that the watch has created all over the world.
At the conclusion of this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona the winners will all be waiting to receive the Rolex watches that they have earned on the track. Some race drivers covet the watch over the winner’s trophy and the prize money given out. Some drivers will go as far to say “It’s all about the watch”. It’s a racers watch with a long history of honoring those who have won one of the most historical races in the world.