If you’re a Daytona lover such as myself, but you’re fed up of all the Rolex AD games and want to just purchase a better alternative, you’ve stumbled upon the correct article. My choices here are not “cheaper alternatives”, but rather equivalent or better.
As most of us are already aware, the Rolex Daytona is essentially the most sought after watch in the world. It has such an insatiable demand for it, that even at fairly high production levels Rolex is unable to (or purposely chooses not to) meet the supply end of the deal. This creates a power vacuum economy of too much demand for much too little supply, consequently the Daytona is nearly impossible to buy at retail prices at Rolex Authorized Dealers, and the grey market prices are nearly triple the actual retail price. In my opinion, as well as many other watch collectors and enthusiasts the Daytona is severely overvalued at its grey market price, the watch is just not worth the three times retail price. The smartest thing to do in this situation is to broaden our horizons and take a look at some alternatives, and I think some of them are even better watches than the Daytona and can be purchased at similar or even lower prices than the Daytona retail price.
If you were to muster up the courage to purchase a Daytona at grey market pricing you’ve opened up your budget to the world of haute horlogerie – why settle for a Rolex tool watch? If you wanted to keep your budget around the Daytona retail pricing you can choose from an array of luxury tool watch brands and models, and even at this price you’re also touching the affordable range of haute horlogerie. Lets take a look at these four fantastic alternatives that you may just fall in love with.
1. Girard Perregaux Laureato Chronograph
Number one on my list is a watch I’ve personally been seriously considering as an alternative to the Daytona. The longer I stay on the Rolex “wish list” the more this watch is growing on me. This is the Girard Perregaux Laureato Chronograph, an absolutely stunning piece of art from a brand that was founded in 1791, much before Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, as a matter of fact they’ve even built some movements for Patek in the past.
The Laureato Chronograph model is gorgeous, with a higher quality finish than any Rolex model and extensively more detail everywhere on the watch from the bracelet, the case, the dial as well as hand-finishing touches on the in-house calibre GP03300 movement. This is a haute horlogerie sports watch that retails at nearly the exact same price as a new stainless steel Daytona, best of all it’s readily available at a GP boutique and it can actually be had at a discount on the grey market.
The more I look at this watch, the more I’m beginning to prefer it over the Daytona, it’s just loaded with so much more value. It has a gorgeous integrated bracelet with contrasting polished and brushed H links, it has a sleek case with short lugs, the case is super thin, it’s sporting angular screw-down chronograph pushers protected by crown guards. I can go on for ages about the value the Laureato brings to the table, especially when it comes to the dial design with light catching “clous de Paris” pyramids and the array of dial colour choices. Even better is the choice to buy either the 38mm or 42mm sizes, catering to both small and large wrist collectors.
My one and only single gripe about this watch is the inclusion of the date window between 4 and 5 o’clock, they should have just removed it entirely and kept the dial clean. Although due to the plethora of other positive aspects I can look past it.
2. Omega Speedmaster
We’ve all heard of the Speedmaster, as well as the coveted and ultra popular Moonwatch reference. It happens to be an excellent Daytona alternative, sharing many visual similarities and even some areas of superiority. The build quality can be subjective, with some enthusiasts saying it’s better quality than Rolex, and others disagreeing with this saying it’s just one notch under the king. Subjectivity asside there’s no denying that the Speedmaster Moonwatch is one of the most iconic watches on the market, it also happens to be a chronograph with some variations sporting a display caseback showing off the beautifully complex movement.
The dial is is super clean on the Speedmaster Moonwatch, it’s very legible and the lack of date wheel is a positive in my book keeping the watch a chronograph purist collectors dream. While most Speedmaster references are readily available for purchase there are some that are quite difficult to obtain and have actually increased in value, it can be fun hunting for these special models as they offer a very unique design compared to the common look of the Daytona or regular Moonwatch.
3. Zenith El Primero
The Zenith El Primero has long been considered an alternative to the Rolex Daytona, and some consider it a full on competitor. This is not just limited to its similar look but is actually rooted in its history, more specifically known as the race to the first ever automatic chronograph movement which Zenith is widely considered to be the first inventors. Rolex then inspected this movement and simplified it for actual use in some of the earlier Daytona models, this should tell you a lot about the efficacy of the El Primero model.
The El Primero is a little more daring in style, with some nice touches of colour on the subdials and an overal more artsy take on a sports watch. There are quite a few variations to choose from that are all readily available for purchase from a Zenith boutique.
4. Tudor Black Bay Chronograph
Want a chronograph tool watch with a very similar look to the Daytona that even comes from a Rolex sister brand? Look no further than the new Tudor Black Bay Chronograph that comes in a striking panda dial layout. This watch is an actual “panda dial” chronograph, unlike the Daytona that uses rings for the subdials the Black Bay Chronograph has gone the extra mile and filled in the subdials completely for that full retro panda look.
The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph is very much the most tool watch looking design on our list. While the quality is excellent for its price point it will lack in quality compared to the rest of the watches on our list, including the actual Rolex Daytona.
You may ask yourself why these watches are readily available to purchase while also being better alternatives to the Daytona, and the answer is simple, they’re all missing once aspect. The missing pieces has nothing to do with the quality of the watch or functions, or even style, but it simply boils down to perceived brand value. The Daytona is so sought after that its become a store of value, and this aspect is skewing peoples thought process away from the passion of better watchmaking and transforming it into a status symbol and a form of investing. While the Daytona has incredible history and great watchmaking behind it, it has the main ingredient the others don’t have. It’s up to you to decide if you’re in this journey for the pure passion of watches or if you have something to prove to others, a thought that I’m still personally grappling with.