Some watches arrive on the scene with a docker’s hook and whisk the whole industry away. In the case of iconic Rolex Daytona, however, the industry was initially slow to catch on, but soon fell for it hard!
Maybe its high price point and long waitlist are enough to keep the Daytona in grail watch status for you (at least for now), but you still love the overall look and aesthetic of a sporty chronograph watch.
Well, you’re in luck. In this article, we’re bringing you 25 watches that look like the Rolex Daytona.
Did You Know The Most Expensive Rolex Ever Sold was a Daytona?
Back in 2016 the New York Times called the Rolex Daytona “The Hottest Watch That Money Can’t Buy” and that title still strikes the right note today.
Retailing at around $13,000, the standard stainless steel Daytona isn’t the most expensive model in the Rolex collection. However, it was a version of the Daytona that became the most expensive Rolex ever when it sold for $17.8 million at auction in 2017.
Such is the romantic enigma of the Rolex Daytona.
Though this enigma shouldn’t stump you for long. That $17.8 million watch belonged to the Daytona’s most famous patron, actor and racing enthusiast Paul Newman. This one man single-handedly forged the legend of this watch.
It initially was considered so ugly that people rarely bought it. In fact, some requested the removal of its sub dials during routine maintenance work.
But Daytona lovers all across the world put this initially icy reception down to the fact that people simply weren’t ready for such a ‘busy’ watch.
Of course, that’s not the case nowadays.
Thanks to changes in tastes and fashions, the Daytona’s iconic face has inspired copycats and innovators the world over.
This is also thanks, in no small part, to the suspiciously low number of Daytonas produced each year. Nobody knows exactly how low this number is but it’s certainly kept low enough to keep the demand high and the average waiting list time to 2-5 years!
25 of our favorite Rolex Daytona Alternatives
Since most people aren’t willing to wait that long, nor pay a premium to get their hands on one earlier, we’ve compiled a list of the best 25 watches to rival the Rolex Daytona.
This list includes seriously impressive alternatives and homages for both modest and exorbitant budgets alike. So, hold onto your hats because we’re about to take a dive into the petrol-loving world of racing watches.
- Invicta Speedway 9211
- Fossil Decker
- Seiko SSB033
- Seiko SSB025
- Alpha Daytona Paul Newman
- Bulova Marine Star Chronograph Watch
- Hoffman Racing 40 Panda
- Dan Henry 1962 Racing Chronograph
- Tissot V8 Chronograph
- Zeppelin Chronograph 8674-3
- Orient Neo 70’s WV0041TX Solar
- Schwarz Etienne Olympia Flyback
- Hamilton Intramatic
- Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph
- TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph
- Breitling Navitimer 8
- Tudor Black Bay Chronograph
- Omega Speedmaster Professional
- Zenith El Primero Sport Chronograph
- Breitling Chronomat BO1 42 (Stainless Steel Black / Silver)
- Breitling Navitimer 1 B01
- Omega Racing Chronograph
- Bremont MKII Automatic Chronograph
- Zenith Defy El Primero Chronograph Automatic
- Zenith Chronometer Sport White Dial
Invicta is known for their almost comically oversized watches. However, at just 39.5mm the Speedway 9211 manages to fit three subdials into a case that’s just 2.5mm larger than the original 1963 Daytona. The tachymetric scale on the bezel gives the Speedway a subtle racing look, and just like the Daytona, it’s named after an iconic race track.
The designers at Fossil are masters of creating watches that are both visually impressive and easily pairable with formal and informal outfits alike. In the case of the Decker, aviation is more of an inspiration than racing but that doesn’t seem to affect the readability whatsoever. If you’re looking for a Daytona alternative that looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is, then this is a great choice!
The Seiko SSB033 is a great example of how a darker dial can be twinned with touches of red in order to make a beautifully balanced watch. Seiko uses their own in-house quartz movement here, which results in a remarkable watch at an astonishing price. At 40mm, it sits a little larger on the wrist than the Daytona but its impressive Hardlex crystal makes the SSB033 one hell of a beater you could wear every day, everywhere.
Another Seiko is worth a mention here because Seikos are the bedrock of any decent watch collection for their production and design quality. In this case, we have smoother crown protectors than the Daytona but the complications are still there. It’s 40mm wide again but that size is counteracted with a genuinely subtle colour scheme that stands out brilliantly beneath a darker shirt or jacket.
