The Rolex Daytona Panda - Understanding the Key Models

The Rolex Daytona Panda - Understanding the Key Models

The distinctive black and white Rolex Daytona Panda has been a mainstay of the world's most coveted chronograph for decades. Read on to understand the key models.
The distinctive black and white Rolex Daytona Panda has been a mainstay of the world's most coveted chronograph for decades. Read on to understand the key models.

For many decades key Rolex watch models have attracted nicknames, allowing fans of the legendary watchmaker to quickly identify their distinctive dials. Only a few however have endured over decades. The black and white Panda moniker applied to the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is one such example.

This is in part explained by the status of the Rolex Daytona as one of the most important watches of all time. Across over 60 years of continuous production and evolution, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona has offered a peerless blend of sporting DNA coupled with the exceptional build quality and considered design that defines Rolex watches, perfectly blending form and function.

The Panda variant of the Cosmograph Daytona, with its white face and black sub-dials, epitomizes the functional appeal of the Rolex Daytona. The contrasting colour scheme provides excellent legibility, particularly when using the chronograph function (the defining feature of the Rolex Daytona).

The Modern Rolex Daytona Panda - Reference 116500

The modern Rolex Daytona Panda (116500) is one of the world's most sought-after luxury sports watches, with waiting lists to match. Sotheby's however has a range of handpicked examples for immediate delivery, including this full-set Rolex Daytona Panda example from 2017.

As demand for luxury sports watches has boomed in recent years, spearheaded by Rolex models like the Daytona and GMT, the modern Rolex Daytona Panda variant has become one of the single most famous watches globally. It's easy to see the appeal - the crisp white dial is framed by the black cerachrom bezel, with the eye drawn to the highly legible black sub-dials. The design is subtly rounded off by the discreet red "DAYTONA" labelling above the lower sub-dial, frequently employed by Rolex over the Daytona's multi-decade production.

The popularity of this Rolex Daytona variant is reflected in the multi-year waiting lists. Sotheby's however can help you skip the queue, with a range of handpicked Rolex Daytona (116500LN) options available for immediate delivery. We also regularly features modern Rolex Daytonas in our global watch auctions, with our leading Rolex specialists handpicking a range of Cosmograph Daytonas with detailed condition reports available.

The Rolex Daytona Zenith Panda

Rolex Daytona Zenith Panda
A collector's favourite - the Rolex Daytona Zenith Panda with the prized "Inverted 6" format

Across the wide range of Daytona variants available, the Rolex Daytona Zenith is seen by many Rolex fans as indeed the “zenith” of Daytona production. For some this is because of its historic significance, representing Rolex’s first automatic chronograph and first to be housed within the legendary 40mm case. Those that are mechanically minded revere the significantly modified Zenith El Primero movement that powered the watch from 1988-2000, hence the Zenith moniker. However many collectors simply just admire the Zenith Daytona’s clean, functional aesthetic. With its distinctive steel bezel matching the case and bracelet, they believe the Zenith honours the sporting DNA of the Rolex Daytona.

The Rolex Daytona Zenith model worked perfectly in the panda colourway, with its steel bezel contrasting with the modern Rolex Daytona. Blending with the casing and bracelet, this sleek look emphasizes the panda dial, making it a collector's classic.

The Rolex Daytona Panda Zenith was famously worn by Paul Newman, with this example gifted to him by Rolex to commemorate his "Man of the Year" award in 1995. Sotheby's sold this storied Rolex Daytona in our 2023 New York sale for $1.14m.

The appeal also lies in the Zenith Daytona representing a great entry to point to the Daytona world from a price perspective, offering excellent value for a watch of exceptional quality and longevity. This model, in production for 12 years, offers a compelling way to own a Rolex Daytona Panda.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman Panda

A subset of vintage Rolex Daytonas, Paul Newman Daytonas have long fascinated watch collectors and accounted for many record prices set at auction. Paul Newman Daytonas are marked by their exotic dials and were produced in both stainless steel and yellow gold. It's a timeless design that looks as good today as when it graced the wrist of the esteemed actor decades ago. Ironically they were not popular when first produced, so exist in much smaller quantities than the higher-volume Rolex Daytona variants, hence the price trajectory in recent years.

This rare Panda Paul Newman (Reference 6263) is one of many Sotheby's watch specialists have brought to auction. This c.1969 example was sold through our London sale in 2023, consigned by the family of the original owner. This superb Rolex Daytona Panda sold for £355,600.

Finding a vintage Rolex Paul Newman Daytona in good condition is difficult in today’s complex and exponentially growing vintage Rolex market. Sotheby's however is a leader in bringing these legendary watches to market, having sold many examples across all our major auction sites.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newmans are often seen on leather straps, a more rugged aesthetic that complements the Rolex Daytona's sporting, functional DNA. Only in production from 1965 to 1969, the Rolex Daytona Reference 6241 is one of the rarest and most desirable variants of the Daytona series, having been made in very limited quantities of approximately 2,700 to 3,000 pieces. Sotheby's sold this example in 2023 for CHF247,650, one of 15 Rolex Daytonas in our Important Watches sale, including 3 Pandas.

Part of the appeal of the many Paul Newman examples Sotheby's has sold at auction is their varied and fascinating provenance. Watch the video below from the Sotheby's archive to learn more about an amazing "defective dial" Daytona Panda example.

Exploring the Sotheby's archives - learn more about a famous "defective dial" Rolex Daytona Paul Newman Panda

Source Your Next Rolex Daytona Panda

The Rolex Daytona Panda remains one of the most distinctive dial designs in watchmaking. Having endured for decades, from vintage Paul Newman watches to the modern day Rolex Daytona with cerachrom bezel, buyers have a huge range of options to consider covering a range of budgets. Sotheby's is on hand to support with your next Rolex Daytona Panda purchase. We have an extensive offering of carefully curated Rolex watches, covering everything from excellent value Rolex Daytona Zenith Pandas through to highly rare Paul Newman examples with extraordinary provenance.

Trust our worldwide network of leading Rolex specialists from a globally renowned auction house with a 280 year history.

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