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Why Buy: Rolex Daytona 16520 “Patrizzi Dial”?

Our editor on why the Reference 16520 “Zenith Daytona” with a “Patrizzi dial” is the best modern (relatively) investment Rolex.

Any watch auctioneer worth their salt will tell you that the Daytona 16520 with a “Patrizzi dial” is among the surest bets in recent watches. I’d certainly put it as the frontrunner so far in my Why Buy series. Not that it’s any better than other Daytona references. No, but it does have a couple of anomalies, which means it’s going to be rare, and if there’s one thing you can pick up from a five-minute browse of any important watch auction it’s that rare Daytonas are about the hottest thing in watches. What’s more, one of these anomalies, that which makes it a Patrizzi, is a patina that gives it the sort of visual edge that usually has collectors in a frenzy.

Osvaldo Patrizzi is the previous chairman of Antiquorum. The story goes that in 2005 he noticed certain ‘90s Daytonas had sub-dial rings which had turned a light shade of brown. He soon worked out that in a strain of the Ref. 16520 Rolex had used an organic varnish on the dial, and the silver sub-dial rings had oxidized and turned brown. The oxidization process is gradual and different for each watch, making them unique and even more attractive in the eyes of collectors. When he included one in a 2006 collection sale it went for double its estimate.

Rolex Daytona 16520 “Patrizzi Dial”

The Daytona 16520 had another feature that sets it apart from all Daytona models—a Zenith movement. In 1988, when Rolex decided to switch the Daytona movement to a self-winding calibre, the best example on the market was the legendary Zenith El Primero. Rolex struck a deal and then heavily modified the calibre, replacing a number of parts and changing others to meet their strict standards. Whether or not they improved it is hard to say, but the changes included adding a Breguet overcoil, which is now generally preferred across the board, and reducing the beats-per-minute rate to a more standard 28,800, which usually leads to less servicing. Rolex continued with this movement until the end of the 16520’s lifespan, twelve years later, but it would be the last time they sourced a movement from elsewhere.

The particular strain that Patrizzi had identified is known between collectors as the Mark IV. As with all Rolex models, over its lifespan the 16520 was tweaked and micro adjusted a number of times. The models can be divided into a number of “Marks”. Mark IV, for example, is distinguished by a handful of features. The six on the lower sub-dial is just as a six should be, but in previous marks it was upside down. Between the five-minute markers on the 3 o’clock sub-dial there are three dashes, where on previous Marks there were four. And it still has “T Swiss Made T” at 6 o’clock, describing the use of Tritium in the dial, when later versions just had “Swiss Made” and no Tritium.

Rolex Daytona 16520 “Patrizzi Dial”

The version photographed is one of these and, as you can see, the sub-dial rings have gone a sort of toffee colour. This is a crisp example as the colouration is even. It also still has nice sharp writing on the bezel and hasn’t been over-polished. Although this should keep better than the Paul Newmans and other ‘60s/70s favourites, this is probably not for wearing anymore. Certainly not on a daily basis. It’s getting to the point when it’s so valuable that it’s for the collection. Today, a model like this with box and papers will go for around £25,000, which is quite staggering considering the new price, when it was first released in 1988, was around £2,500. There are few watches from over the past couple of decades (from any brand) that are as collectible as this, and that price will keep rising. Mark my words.

Rolex Daytona 16520 “Patrizzi Dial”

For more information visit our dedicated pre-owned and vintage Rolex watches page.