The last week of January marked the 30th edition of Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 24-hours endurance car race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway® in Daytona Beach, in the US state of Florida. It is among the toughest car races in the world, more so because unlike the rival 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, Daytona is held in winter, when nights are long, and driving is mostly under lights. The twice-around-the-clock contest demands accuracy, dedication, and perseverance from drivers and teams to achieve the perfect balance between speed and reliability.
Daytona is among the best known of the brand’s long associations with motor racings across the world, which includes Formula 1 where Rolex is the Official Timepiece, the FIA World Endurance Championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Goodwood Revival — the annual event in Sussex, England, that features historic racing cars, and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — the famous vintage car show in California. Daytona, though, stands out for the legendary Rolex Daytona — the eponymous watch that the brand first launched in 1963 — a year after its initial association with racing in Daytona.
Rolex’s connection with Daytona goes further back to the 1930s, when the famous British driver, Sir Malcom Campbell, chose to wear a Rolex during his record-breaking racing feats. In 1933, when he reached a record speed of 272 mph (438 km/h) at Daytona Beach behind the wheel of his legendary car Bluebird, he did so with a Rolex Oyster on his wrist. Endorsing the watch’s capabilities after testing its precision and durability, Sir Malcolm reported back in a telegram to Rolex saying: “Rolex watch worn yesterday during record attempt and still going splendidly, notwithstanding rough usage received.”
In March 1935, Sir Malcolm set what would be the fastest speed on the shores of Daytona, reaching 276 mph (445 km/h). That very same year, he went on to break the much sought-after 300 mph barrier (483 km/h) at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Continuously pushing the boundaries of human endeavour and technology, Sir Malcolm became Rolex’s first motor sport testimonee, paving the way for the next generation of racing drivers, like Sir Jackie Stewart and Mark Webber, to strive for the ultimate performance. Since then, Rolex’s relationship with Daytona and its presence in motor sport has grown steadily, embodied around the world more so by the ever growing popularity of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Rolex formalised its partnership with Daytona International Speedway® in 1992 when the race was renamed Rolex 24 At Daytona, when the brand became the title sponsor.