‘Grand Prix de Monaco 1996’ 16520 Rolex Daytona

This is one of those rare occasions where a solid caseback is way, way more interesting than the dial. Simply engraved, ‘Grand Prix de Monaco 1996’, it unlocks a whole world of unknowns and potential history. We know for certain that in the ’96 Monaco Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher took pole with some controversy, causing Gerhard Berger to spin on his fast lap while he was acknowledging the crowd before the chicane. It was an unusual race, where many including Schumacher crashed out due to rain, creating chaos and an unexpected result. The podium went Olivier Panis in first, then David Coulthard and his massive chin, then Johnny Herbert, with a fastest lap by Jean Alesi. And that’s about where the certainties end, lights out and away we go.

There are several Rolexes which were engraved and awarded to drivers of the Monaco Grand Prix through the 90s. Most commonly we see Submariners from 1992, a few of which have appeared at auction since. It is thought that a small production batch was made by Rolex for this year, distributed through their French agent— according to Phillips. One of these ’92 Submariners, a bimetal, had papers to Ayrton Senna and sold at Antiquorum in 2008 for 36K CHF (Can you imagine today? Someone did very well).

This is from the known second run. For ’96, it is said that Monegasque retailer Zegg & Cerlati decided to gift Daytonas to drivers of the race, commissioning and engraving them. However, a prior sponsorship contract involving TAG Heuer meant that at the last minute it was discovered these could not be awarded on the podium and were given to drivers during the evening gala ‘under the table’. Only one has shown up in the market, auctioned by Aguttes in France in 2019. Some say there were just 2 awarded, to the race winner and for fastest lap. This could make sense as both Olivier Panis and Jean Alesi (who took fastest lap) were French and the only one that’s surfaced showed up there, but that’s pure speculation. Others say the whole podium were awarded, no one knows how many were made. And we’ll probably never know. This one comes with papers noting the correct country code for Monaco, 110. But everything else is lore, complete mystery. Make of this watch what you will, there’s certainly risk, but you can’t say it isn’t a good story.

This example has appeared in Canada, again a French connection, but that’s stretching it. Who knows. Condition-wise it’s ad I’d like to see it, hard worn and not abused. Light Patrizzi-patina in the subdials, a champagne tone. The one which hammered at Aguttes was more polished so the edges had rounded over, but the styles of engraving are as close as I can tell identical. That one achieved 63000 and was naked with no accessories. This one comes with papers, blank tag, calendar, booklet, and box.