Daytona For The WinBy Ross Povey
Our friends over at Loupe This have a special listing this week in the form of a steel Rolex Daytona that was awarded to the winner of the 1997 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race. Rolex’s iconic sports chronograph is named after the legendary race track in Florida and so it seems fitting that winners of the endurance race are awarded the track’s namesake watch…
The gruelling and exhausting 24-hour long endurance race has been a fixture at the Daytona Speedway since 1962 with Rolex always being the official timing partner of the race. In 1963 Rolex launched their Oyster-cased sports chronograph, a watch that is arguably more famous than the speedway from which it takes its name, and then in 1991 became the title sponsor of the race. Since 1992, winners have been awarded a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, starting with steel Zenith-powered reference 16520 until 2000, when the in-house movement watch was launched, the reference 116520. In 2017 the switch to steel and gold or two-tone, Rolesor in Rolex-parlance, took place. Drivers have often been quoted as saying that their primary motivation is to “win that watch”, a feat that takes both skill and stamina to win one of the most coveted titles in motorsport.
A number of winner’s watches have surfaced over the years and with the feverish way in which collectors chase Daytonas at auction, they are highly prized and command significant premiums over regular or civilian bought watches. To be clear, there are no ‘bargain’ Daytonas any more and prices of the post-1988 Perpetual Daytonas have skyrocketed in recent years. The 16500 series watches from 1988 were the first automatic Daytonas from Rolex and were powered by modified Zenith El Primero movements, hence their colloquial moniker, Zenith Daytonas. Since 1992 winners over classes and overall winners have been awarded a Daytona and in the 90s it was a steel 16520, such as the watch on Loupe This that was given to John Schneider who was part of the Dyson Racing Team, who were the overall winners in 1997.
The Dyson Team won with a 690 lap race on the 1st and 2nd February 1997. The winning car was a Riley and Scott MkIII sports prototype car. Never intended for commercial output, these cars were built purely for the race track and the MkIII had a Kevlar and carbon fibre body, and a V8 Cosworth engine. The team drove the car hard across the 3.56 mile long road course covering a massive 2456 and a half miles to take the victory…and a watch each!
The watch on Loupe This is a white dial 16520 that was awarded to one of the seven drivers on the team, John Schneider. Schneider began his racing career in Porsche 924s in 1983 and was part of the strong team in 1997 at Daytona where he and his co-drivers were the favourites to win that year. The watch remains in stunning condition and comes complete with some photographs of Schneider driving the car and the original papers that state the watch was supplied directly by Rolex New York in September 1996.
The white dial is what collectors term a Mk 5 version. Over the years, enthusiasts and scholars have organised the Zenith Daytona dials chronologically in eight different versions, from the earliest dial layout from 1988 to the last in 1999/2000. The Schneider watch has a Mk5, which is correct for the year and serial range of the watch. The all-important case back engraving is there and denotes the watch as ‘WINNER – ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA 1997’. Says Loupe This co-founder Eric Ku, “While any “Winner Daytona” is a prize in its own right, most examples that come up for sale are either from class winners, or team members. It is very rare to be able to acquire one that was from an overall winner, such as this example from John Schneider.” So, ladies and gentlemen, please start your engines and may the best (or highest) bidder win!