Rolex Error Dials: 3 Crazy Examples

Rolex Error Dials: 3 Crazy Examples

We all know the feeling. You hit send on an email, double check that it was delivered, and that’s when you see it: a big fat typo in the first sentence. As annoying as it is, there’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your hands. Rolex knows this feeling intimately, but instead of pixels on a screen, their typos are made of precious metals and permanent ink. So-called Rolex “error dials” – those that feature printing, application, or material errors – are favorites in the watch collecting community. These rare misprints often command a high premium. As you can imagine, Rolex quality control is very stringent, but over the course of a century, some mistakes are bound to happen. Today we’ll discuss three of my favorite Rolex error dials.

Rolex Air-King Ref. 116900 ‘Double 9’

Rolex Air-King Double 9

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One of the most flagrant and hilarious examples of a Rolex error dial is the Air-King ‘Double 9’. This dial – thought to be one-of-a-kind (but I’ve heard that there could be multiple) – features a ‘9’ Arabic numeral at both 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Plenty of watch snobs obsess over symmetry, but this feels a bit extreme. According to Watchfinder & Co. who initially discovered this Rolex, it passed hands multiple times before anyone even noticed the error. For such a blatant misprint, the ‘Double 9’ Air-King dial is somewhat discreet. In a sea of Arabic numerals, this extra ‘9’ seems to blend in rather nicely.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16520 ‘Patrizzi Dial’ 

Rolex Daytona 16520 Patrizzi Dial

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Before getting into what a ‘Patrizzi Dial’ is, I’d like to just highlight 5-digit Rolex Daytonas in general, often referred to as ‘Zenith Daytonas’ due to their use of a (modified) Zenith El Primero movement. These watches offer great value around the $20,000 mark. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our Hidden Gems article from November of 2023.

Among these 5-digit Zenith Daytonas, one ‘Mark’ in particular – Mark IV – in the black dial variant is particularly desirable. These black 16520s, produced from 1994-1995, used an organic varnish called Zapon. Over the years, this varnish did very little to protect the outer subdial rings from UV rays, causing their original silverish-white hue to change to a light brown. Over even more years, some examples have turned an even darker brown. The first person to recognize this phenomenon (that also had a major platform to share it) was Osvaldo Patrizzi, the founder of the esteemed auction house Antiquorum. I love the look of these Patrizzi dials – you get the character and patina of a vintage watch without the radioactivity.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16520 & 116520 ‘No Daytona’

No Daytona Error Dial

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Yes – another error-dial Zenith Daytona. I don’t know what was going on over at Rolex in the late ‘90s, but someone definitely received a stern talking-to. Much rarer than the ‘Patrizzi dials’ are the ‘No Daytona’ dials. Thought to be only two in existence – a ref 16520 from 1999 and a ref 116520 from 2003 – these dials completely lack the red ‘Daytona’ text above the 6 o’clock subdial. While this error is a little less fun than two ‘9’s or a unique patina, it’s definitely interesting, and to collectors, mouthwatering.

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