Rolex and the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Rolex and the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona received a highly anticipated upgrade this year to celebrate the collection’s 60th anniversary, complete with a new generation of watches and a brand-new movement.  It’s been a few months since the beloved chronograph stole the show at Watches and Wonders Geneva, and the Big Crown has once again treated us with a new Daytona watch.  This time it is the white gold ref. 126529LN, which was developed to celebrate Rolex’s partnership with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the endurance race’s 100th anniversary. Let’s take a brief look at this fascinating partnership, hot on the heels of the new 2023 Rolex Daytona release.

What is the 24 Hours of Le Mans? The colorful 24 Hours of Le Mans Racetrack in France.

Image: Autosport

The 24 Hours of Le Mans pushes some of the world’s most extraordinary racecars to the limit with a grueling 24-hour endurance race held annually at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. The race hails from the Triple Crown of Motorsport, a trio that also includes the world-renowned Indianapolis 500 and Monaco Grand Prix.  The race has notably been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship since 2012.  While races with a fixed distance crown winners based on the quickest finishing time, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is based on the most distance covered in 24 hours, testing both a car’s speed and endurance.   

Rolex’s Partnership with the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Rolex Daytona 24 Hours of Le Mans White Gold ref. 126529LN

Rolex sponsors some of the world’s most elite athletes with tennis, yachting, golf, and motorsport partnerships.  One of the most famous Rolex motorsport sponsorships is with the Daytona International Speedway, after which the Daytona chronograph is named.  However, Rolex has also sponsored the 24 hours of Le Mans since 2001 as the official timepiece of the event, even bringing 9-time winner Tom Kristensen on as an official Rolex ambassador. Interestingly, before the Rolex Daytona was officially named “Daytona,” it was sometimes called the “Le Mans.”  It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Rolex has chosen to sponsor the event and consequently celebrate the race’s 100th anniversary with the show-stopping white gold Daytona 126529LN.

The 2023 Rolex Daytona 126529LN

The White Gold Rolex Daytona ref. 126529LN "Le Mans"

Rolex unveiled the new 1265XX Daytona series at Watches and Wonders 2023, outfitting the watch with a new and more efficient caliber 4131 movement with the brand’s celebrated Chronergy escapement.  The hour markers and sub-dial rings were thinned out for better symmetry and an overall cleaner aesthetic, and the bezel on ceramic models is trimmed in metal to match the case, a move Rolex themselves likened to models from the 1960s - like the ref. 6263.

Ref. 126529LN has many of the same features and its own distinctive design set, including an exclusive movement.  While the caliber 4131 has a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, the caliber 4132 hard at work inside the 24 Hours of Le Mans Rolex ups that measurement to 24 hours in honor of the endurance race. Furthermore, Rolex has filled the 100-marker on the Tachymeter bezel in red as a nod towards the monumental milestone.

However, the dial is the feature that’s turning heads the most.  It sports the cult-favorite reverse panda colorway and square-tipped hash marks within the sub-dials, much like the beloved Rolex Paul Newman Daytona ref. 6239.  The new white gold Daytona also features an exhibition case back, a move we can only assume Rolex made to show off the special 24 Hours of Le Mans movement within. If you recall from Rolex’s March release, the Platinum Daytona ref. 126506 was the first Daytona to feature an exhibition case back.

The exhibition case back on the Rolex Daytona ref. 126529LN 24 Hours of Le Mans 100th Anniversary.

Whether you love or hate it, the new white gold Daytona 126529LN does a great job of paying homage to both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and some of the most notable Daytona models from the 1960s.

Images in this article courtesy of Rolex.

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