WORLD FIRST Rolex Daytona 'Le Mans' Edition 126529LN unboxing

Rolex Daytona Le Mans 126529LN

In a bolt out of the blue and nowhere near Watches And Wonders, Rolex produced from its pocket of surprises a brand new Rolex Cosmograph Daytona special edition celebrating 100 years of the Le-Mans 24 hour race. 

Le-Mans is considered to be the worlds greatest endurance sports car race which has seen speeds of up to 200mph on its famous Muslanne Straight.
All teams must rotate three drivers through one car during the race, with no one driver behind the wheel for more than a total of 14 hours. Drivers change during pit-stops for refuelling or tyre changes.

The race is held on the 8.5 mile Circuit De La Sarthe in France and began in 1923 as a way for manufacturers to showcase both the speed and durability of their vehicles in prolonged high speed competition.

The only breaks in the 100 years of Le-Mans was a 10 year gap during World War 2, and in 1936 when the race didn’t take place because France was on strike.

Rolex has been a sponsor since 2001 and the winners of the race receive a Daytona each as well as the trophy. 

The Daytona “Le Mans” was released in June (23) during the centenary race and predictably set a small fire in the loins of a few collectors, most notably due to the dial configuration and the reappearance of the Newman style square subdial markers which haven’t been seen on a new Daytona since 1987. 

An interesting side note - Paul Newman entered and came second in the 1979 Le Mans race, which may link (and this is pure speculation on my part) to the markers associated with his 6239 Daytona making an appearance on Rolexes homage to the race.
Newmans Daytona was a gift from his wife Joanne and inscribed with “drive carefully, me”.
Wise words if he was racing in it. 

Naturally, because Rolex are saucy flirts who almost never give collectors *exactly* what they want, they have released the Le Mans in 18ct white gold rather than steel and equipped it with a desirable reverse panda dial, a variation which gained popularity in the 1960s due to both its legibility and contrast.

I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to note that the dial of the Le Mans looks to be an aesthetically pleasing modern hybrid of the 6263 “Big Red” and Newman Daytonas.
Given that 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the Rolex Daytona as well as 100 years of Le-Mans, these various nods to the golden oldies are significant. 

Another nice touch is the 100 marker of the cerachrom bezel being highlighted on red to mark the centenary. 

This special edition and the new 126506 platinum Daytona are the first of any professional models to receive exhibition sapphire case backs.
This is a definite “one to watch” change in tune for Rolex who have steadfastly attached a solid back to every Oyster Perpetual for the last 93 years.
(There was one in 1931 that had an open caseback which Rolex used to exhibit their patented rotor system, but it was not for sale to the public) 

As the ice blue platinum is a flagship piece with the Le-Mans following closely behind it, this *could* signal the beginning of the brand bringing more transparency to the rest of the line-up over time.
Stay tuned but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the gold Daytonas seeing a sapphire rear at some point in the future as a trickle down effect.

The 2023 re-vamp of the Daytona catalogue sees the introduction of calibre 4131, a 47 jewel update to the previous (4130) movement which offers 72 hours of power reserve and all the bells and whistles (Vertical clutch, Parachrom hairspring, Chronergy escapement) but with a reduced number of components which is designed to increase reliability.

It is an attractive movement worthy of exhibition and features Rolex Côtes de Genève decoration and a skeletonised 18ct gold rotor.

Calibre 4131, however, is NOT powering this special edition.
It’s gearing has been tweaked to offer a twist that links directly to the 24 hours of Le Mans.

The standard Daytona 12 hour sub-dial (located at 9) has been dispatched in favour of a 24 hour one because what’s the point in having a Le Mans chronograph that only measures half the race? 

The re-geared calibre has been badged as Cal. 4132. 
Unless Rolex plans to make any more 24 hour chronographs, or add further Le-Mans specials as the years go on, calibre 4132 is going to be fitted to this watch only. 

The Le-Mans Special Edition really does have it all.

It celebrates 100 years subtly and without splashy branding, it’s ultra modern with iconic vintage design cues, and it’s running a motor all of its own. 

This is the Rolex Daytona that is going to drive fans of the reference absolutely wild. (GET IT?)