Who doesn’t want a stainless steel panda-faced Rolex Daytona? Who wants to pay $13k+ to own one – assuming you could find one to buy? Or shell out nearly twice that amount for a pre-owned RD. Not me. If we’re on the same page, it’s time to turn the page and find a cheaper, immediately available alternative. Criteria: it’s got to be a quality, white-faced stainless steel chrono. Here are the fab four . . .
OMEGA Racing Chronograph – $8450
In terms of the quality of construction and movement, OMEGA builds watches that meet or beat their crosstown rivals‘. OMEGA just doesn’t have Rolex’s street cred. Dismissing OMEGA for any reason other than snobbery and bragging rights is a big mistake. And this is a BIG WATCH.
On display behind a transparent caseback, OMEGA’s most excellent Co-Axial Master Chronometer 9900 movement shelters inside the Omega Racing Chronograph’s 44.25mm case. Equally impressive, its two-tone steel bracelet equals the Daytona’s Oystersteel attachment for sensuality. I don’t dig the OMEGA’s “railroad track” indices, but I wish the Lord of the Rings‘ ORCs were as beautiful. Or not.
Breitling is famous for the Navitimer – a watch with a dial so complicated it comes with its own slide rule. In contrast, the Premier Chrono is a minimalist delight, sharing the OMEGA’s disdain for the Daytona’s three subdials. The market loves date windows so . . . there it is. There it isn’t – the Daytona’s or OMEGA’s steel bracelet – but you can dine on oysters for a year with the money you save by buying Breitling.
Also on the positive side – the flip side – the 42mm Breitling puts its in-house Caliber 01 under a transparent caseback. Launched in 2009, the COSC certified engine uses a vertical clutch interface with the column wheel to create positive feeling pushers, whose size, shape and position make the stopwatch a pleasure to actuate. It’s a practical, beautiful Rolex Daytona alternative.
The El Primero Anniversary model’s small square case (37mm) screams 1969 almost as loudly as Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times. Lest we forget, the Rolex Daytona is also a child of the ’60’s. And make no mistake: Zenith’s 50th Anniversary recreation is a quality timepiece – with a welcome upgrade: a sapphire crystal. So you can’t scratch it off your list of Daytona alternatives.
The EPA’s transparent caseback also separates the Anniversary model from its forebears, showcasing Zenith’s legendary Automatic El Primero Caliber 400. That technological marvel made the El Primero the first ultra-thin, high frequency automatic chronograph, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I mean, measure tenths of a second. The satisfaction of wearing this watch, however, is immeasurable. Except financially.
Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Auto Chrono – $2,215 (available for $1500)
When it comes to quality, the Hamilton Intra-Matic isn’t in the same league as the three choices above. But c’mon, that’s a damn high bar. If you’re looking for a hardy, dependable Rolex Daytona alternative for reasonable money, the Hamilton is an entirely defensible choice.
It’s powered by the Hamilton caliber H-31, a movement based on the ETA/Valjoux 7753 (with a custom H pattern on the on the oscillating bridge). Hamilton says the 40mm watch – complete with priapic pushers – is “a modern reworking of a 1968 signature piece.” And so it is, with admirable restraint and inescapable affordability.
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