1988 – 2000: Zenith Daytona

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 16500 series – Daytona Zenith

In 1988, after stopping the production of hand winding Daytona chronographs, Rolex launched on the market its first automatic chronograph, waterproof up to 100 meters.

Produced in stainless steel, steel & gold, and 18K gold, with metal bracelet and bezel, Rolex assigned a specific reference number to each model according to the material of construction: 16520 for the stainless steel model, 16523 for the steel & gold model and 16528 for the yellow gold model.

After a few years Rolex added two new models to its series: in 1992 ref. 16518 in 18k Gold and leather strap; in 1997 Ref. 16519 in white gold and leather strap.

The most important change was the creation of the new movement caliber 4030, based on caliber 400 Zenith, the best industrial chronographic movement on the market at the time. Rolex performed about 200 modifications to reach their rigorous productive standards, such as the replacement of the reversing wheel and the elimination of the data indicator.

Rolex was thus able to re-launch the trend of chronographs: a new philosophy that would quickly make this watch a number one collector’s item.

Characteristics of the Cosmograph Daytona “Zenith” watches:

Case: Oyster, screw-down push buttons; Oyster Triplock 700 series winding crown, calibrated metal bezel, sapphire crystal. Dimensions: Cases’s diameter = 40 mm; height= 12.6 mm.

Dial: color contrast between dial and registers track, dial indexes and registers track edge in metal, Printing on dial: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL, certification of official chronometer (COSC), COSMOGRAPH DAYTONA in red above the hour totalizer and waterproof up to 100 mts (330 ft). Luminous material was tritium at first, Superluminova was used later.

Movement: Rolex Caliber 4030 (base Caliber Zenith 400 El Primero), 31 jewels, 28800 beats per hour, 54-hour power reserve, Kif shock absorption; bi-directional rotor, fine regulation via Microstella screws; Breguet balance-spring; non-stop seconds function; official chronometer with C.O.S.C. certification.

[Source: Rolex Daytona History and Reference Guide : eBay Guides]

The Zenith Daytona Variations

The 165xx series was produced from 1988 through to 2000 and is often referred to as the Zenith Daytona as it used a third party movement from Zenith, the Zenith El Primo movement.  This series carried the model number 165xx (the xx varies based on the style, such as white gold, stainless steel, leather strap etc).  The most famous of this series is the 16520 which is the stainless steel version.

During the production of the 165xx series there were many minor tweaks to the watch, while minor in appearance they have resulted in a big difference in terms of collector demand and market value. The following table lists the various versions of the 16520 during its production.  Please note, this is not an official Rolex document, it is based on the expert observations of a collector, and therefore it may not be 100% accurate.

Rolex Daytona 16520 Variations

One Response to “1988 – 2000: Zenith Daytona”
  1. frank manzo says:

    have 16520 n serial with floating cosmo

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