So here we sit in Hour Nine of the 2017 24 Hours of Daytona – one of the Premier road races in North America. What sets this race apart is not the face that it’s one of the oldest Road Races in the United States; it’s not that it marks the unofficial beginning of the sports car racing season each and every year, it’s the piece of wrist candy that’s given to the winners of each class.
After 24, yes twenty-four, hours of hard road racing, if you’re lucky enough to stand at the top step of the podium, Rolex will give you a brand new gold and stainless steel Rolex Daytona as part and parcel for winning the Rolex 24. It’s an unbelievable prize that is coveted in most every professional racing circle.
After all, the Venn Diagram between sports car racing enthusiast and Swiss Timepiece enthusiast has way more overlap than the typical ones you drew in Statistics Class. If you meet a sports car owner, be it a Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Corvette, McLaren, Aston Martin, or any other owner and have them show you his wrist, and chances are, there will be some sort of gorgeous chronograph, be it Breitling, Rolex, IWC, Patek Phillippe or any other well-known Swiss watch brand.
A fable from the Rolex 24 of Daytona
There is one story that was popularized by the racing blog One Hot Lap about a Rolex, a winning race car driver, and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Back in 2013, in the waning days of the GRAND-AM road racing series, before its unification with the ALMS, NASCAR-owned GRAND-AM had one and only true marquee endurance race – the Rolex 24. While the ALMS featured the fastest, highest-tech Hybrid P1 Prototypes, P2 prototypes that were still faster than the fastest GRAND-AM Daytona Prototypes – all welcome at the 24 Hours LeMans – GRAND-AM still had the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Plus, GRAND-AM had a little-known, and little-cared for alternate fuel racing Class named GX. This class had all of two cars racing in it in 2013 – a SKYACTIV-D Mazda6 which ran diesel and a privateer Porsche Cayman which also ran biodiesel. Despite the thin competition, there is still 24 hours of racing to do.
With an all-but-guaranteed win, a Porsche Cayman, the Napleton Racing team nonetheless pushed through 24 hours of trials and tribulations and beat the Mazda factory team. For their troubles, Dr. Jim Norman and the rest of his teammates were presented stainless steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116520s by none other than then-president of Rolex, Patrick Heiniger.
The next day, he took it to a jeweler near his house to have a link taken. Well, upon hearing such an amazing story, the jeweler was not impressed. According to Dr. Norman’s own story:
A Rolex, a Link, a mistaken identity & a jerk
“The jeweler re-sizes it for me and charges me $8. I say “Wow, 8 bucks, that’s not very much.” The manager lady says, “well, if it were a REAL Rolex we would charge you more!” I chuckle and say “it IS a real Rolex.” She says, “Nope it is not…We know Rolex watches and this is definitely a fake.”
Dr. Norman’s retort: “Well, I guess you don’t know these as well as you think!”
Hearing this, the Jeweler says, “I’ll bet you bought that watch in New York.”
“Nope” Dr. Norman says, “I haven’t been to NYC in some time.”
The jeweler replies, “I’ll bet you $1000 you didn’t buy that from a real Rolex dealer.” Dr. Norman says, “I won’t take that bet, because you are right, I didn’t buy this from a Rolex dealer.”
“AH HA!” the Jeweler exclaims, “It IS a fake!! Where did you get it??”
“I got it in Daytona this past Sunday.” “HA! I am right!” the Jeweler shouts. “I know all the Rolex dealers in Daytona, and none of them are open on Sundays!”
“Maybe I didn’t get it from a dealer,” Dr. Norman smugly states.
The jeweler turns and says, “Well then tell me, who DID you get this ‘Rolex’ from?” “Well, I stated calmly and coolly, I was presented this beautiful timepiece from the President and CEO of Rolex Watches while standing on the podium at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.”
“OH, Sure!” he says, “And I’m Santa Claus!!”
Sometimes, Santa Claus comes at the end of January. And some jewelers don’t have the best eye for a genuine Rolex Daytona – especially ones with the Rolex 24 inscription on the back.
Here at Burdeen’s Jewelry, we know our racing and we know our Rolexes. Had Dr. Norman shown up in Chicagoland, our horologists would have been drooling over his one-of-a-kind Daytona won at none other than the 24 Hours of Daytona. Congratulations, Dr. Norman and that is one heck of a story! As for this year’s race, it’s turning out to be quite fun.