We were delighted to discover that affable Ellen DeGeneres is a watch collector. After all, collectors are a fascinating breed, driven by passion, compulsion and a touch of obsession, a combination that always makes for a good story.
Which is how we found ourselves virtually stalking DeGeneres to see what kind of timepieces are in her collection. We found that she favors Rolexes both vintage and new. And for her recent interview with President Barack Obama, she wore a 1970s-era Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, reference 6265, in gold. A legendary watch for a big moment on her show.
Here’s the back story: The introduction of the Cosmograph Daytona in 1963 was a turning point in Rolex history. The chronograph was originally created for professional racecar drivers. In order for drivers to better measure speeds of up to 400 miles per hour, the Daytona was designed with a distinctive bezel with a tachometric scale. The 6265 reference was tweaked for waterproofness, and is famous for its iconic Oyster case with screw back, large Oyster Twinlock 700 series winding crown and two round screw down chronograph pushers.
The look alone helped redefine Rolex the brand, making the model so highly sought after by collectors like DeGeneres. Another reason the Daytona is so important in the watch world is the cool connection. The Daytona is inextricably linked to the legendary actor and racecar driver Paul Newman. In the secondary market, the 1970s hand wound version with its two-tone panda dial, luminous accents and Oyster Bracelet is called the Paul Newman Daytona. To illustrate how far vintage collectors will go to get their hands on one of these timepieces, a 1971 Cosmograph sold for over a million dollars at auction in 2013. DeGeneres’ model is even more of a unicorn because it is gold.
Collectors like DeGeneres have cornered the market on the vintage Cosmographs, but the newest version of the Cosmograph Daytona (pictured here) is also making history. The Daytona has been re-engineered and re-fitted with a caliber 4130 automatic movement. This mechanism (introduced at Baselworld 2016) is a composite of recent advances in Rolex research and development: the number of components for the chronograph function has been reduced significantly to improve reliability. The chronograph itself is now set by a mechanism with a column wheel and vertical clutch, to allow for split second and super precise starts. And the oscillator has been fitted with a blue Parachrom hairspring for better performance when faced with temperature variations and bumps and shocks.
Basically the Cosmograph Daytona continues to make history, which is why the timepiece is so appealing to collectors, like DeGeneres, who like to champion a specific watchmaker’s craft. But with its classic look, it is also alluring to vintage fans that just can’t get their hands on one of the very rare versions from the ‘60s and ’70s.