Mk2 ‘4-Liner’ 16520 Rolex Daytona
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the 16520. The Cosmograph had become undesirable and a stagnant seller by the year 1988. For context, there are stories from that era of customers asking to buy special production Day-Dates, but having to purchase Daytonas to sweeten the AD’s books. What the Daytona required was radical rethink, which is precisely what it received. What resulted is one of the most cemented pieces of modern watch design. While any 16520 is an object of beauty, this Mk2 dial known as the 4-Liner is to my eye the most harmonious of the lot. The phrase ‘wall of text’ gets leveled at the Daytona frequently, but this precise dial is just that touch more understated. And you’d never know unless, well, you’re one of us.
The 16520 was Rolex’s first automatic chrono. This was well overdue, but characteristically Wilsdorf entered the party with grace. These are often referred to as Zenith Daytonas, which is true enough as the movements were purchased directly from Zenith surplus. But that somewhat does a disservice to the over-200 laborious modifications Rolex performed on each calibre before it was deemed worthy of a Rolex signature. The date was eliminated, the beat was dropped from 36000 to 28800 vph, a larger free-sprung balance was fitted, and many individual components received more careful finishing. This is all not even to mention the fact that this design has lasted and only improved over time. The 16520 is the foundation which all subsequent Cosmographs since have built upon, as desirable nearly four decades on as it was at release. This is the watch that began Rolex’s waiting list policy (actually), and that should be no surprise.
However, this precise watch is here in equal parts for that history and its dial. You may notice, following the Mk1 ‘floating’ dial, this Mk2 is strangely missing the ‘OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED’ line. The watches from this dial production, make no mistake, were still chronometer tested. Yet, for reasons which still remain opaque this style of text was in production for 10-12 months only. Why? We may likely never know. Yet, what is certain is that this is a quite rare variant of one of the best Daytona eras ever. Ever so slightly cleaner than the 5-lines, and yet a near imperceptible distinction at a glance. This is the kind of detail Wilsdorf is infamous for and that keeps my eye searching dial differences. For what it’s worth, this signature makes the feel of the dial substantially more attractive to me.
This example has a sharp case with moderate careful wear. No significant bashes or polishing to be seen. Its all-important dial is faultless to my eye. The 6 on the chronograph totalizer is famous on this generation for occasionally being printed ‘wrong’ side up, as is the case with this one. The subdials, tritium, and handset are all beginning to take on a true cream tone. It’s all gorgeous. This Daytona comes as a naked watch from a well-regarded Swiss retailer.
Find this 4-Liner 16520 here from Vintage Watches Zermatt for 76500 USD.