Rolex Daytona Patrizzi Ref. 16520 A Series From 2000
This Rolex “Zenith” Daytona Cosmograph reference 16520 with ‘A serial’ number dates to 1999 and was sold in 2000. This was the last year of production for this reference with Zenith base movements, although P series was the final series. The stunning original black dial is signed “Swiss Made” which is correct for this A series, and is referred to as a “Patrizzi” dial due to the register rings that have changed colour forming a desirable patina. These Patrizzi dials are amongst the most collected Daytona models and are not surprisingly in high demand especially as watches from this series are towards the end of the production line for this revered reference. This example is offered in excellent condition and appears to have been well maintained. The A series Daytona model featured the SEL (solid end link) bracelet, however this watch features the earlier bracelet with hollow end links from the year before (clasp code W8).
This watch is accompanied by the original guarantee, stock tag, booklets, calendar and Rolex box. The guarantee is stamped, “Rolex Bexley Kent DA5 2AA” which means it was sold directly from Rolex HQ in the UK. According to our watchmaker who worked at Rolex HQ during this time it was most likely sold to a member of Rolex staff/watchmaker or given by Rolex as a gift. We believe that this model could have been discounted to Rolex staff as it was nearing the end of production and as a way of clearing old stock. The earlier bracelet could have been fitted at the time being the preferred choice by the individual/watchmaker working at Rolex.
16520 A Series
Rolex Daytona History
To accurately paint a picture of the Rolex Daytona’s history, we need to take a step back and examine its history from before it was ever produced. In the 1950s, car racing was gaining popularity, and watches were becoming increasingly important as tools for sportspeople. Divers needed dive watches, Pilots needed pilots watches, and race drivers needed chronographs. With this demand long-established, Rolex released the ref. 6234 in 1955 to cater for race car drivers that needed to time their laps with a mechanical chronograph. Called neither; the Cosmograph or Daytona at the time, the ref. 6234 is now known as the Pre-Daytona. While the ref. 6234 isn’t a Daytona itself; it laid the foundations for the first generation of Daytona.
In 1962, Rolex became the official timekeeper for the Daytona International Speedway in Florida. To mark this occasion, Rolex released a new chronograph model the year after, called the Rolex Cosmograph ref. 6239. Measuring in at 37mm and powered by the iconic Valjoux 72 chronograph movement, the 6239 was up to industry standard at the time. Following a bit of an identity crisis, the Rolex Cosmograph became officially known as the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in 1965. Two years later, it would take to the Daytona’s dial above the 6 o’clock subdial. Before this, Rolex called the Cosmograph both the Le Mans and the Daytona in their advertisements. Both famous car racing events, Rolex was determined to link the Cosmograph to a race the public would recognise. Produced until 1988, the first generation of Daytonas have become a cornerstone of modern timepiece collecting and provide us with the perfect springboard to jump into the watch we have here, a fabulous P-Serial “Zenith” Daytona ref. 16520 from 2000.
Rolex, the Daytona and Zenith
Released in 1988, the second generation of Daytonas are affectionately known as the ‘Zenith’ Daytonas, after the most appreciable change from the previous generation – the movement. Like they did for the first generation Daytonas, Rolex looked to a third-party supplier for movements for the Daytona. This supplier was none other than Zenith, the producers of one of the most significant chronograph movements ever made, the Zenith El Primero. After Zenith was sold to Zenith Electronics during the infamous Quartz Crisis of the 70s and 80s, the company ceased producing their movements and instructions from the board were to destroy all equipment necessary to make their movements. However, in an act of defiance, a senior engineer named Charles Vermot decided to hide Zenith’s production notes and tools in the building’s attic to prevent the loss of years of hard work and one of history’s greatest ever movements. After Rolex had inquired about using Zenith’s El Primero to power their new series of Daytona, Vermot showed Zenith’s executives where he had hidden the necessary equipment to produce the movements once again. Able to satisfy Rolex’ requirements, Zenith secured a ten-year contract to supply Rolex with their El Primero movement, which they would overshoot by two years, until 2000.
While the El Primero was an incredible movement, Rolex decided to modify the movements just like they did with the movement’s they got from Valjoux for the first-generation Daytonas to bring them up to their standard. Among the changes were reducing its frequency from 5Hz to 4Hz to improve power reserve and swapping parts out for their own to increase efficiency. By the end of the modifications, only 50% of the original movement was retained. This new modified movement was named Rolex cal. 4030 and remained in usage until 2000.
The ref. 16520 and the ref. 116520
Known for being the last batch of Zenith-powered Daytonas before the latest six-digit reference generation was released in 2000, the “Zenith” P-series Daytona was only offered for a few months. As such, it is an incredibly rare transitional series of this iconic timepiece with both the 16520 and 116520 both being found in the P serial range. Fitted with a newly upgraded movement, a new bracelet, a slightly different dial layout due to its movement (running seconds moved from 9 o’clock to 6 o’clock) and more significant hour markers and hands, the ref. 116520 ushered in the modern design for the Daytona that still exists, except for its metal bezel, which turned ceramic in 2016. The ref. 16520 exists as the last Daytona to retain the neo-vintage styling that has become so sought-after in modern collecting. Standing at the precipice of modernity, the P-Series is the last hurrah before Rolex discontinued what has become a treasure within horology.
First noticed by Osvaldo Patrizzi, the chapter ring along the chronograph subdials on the ref. 16520 would turn a light shade of brown due to an organic varnish called Zapon that was applied to the dial. This varnish would then oxidise the material beneath and alter its colour. Sought after due to its position as a rare form of patina, like tropical dials, Patrizzi dials often see their subdials change from white to beige, creamy yellow and reddish-brown. Generally observed in examples from the mid-90s, to find an already desirable P-Serial Daytona ref. 16520 with beautiful Patrizzi dials like this example is a truly rare feat.
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