Like a Porsche or Ferrari, a Rolex Daytona is almost instantly recognizable. But, the relationship between Rolex and motorsports goes further back than the Rolex Daytona and branches beyond being simply the official timekeeper for different events. We're going to take a look at the beginning of Rolex and racing's relationship and follow this branch - or particular race - to where it is today. So, start your engines.
In 1935, British racer Malcolm Campbell wore a Rolex Oyster as he broke the 300mph speed record on the Booneville Salt Flats at 301.13 mph. As Campbell’s fame spread, Rolex benefitted as Rolex used Campbells name, images and personal testimonies about their watches in advertisements. This is another great example of Rolex's excellent marketing tactics (which you can read more about here).
From there, Rolex’s association with speed only grew. In 1962 Rolex signed on to be the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway. But, Rolex's first chronograph didn't bear the name Daytona with Rolex ref. 6234. The ref. 6238 replaced Rolex ref. 6234 in 1963. Then in 1964, Rolex started to award the chronograph to the winning drivers of the Rolex24, which is a 24 hour race on the Daytona International Speedway. The 24 hour race represents the entire cycle of a watch. Winning a Daytona became the goal of every racer.
According to Automobilemag.com, "It's all about the watch," says Scott Pruett, the American racer. "Everyone is sacred, and there are stories behind every one of these watches. It becomes more than a timepiece, it becomes an heirloom and even more so if it says 'Winner of the Rolex 24' on the back." As many racers accomplished the feat of winning a Daytona, there were key figures who became ambassadors and set milestones with Rolex.
One of the more recognizable names joined Rolex in 1972 in the racing world. If you know a bit about Rolex Daytonas, you probably have heard of the famous Paul Newman. He wore a 6239 on his wrist in 1972 (prior to his relationship with Rolex) when he was just starting his professional racing career. His wife had purchased that particular Rolex Daytona for him. This panda dial Daytona sold for $17.8 million in 2017. Once his career took off, he joined Rolex as a brand ambassador. After claiming Rolex24 championship in 2007 and 2008, he was the first racer to have won multiple times exemplifying Rolex's success in merging great relationships with great achievers once again.
Today, the Rolex24 continues to draw crowds - both fans of motor sport and of watches - as it continues to honor the tradition of racing and timekeeping. Rolex is the official timekeeper in many different racing events around the world including Formula 1, Goodwood Revival, and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. We're going to take a closer look into Rolex's relationship and Formula 1 next week, so stay tuned!