Want a Rolex Daytona? Well, to get the iconic chronograph’s 40mm profile and prestigious name on your wrist will cost you $14,550. That, of course, is just the base price of the watch in steel — if you’re lucky enough to pay retail for it, which ain't likely: a shortage of Rolex’s steel sports watches means long waiting lists and massively inflated prices, with the pre-owned market offering little respite.
The Daytona has taken different forms over the years since its introduction in 1963, but pretty much any chronograph watch with certain common features will beg comparison to it. It's that important and influential of a watch, and the reasons for this are complicated (see above linked articles). The Daytona is the poster boy of the expensive, hard-to-get Rolex grail, so you're not alone in wanting one — and brands are keen to offer you an alternative. Rather than a straight-up knockoff, we'd steer you towards watches that offer some of the same aesthetic appeal and functionality but their own character.
Sure, you might want to save up and join a waitlist, but those in need of a fix to tide them over in the meantime could try one of the options below.
Dan Henry 1962 Racing Chronograph
The tachymeter bezel, the contrasty subdials, the retro-sporty good looks, even the "Paul Newman dial" touches…it’s all there in the Dan Henry 1962. If the Daytona look is what you’re after, this is a visually comparable option that’ll cost a tiny fraction (about 2%) of Rolex retail pricing. At 39mm, it should even provide a wearing experience close to that of the Daytona. It’s powered by a quartz movement, but features thoughtful details that reference racing chronographs from the 1960s.
- Movement: Seiko VK63 meca-quartz
- Diameter: 39mm
- Water Resistance: 50m
Tudor Black Bay Chrono
If the Tudor brand itself represents an alternative to its pricier sister company Rolex, then the Black Bay Chrono is its Daytona. The differences between the two give the Black Bay its own personality, but comparisons are inevitable and similarities work in its favor. Tudor, however, offers legendary bang for buck, with an automatic chronograph movement developed together with Breitling — and many components produced in the same facilities as those in Rolex watches.
- Movement: Tudor MT5813 automatic chronometer
- Diameter: 41mm
- Water Resistance: 200m
Zenith Chronomaster Sport
The Daytona's status means any watch with a certain combination of fairly common features will inevitably draw comparison, and with Zenith's new Chronomaster Sport, we’re getting closer to the modern Daytona both in terms of looks and price. Zenith's signature overlapping subdials help give their watch its own twist, but the look is similar enough that many will assume Zenith is trying to offer a more available and attainable Rolex alternative. It's still a Zenith chronograph, though, and that means you're getting a wildly cool, automatic hi-beat movement with history.
- Movement: El Primero cal. 3600
- Diameter: 41mm
- Water Resistance: 100m