Alpha doesn’t hide the fact that they’re making an homage to the Daytona. What’s impressive about the Alpha is what’s going on inside: a mechanical movement with a hand-winding option for the price of a quartz movement. Even the domed acrylic adds a touch of classy nostalgia to a watch that is joyfully swinging off Paul Newman’s name.
Bulova is one of the most beloved watchmakers to originally come out of the continental United States and the Marine Star contains every reason why. The eye-catching reverse panda sub-dials and date window sit neatly underneath a mineral crystal. I’d even say the matching red arrow on the second hand and lapsed seconds arrow on the subdial surpass the original Daytona in flair, which is a hell of a thing at this price!.
Hoffman is a New York-based brand that goes beyond the flotilla of companies in the fleeting ‘affordable luxury’ genre by mastering classic design principles. In the case of their Racing 40, we see the Daytona’s reverse panda approached with a Bauhaus eye for simplicity. The dark sophistication of the quartz Racing 40 is more than enough to catch the eye but there is also a mechanical option that really brings the watch into another league.
Dan Henry is another brand with a shorter pedigree than the majority of Swiss watchmakers, but it’s still fighting to earn its place at the table. One way it does this is to trust in the experience of its older siblings. For example, using a dependable Seiko movement behind its striking dial. The reverse panda subdials have a fascinating uniqueness and those railyard pushers give this Daytona alternative a slice of classic Americana that’ll have your friends asking where they can get theirs.
It’s hard to imagine that a quality Tissot exists at such a low price, but here we are. The fact that it is Swiss-made, has a sapphire crystal, three subdials and a date window all executed with Tissot’s famous craftsmanship makes the V8 a power player in this list. What’s more, the ‘panda’ becomes more of an ‘owl’ with these extra large subdials, making it an exceptional alternative to the Daytona.
The German brand Zeppelin spares no effort in creating watches that look like they should be kept in a 1930s mahogany armoire. In the case of the 8674-3, propeller-esque hour hands breeze past the stylish hour markers over the reverse panda subdials and a date window that is subtly set back from the dial itself. Unsurprisingly for a German company, the engines (both quartz and automatic) driving this work of art are exceptional and all, as the brand is proud to remind us, skillfully made in Germany.
Taking a turn back to a more classic Rolex design, this piece from Orient ticks all the right boxes. The reverse panda works well and there’s even a sneaky date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. What’s best about this Orient, however, is the in-house solar movement they use to ensure that you’ll only have to pay this remarkably low price once and never have to spend a penny on batteries.
You may not have heard of the brand Schwarz Etienne but it has been a mainstay in Le Chaux-de-Fonds, the most important center of Switzerland’s famous ‘Watch Valley’, since 1902 and it’s still privately owned! The bold choices of borderless subdials, oversized hour markers and pushers that look like sturdy brake pedals are all examples of Schwarz Etienne’s confident pedigree. If you decide to dig a little deeper into your pocket you’ll come away with a watch to rival the Daytona in any conversation.
What we have here is a similar watch to the Zeppelin mentioned above except with a distinctly American twist. There are cleaner lines to the Hamilton and a date window that stands boldly at 6 o’clock, not to mention the railyard style pushers that hark back to Hamilton’s beginnings as the trainmaster’s watch par excellence. All Hamilton watches have been produced in Switzerland since 1969, combining the two worlds of Americana and Swiss precision to make one of the best value-for-money watches on the market today.
Raymond Weil used to sell his watches from a foldout bridge table in a stall in Geneva in the late 70s and has since gone on to sell around 200,000 pieces each year. The family company is still based in Geneva and continues to make visually stunning and mechanically impressive watches. The Freelancer Chronograph is an excellent example of this, with its cool blue subdials and tachymeter, and emphatic but tasteful pushers and crown, which will be a conversation starter wherever you are.
And here we are with the big boys. Tag Heuer really needs no introduction since it’s one of the most well-known Swiss watchmakers in the world. That being said, Tag went all out with this bold alternative to the Daytona, with its remarkably busy dial, splashes of red and 90s sci-fi hour markers that turn your wrist from an appendage into a statement-bearer.
Normally, it’s the Breitling on the list that screams “I’m here!” like the Tag just did but, in this case, the ‘kings of busy watches’ have dialed things down a little (I make no apology for that pun, by the way). The Navitimer 8 is Breitling showing they can see Rolex’s Daytona reverse panda and raise them a watch that looks at least as expensive without the waiting list. What’s more, they’ve put the tachymeter directly on the dial, rather than on the bevelled bezel, which hearkens back to the original 1963 Daytona.
