Big news from Rolex today as the brand has announced a special version of the modern Rolex Daytona in honor of the 100th year of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an annual automotive endurance race that is currently underway in France. This new white gold model, which is based closely upon the updated references launched at Watches & Wonders this year, commemorates the legendary race with a reverse panda dial, a special black ceramic tachymeter scale that features the “100” indication in red, and a movement tuned for the famed endurance race’s day-long running.
Ben covered the new 4131-powered 2023 Daytonas when they first launched, so I won’t belabor most of the already-established details. Like the current gen, this new Rolex Daytona in honor of the 100th year of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, reference 126529LN, measures 40mm wide and comes mounted to an Oyster bracelet. What sets this model apart, perhaps even more than the white gold (so rad) and the red accent on the bezel, is that Rolex has given this Daytona a new movement, or at least, a special take on the already-new 4131.
When the new Daytonas launched back in March, they did so with the brand new 4131 movement, but this new Daytona is sporting a new expression of the movement, called the caliber 4132. The difference? Well, the maximum chronograph measure for the 4131 is only 12 hours, which doesn’t really measure up for a 24-hour endurance race. The 4132 ups that to a Le Mans-appropriate 24 hours Rolex Daytona in honor of the 100th year of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The other major element here is the Paul Newman-esque application of a reverse panda dial. That means a black dial with bright white sub-dials that feels a lot like a direct reference to vintage Daytona 6263s. Rolex even calls this out in their marketing for the new model, “The dial’s graphic design is inspired by a Rolex dial from the past.” An exotic dial, perhaps. Given Rolex’s close and longstanding ties with both endurance racing at large and its pinnacle event, Le Mans, it’s not surprising that they would seek to commemorate the race’s 100th year. That said, this new Daytona is a real flex. White gold, a PND-derived dial layout, the special bezel, AND a new iteration of their chronograph movement that is tied directly to the 24 Hours of Le Mans? As commemorative editions go, this one’s about to hit the rev limiter. As a further expression of the recently-refreshed Daytona, I think Rolex has managed to make something special. With what is largely a few subtle tweaks to the existing black dial Daytona, this Le Mans-inspired edition covers all the bases with a technical evolution (how cool is it to notice the “24” in the counter at nine), the material interest of the white gold and the special bezel, and finally a direct but deft reference to the brand’s past with the dial coloring and the connection to the so-called “exotic” dials of the 60s.
Let’s not forget that Paul Newman wasn’t just a fan of the Daytona; he was also an avid endurance racer and raced in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans (where he was racing with the Dick Barbour team, and they took home 1st in class and 2nd overall). To my eyes, this is a deeply cool take on the modern Daytona that is not only a fitting nod to the history of Le Mans, but also to Rolex’s history in the space and the cultural context within which the Daytona exists as a modern motorsports chronograph.
Our intrepid Jonathan McWhorter is on the scene at Le Mans as we speak, and he hiked over to the Rolex area to snap a few live pics of the new Le Mans-themed Daytona. He reports that despite the race roaring in the background (it doesn’t end until 10 AM EDT tomorrow), the new Daytona was attracting a huge line, and they were only letting in a few people at a time to see the watch in a glass display case.