Rolex Daytona: a bespoke design challenge

It all began with a challenge.

An American collector wrote to Jacques Bordier, president of Jean Rousseau, in December 2021: “Monsieur Bordier: In 2009, I inherited a gold Rolex Daytona (model 6241; 1969 edition) from my father. It is a classic vintage watch and quite valuable. For years, I have been looking for a quality leather strap that would fit my watch snugly, with no gap.”

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6241 in 14-carat gold, in its limited edition of 450 pieces, is a mythical object in the history of watchmaking. It is commonly named after the actor and pilot Paul Newman, who wore this watch during car races, film shoots and press photos. It was given to him by his wife, with an ironic engraving: Drive carefully. He passed it on to his son-in-law, assuring him that “it really does tell the time very well”. After his death, it was auctioned off for a record sum for charity.

The collector who owns one of these Rolex Daytonas, similar to Paul Newman’s, wore it in memory of his father, but he was “never quite keen on wearing the gold band”, he wrote to Jacques Bordier, adding that he ordered a superb alligator strap from Jean Rousseau, but that it lacked the snug fit, with no gap, between the strap and the watch. “One of your competitors makes leather straps with a flawless fit”, he mentioned, “but in a lower quality than yours and they do not make a strap for a 19mm lug width.”

Alligator skin with a 1/10 millimeter fit

“The challenge was set”, says Jacques Bordier. “And I like challenges, because they always push us to do better.” Jacques Bordier passed the request on to Nathaniel Rather, technical director of Jean Rousseau in New York, who met with the collector and began to design the ideal bracelet.

“He wanted an alligator strap that would fit the shape of his watch flawlessly,” Nathaniel Rather recalls. “We had the watch scanned in three dimensions (3D) so that we could design a custom insert to fit the shape of the case, its thickness and curve. The insert was manufactured in France, adapted to a specially cut alligator strap, and sent back to New York for fittings. We worked with the prototyping team with a precision to the tenth of a millimeter.” The client came back to test the prototype, and the second one was the right one.

A designer’s tour de force

In February 2023, the ideal strap, cut from a beautiful blue alligator hide, was ready. The customer picked it up at the Atelier-Boutique in New York. “This watch is meaningful for me because it was my dad’s. He wore it for forty years, with the dial down, facing his wrist. I remember him timing his steaks on the barbecue with it! I’m really happy to be able to wear it with a strap that is just right. I really appreciate the effort made on my behalf to get this unique strap done,” he says.

For Jacques Bordier, this level of service is part of Jean Rousseau’s identity. “Our duty is to respond to all our customers’ wishes. Quality of service is as important as the quality of the final product. As a president, my answer is always “yes” (or in this case, “challenge accepted!”) and our technical services bring their skill and hard work to find the right solution. I am proud of the tour de force they accomplished, it is worthy of our brand.

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