Appreciate the insights, very helpful and thoughtful as always!
The Zenith-era dials are very great. Love the history of the movement and the way Rolex rebuilt it to purpose.
I was close to going that direction but think I'm going to end up with the current model, at least this time. You do make me take pause with the decision again though.
But, at least for the white dial, the newer version pops better to me. That combined with the movement upgrades so eloquently described by Paul Boutros below I'm heading towards new. Also love the newer Rolex bracelets.
That three-part series on Hodinkee is a very good reference. You've likely also seen the watchmaker's detailed assessment at the end of their manufacturing facility feature, which I've excerpted below:
"Setting Dufour and Voutilainen level movement finishing aside, from a pure engineering perspective, Rolex's 3130 based calibers have reigned supreme for close to 30 years now. No mass-produced movement outside of Rolex comes close to matching their quality, durability, and reliability. They have come terribly close to defining the epitome of what a perfectly conceived mechanical watch movement should be.
more technical stuff (Click to show)
As for improvements on the 4030, there are several. Top five, in my opinion, would be:
1. Vertical clutch
2. Modularity of automatic section
3. Full balance bridge with height adjustment nut
4. Single point of adjustment for the chronograph system (versus five in the 4030)
5. Parachrome hairspring – I believe it was there from the beginning, sans blue colour at the outset
On top of that, they kept the goodness that was already in the 4030, such as the column wheel and free-sprung, microstella balance wheel (which Rolex equips all of its modern calibers with).
They didn't stop with all of that, either, though. Getting back to your reason for touching base: they have quietly been improving on the design since its debut at the turn of the millennium."
He continued: "It is not unusual for Rolex to make incremental improvements to their calibers. The 1500 series went through multiple iterations over its long history. The 3000 series received small improvements, tweaking part tolerances. All of the ladies' calibers have also seen small improvements over the years. That's the Rolex way. Continually improving things, down to the smallest details. The upgrades to the 4130 haven't been mere tweaks, however, they bring notable improvements."
"An 'upgrade' they did make some noise about was the blue Parachrome hairspring. As alluded to above, earlier 4130s were equipped with a white 'Parachrome' hairspring built on the same molecular foundation. Once proven and, in light of cutbacks from Swatch Group and its subsidiaries like Nivarox, it was important for Rolex to market this milestone in their vertical integration of production. More importantly, to me, the Parachrome hairspring was a serious horological leap forward in terms of precision and reliability of timekeeping."
"They made a small upgrade to the train wheel bridge, modifying some of the components and the way that they operate upon it, to improve the reliability of the hour and minute counters. I would class this upgrade as being similar to the minor upgrades made to previous generations of Rolex movements."
"A more notable upgrade that they introduced is a hairspring protection block, which eliminates any possible risk of the lower coils of the hairspring tangling in the hairspring's overcoil when the watch endures a hard blow. To the best of my knowledge, this was a horological first. I have never seen anything like it from any other watch company. It is stunningly brilliant in its simplicity and it does its job flawlessly. While the wearer of a Daytona may never notice it's there, they would quickly notice if it were not should the watch take a hard knock."
"The biggest incognito upgrade are playless gears in the chronograph system. As I'm sure you already know, the vertical clutch system of the 4130 eliminates the jarring start of the second that can be noticed on chronographs that feature a lateral clutch when the chronograph is started. Playless gears take this to the next level, by eliminating backlash between gear teeth. In simple terms, backlash is a small amount of space, or 'play,' between the teeth of two gears that are interacting with one another, so that one tooth can disengage as another tooth moves in to continue to the transfer of energy.
"A certain amount of backlash is necessary in any traditional gear system to prevent the gear train from binding and locking up. Unless the profiles of every single gear tooth are absolutely perfect (impossible), the spacing between the gears remains absolutely perfect (impossible), and there is zero play in the motion of the gears themselves (unlikely and inefficient), the tooth that is disengaging will become jammed between the tooth it is pushing and the tooth that is trailing it if there is no backlash. Thus, backlash was a necessary evil. To solve the issue, Rolex fabricates playless gears, one atom at a time, using a process known as LiGa (lithography-galvanoplasty). An additive manufacturing process. LiGa makes it possible to create gear forms that would be impossible to realize using traditional machining tools."
"With this technology, Rolex was able to devise a gear form wherein the center of each gear tooth can be hollowed out, leaving behind two spring-like flanges that act as what would traditionally be the full tooth form. In this manner, both sides of the tooth can remain engaged with the gear it is interacting with throughout the entire duration of the tooth's transfer of energy, taking up any necessary play (backlash) in the hollow area in the center of the tooth."
"MB&F made some fuss about LiGa gears when they launched the HM2. That was the first time I had heard of this technology, which Jean-Marc Wiederrecht / Agenhor employed for the retrograde minutes. Little did I know then that Rolex had already rolled out this technology, in relative mass production, with the introduction of the Yacht-Master II earlier that year. After proving itself in the wild, in the Yacht-Master II, the technology was introduced as an upgrade to the Daytona several years later, bringing absolutely fluid and seamless motion to the chronograph hands as they start and reset."
So, how is that for an endorsement?
I have a friend who's an independent watchmaker (accredited by Rolex, among others), and hearing his similar thoughts on the current Daytona movement was influential in my decision to get one three years ago. No regrets.