In 1926, Rolex founder Hans Wildorf created Tudor as a sister company that would focus on ‘tool’ watches for divers and the military. That pedigree comes through clearly in the Black Bay Chronograph. The subdials, date window, and tachymeter bezel are all astonishingly clear and readable. In fact, there’s only the crown and the odd hour marker that give it a hint of flare, making it a watch that just exudes confidence.
If you’re looking for a Daytona alternative with a pedigree, look no further. The Speedmaster is commonly known as the ‘Moonwatch’ since it beat a series of ‘stress tests’ to become the watch NASA chose to send to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Although the Speedmaster has subtler pushers and crown than the Daytona, its history twinned with the clear precision of white on a night-dark dial and bezel make it a must-have for any serious watch collector.
The second and most coveted version of the Daytona is affectionately called the ‘Zenith Daytona’ since Rolex chose to include their ‘El Primero’ movement in its 40mm case. Zenith’s 41mm case here keeps the running second subdial at 9 o’clock but finishes it off with that blazing starred flagstaff of a second hand. This Zenith would make an excellent addition to your collection that would include a little of the Daytona’s history without a years-long wait... and for a few thousand dollars less, too.
Here’s an example of how Breitling manages to incorporate exquisite craftsmanship into their unique designs. Unlike their other aviator models, the Chronomat fills the almost-porthole-shaped case with subtleties, like the stunningly machined whorls on the subdials and the red javelin second hand. All of which is topped off with a coned crown that reminds you that this is a Breitling and Breitlings are never outshone when it comes to detailing.
Speaking of detailing, here is Breitling at its finest. In the Navitimer 1 we get tachymeters on the bezel and dial but sedate cream subdials calm the whole scene down. The beauty of this Breitling, however, is that it can be dressed up or down and it will never lose its prestige.
In terms of finding a watch that is both visually and mechanically similar to the Daytona, the Omega Racing Chronograph is an exceptional example at nearly half the price. Waiting list? What waiting list? You could have this on your wrist within the week and you would have a watch with Speedmaster prestige, Omega craftsmanship and all the style of the Rolex Daytona itself.
There are few modern brands that put as much effort into their timepieces than the relatively small British company Bremont. Although they use only Swiss-made parts in their British assembly plant, Bremont makes incredibly durable and timeless watches that more than justify the price tags. In the case of the MKII, Bremont teamed up with Jaguar to make this exemplar racing watch with a fuel-gauge on the subdial and tire-track detailing on the crown.
Back to the Zeniths and the panda style with this fascinating racing watch. We have the tachymeter on the dial like the original Daytona but a considerable portion of the dial is dedicated to its power reserve indicator that will keep petrol heads happy every time they check the time. It also has the brake-pad style pushers but on a case that is vaguely reminiscent of the most famous racing watch of all time, the Tag Heuer Monaco.
And finally, one last Zenith to see us off. This is certainly at the top end of the Zenith price range but it is, without doubt, a worthy alternative to the Rolex Daytona. The famous tri-colour dial, the railroad pushers and the crown with its subtle dome that looks like some ancient trader’s hat all compliment each other excellently. Take into consideration that it contains the El Primero movement and even sneaks in a cheeky date window and you’re onto a real winner with this watch.
So, What Is The Best Rolex Daytona Alternative?
Well, as always, it all depends on your tastes and budget.
The budget picks
If you’re on a tighter budget then I’d go for either the Seiko SSB033 or the Hoffman. Seiko is as reliable as they come and the SSB033 strikes exactly the right note a Daytona lover would look for.
If you prefer a watch with a bit of a difference, though, go with the Hoffman because that ‘Bauhaus’ reverse panda is a statement.
The nicer alternative
On the other hand, if you’re willing to splash out, go for the Bremont. This company was founded by Nick and Giles English — what an apt surname — who both had a lifetime of experience in the aviation industry beforehand.
Coming from test pilot pedigree, the English brothers set about making the kinds of watches that will get battered by arctic winds and still keep on ticking while also being stylish enough to compete with the behemoths of the watch world.
If you can afford a deep dive into your wallet, picking up the MKII will give you a watch that is both visually attractive and can take a beating.
What’s more, the connection with Jaguar is no gimmick. The MKII was released to celebrate the anniversary of the legendary Jaguar E-Type, which took the world by storm after it won the iconic 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida (no, not Daytona) in 1963.
If racing is in your blood then the Bremont MKII will satisfy your yearnings for a Daytona and then some.
We hope that this list has helped you find the right Daytona alternative for you. Do you have a favorite from this list? DM us on Instagram and let us know.