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Was This The Biggest Marketing Mistake Rolex Ever Made?

Rolex, marketing, mistake. Now there are three words you don’t usually see in the same sentence. You never even see the word ‘mistake’ used in reference to anything Rolex has ever done – marketing or otherwise. In fact, there are those with a jaundiced eye towards all things luxury and marketing who will tell you that marketing MADE Rolex.

And so what is that headline up there talking about, anyway? Well, we’re talking about how the Cosmograph Daytona got its name. When it finally became time to name the Daytona, Rolex had already missed the boat – several times, in fact.

They’d missed the chance to get involved with Formula 1. Heuer had grabbed that association with their iconic racing chronographs, including the Autavia and Monaco. No room for the Crown, so no joy there.

But what about Space? The Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union was hot and heavy in the 1960s. The two were leapfrogging and taking turns setting new, never before achieved milestones every year. Alas, the United States chose the Omega Speedmaster rather than a Rolex chronograph.

And anyway, though the Speedy would eventually prove its worth in space despite its tachymetre bezel (which was a white elephant up there in the heavens), Rolex wanted into racing in the worst way. Space fans were numerous, but race fans were absolutely ubiquitous. They were everywhere, like ants at a picnic.

No matter how rich a space fan was, he was NOT going to get his hands on a rocket and go on a joy ride. But a race fan? Not much of a stretch to get a Corvette or a Porsche 911 – or even a Shelby Cobra 427 – and go joyriding around the countryside like a Jackie Stewart wannabe. And so Rolex called their latest chronograph the Daytona, in honor of that new D-shaped oval piece of high-banked asphalt in Florida. NASCAR was there, of course, but so was a 24 hour endurance race for sports cars. And it was this race that Rolex wanted to be associated with. Endurance racing, you see, was a European motorsport as much as an American motorsport. More so in the eyes of Europeans. Witness the LeMans 24 hour race.

And in fact, the new chronograph was actually called the LeMans in one early advertisement. Then the marketing boys in Geneva went to work. And the chronograph with the Crown logo – the Cosmograph – has been known ever since as simply “The Daytona.”

Now you tell me. Was naming the Daytona really such a marketing blunder?

 

-Ed Estlow

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