Rolex Daytona 16520 Or Converted 16523 Two Tone?

A few days ago, H.Q. Milton offered a R-series Zenith Rolex Daytona 16520 with sought-after Floating Cosmograph dial from 1988 on their official IG. A closer look at the engravings between the lugs at 12 o’clock revealed that both, the Orig. Rolex Design text and the reference number were reengraved. The engravings between the lugs at 6 o’clock, namely the Stainless Steel text and the case number, are spot on and original Rolex. There are no real signs of abrasion caused by the bracelet end links as often seen on older Daytonas. So the question is, why was the 12 o’clock side completely reengraved?

A comparison of the watch in question (top) with an untouched R-series 16520 shows several discrepancies. The most obvious deviation can be seen on the numbers, especially the 5 and the 2. Another important detail is the dot after Orig which was only introduced sometime later.

Comparison reengraved (top) vs. original Rolex


The engravings between the lugs at 6 o’clock are original Rolex. The shape of the R and the 9 are very characteristic.

Original R-series case number


The case number was obscured by H.Q. Milton. Watch dealers often state they do this to prevent counterfeiters from stealing case numbers. Another reason often recited is that someone could claim the watch was stolen.

As mentioned earlier, there is no discernible reason for reengraving this particular watch. On modern references like the 16520, the end links did no longer eat the numbers between the lugs as on older models. Reengraving the reference number would only make sense, well, if it was done to pass a different reference as a 16520, for instance a Rolex Daytona Ref. 16523 two tone. Both references share the exact same stainless steel middle case.

A R-series 16523 Two Tone with Floating Cosmograph dial is considerably cheaper and can easily be modified to look like a 16520. The nickname Floating Cosmograph refers to the Cosmograph print which is “floating” underneath the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified text. On later series, there was no gap between Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified and Cosmograph.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16523 Two Tone with “Floating Cosmograph” dial


The only thing standing in the way would be the “wrong” engravings between the lugs at 12 o’clock.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16523 engravings between the lugs at 12 o’clock


In those days, Rolex assigned certain case numbers to certain references. Based on the case number it would be pretty easy to tell if the watch in question is a 16520 or a 16523. Unfortunately, the case number was obscured which brings me to the other big issue. The damn practice of obsuring case numbers and the lame excuses for doing so.

There are enough disclosed case numbers out there for counterfeiters to steal, so this argument holds no water. The other story that someone could claim the watch was stolen sounds more like a pretext. Someone claiming such thing would have to prove it. No, the way I see it, the most plausible reason for obscuring the numbers is to prevent people from researching the watches.

Thoughts

It will be interesting to see how this story develops and whether H.Q. Milton will disclose the full case number of this watch. If the watch in question is indeed a converted 16523, it would be a new level of fakery. However, H.Q. Milton may not be aware of the issues. My impression is they simply lack the knowledge in this field. In October 2020, the San Francisco-based dealer offered a fake Rolex Daytona Ref. 6262 on their website. I contacted them twice to warn about the watch but there was no reaction. Subsequently, I warned about the watch in public. Faced with a massive backlash, H.Q Milton quickly withdrew the watch. Soon after, they blocked me on IG.

Thank you for your interest.

3 comments

  • Luv ya Jose & all you do BUT on the subject of covered case numbers I have to disagree. Title to ownership of watches can be incredibly hard to prove even if legit. How many dealers can trace a pre owned watch right back to when sold new? This is sometimes what it takes to prove ownership hence it’s pretty easy for people to try & make bogus claims.

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  • Years ago, I worked for one of the largest authorized dealer of Rolex watches, in the US. For years prior to my joining the company, and continuing until today, they maintained the practice of photocopying each clients signed and dated Rolex warranty papers. We were told that at the end of the month, Rolex was supplied the photocopies. If this is a common practice for authorized dealers, and Rolex maintained records of each sold watch, a long enough investigation at Rolex HQ could provide sales history for most timepieces. The question is, was this common practice and if so, what did Rolex do with all the provides sales/warranty information.

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