Why The Rolex Daytona Is The World’s Most Wanted Watch

The nearly 60-year-old model didn’t always inspire the breathless fascination it does today.

By Oren Hartov 28/07/2022

Here’s something that’s tough to believe these days: The Rolex Daytona wasn’t always a sold-out, smash hit.

That’s right—and all the more so with those beloved “Paul Newman” models, the ones with the funky typeface and red accents that tend to make headlines these days. Those things languished in shop windows for years.

The model is now the object of desire to everyone from horological newbies to dedicated collectors. Paul Newman’s own “Paul Newman” Daytona famously fetched nearly $25.7 million at auction in 2017. So, how is it that this humble (originally hand-wound) chronograph came to be so beloved the world over?

The Backstory

Rolex, of course, had been making chronographs for decades before it came up with the Daytona (which was originally signed simply “Cosmograph,” minus the “Daytona” moniker). During WWII, the company housed triple-register chronographs in Oyster cases, while in the 1950s, it began experimenting with watches that clearly foreshadowed the Daytona with similar design language. Reference 6234 has more of that wartime look but by the time the ref. 6238 rolls around in 1962—the so-called “pre-Daytona”—it’s clear to see where the world’s most famous chronograph got its start.

Housed in a 36mm stainless steel or yellow gold case and available with a silver, black or dark grey dial, the 6238 featured baton hands, faceted, applied hour markers, luminous hour plots, and unthreaded pump pushers. Powered by the hand-wound Valjoux 72 movement and available on steel Rolex bracelets, it was a sporty, handsome chronograph that needed very little tweaking before it took on the form that’s come to command such enormous sums at auction.

That same year, Rolex became the official timing partner of the speedway in Daytona, Florida. This partnership would lead to the eponymous watch we all know and love.

Important Daytona Models

The Hand-Wound Era

The Daytona was originally a mechanical chronograph—powered by the Valjoux cal. 72 or a variant thereof, it needed to be wound each day. This era lasted from 1963 until 1987—in 1988, Rolex unveiled the first automatic model.

Ref. 6239

Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6239

Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6239 Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s

The OG Daytona launched in 1963, with the ref. 6239, which was the very first “official” Daytona model. Housed in a (roughly) 37mm steel or gold case, it featured “Rolex Cosmograph” on the black or white dial under the 12 o’clock logo and was powered, like the ref. 6238 “pre-Daytona,” by the hand-wound Valjoux 72 movement (later customized by Rolex and renamed or the Cal. 722). It also featured, like that model, unthreaded pump pushers, meaning water resistance was limited. Now here’s the kicker: The ref. 6239 in its pre-1965 styling did not feature “Daytona” on the dial at all; later versions did, either above the 6 o’clock subdial or beneath the “Rolex Cosmograph” marking at 12 o’clock. Also, note the stick hands and markers and the lack of a contrasting background against the outer minute and ⅕th-second track, as well as the bezel inscribed with a tachymeter scale (a first for Rolex).

 

 

Rolex "Paul Newman" Daytona Ref. 6263 with Exotic Dial

Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona Ref. 6263 with Exotic Dial Sotheby’s

The birth of the “Paul Newman” Daytona also coincides with that of the ref. 6239. (A “Newman” can be one of several Daytona references, as it’s indicative of a particular dial type, not a case type.) Called “exotic dials” by Rolex, these special dials were made by Singer and featured red “Daytona” text (though not on the earliest iterations) and Art Deco-esque Arabic indices on the sub-registers with dot markers. (It’s said that roughly one in 20 hand-wound Daytonas featured an exotic dial.) They also featured a contrasting seconds track with red markings on the outer edge of the dial. Available in steel or gold cases, these models originally didn’t sell well and languished on shelves.

Paul Newman was known to have worn one of these exotic-dialled watches, which was given to him by his wife Joan Woodward. At some point in the 1980s, Italian collectors began associating the exotic dials with the famed American actor, giving rise to the term “Paul Newman dial.” Of course, when Newman’s own “Newman” came up for sale in 2017, its nearly $26 million hammer price was due in no small part to the fact that this was the very watch that gave rise to an industry-wide obsession.

Ref. 6240

Rolex Daytona Ref. 6240

Rolex Daytona Ref. 6240 Sotheby’s

1965’s Ref. 6240 was a big deal in that it was the first Daytona model to feature screw-down pushers, thus rendering it highly water-resistant. Housed in a 37.5mm steel case and available with a black, white or silvered dial, it was powered by the Valjoux 722 hand-wound movement and went through several evolutions: While standard variants feature “Daytona” under “Cosmograph,” a rarer version, called a “Solo” dial, sees only the Rolex signature without “Oyster Cosmograph.” Each version featured an engraved, black acrylic tachymeter bezel, while “Paul Newman” variants featured the same dial as a ref. 6239 “Newman,” or featured “Daytona” under “Cosmograph.” Only roughly 1,700 pieces of the ref. 6240 are thought to have been made.

Ref. 6241

Rolex Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241 from 1968

Rolex Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241 from 1968 Phillips

Beginning in roughly 1965 or 1966, Rolex began production of another pump pusher-equipped reference, the 6241. Measuring 37.5mm in steel or gold and featuring an acrylic bezel, it was powered by the hand-wound Valjoux 727 and was available with either a standard or “Newman” dial in black or white. Roughly 3,000 pieces were produced during its production run, which lasted until around 1969.

Ref. 6263

Rolex Paul Newman Daytona Oyster Soto Ref. 6263

Rolex Cosmograph “Paul Newman” Daytona “Oyster Soto” Ref. 6263 Courtesy of Eric Wind

Once again, in 1963 Rolex chose screw-down pushers for its new Daytona reference, the 6263. This is a nuanced model, full of small variants: Housed in a 37.5mm case and powered by the Valjoux cal. 727—certain examples were chronometer-certified, which began in the 1970s—it came in either a steel or gold case (only 2,000 or so pieces were made in gold) in either a standard or “Newman” dial. (The “Newman” dials, however, lacked the red “Cosmograph” text of other “Newmans.”) “Daytona” text appeared either under “Cosmograph,” above the 6 o’clock subdial, or not at all on the standard dial variants. Each watch was also equipped with an acrylic bezel. Interestingly, this reference was in production until 1987, a year before Rolex began outfitting the Daytona with automatic Zenith-made movements.

Ref. 6265

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6265

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona “Big Red” Ref. 6265 Rolex

This reference was fairly similar to the 6263—we still have a stainless steel or gold case, this time at roughly 37mm, and still have the hand-wound Valjoux 727 movement and the screw-down pushers. However, the 6265 featured a stainless steel or gold tachymeter bezel with black indices. A special version of the standard (non-”Newman”) dial is called the “Big Red,” and features “Daytona” in red text above the 6 o’clock subdial. Interestingly, many “Newman” dials do not feature “Daytona” above 6 o’clock. The 6265 was also in production until 1987.

Ref. 6262

Lot 33 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6262

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6262 Phillips

This highly rare, pump pusher-equipped reference was made for a very short time in 1970 to 1971. Housed in a steel or gold 37mm case and powered by the Valjoux cal. 727, the Ref. 6262 was offered with either a standard or “Newman” dial in black or white. Certain casebacks are (correctly) inscribed “6239” meaning that the company was using older cases to produce the 6262.

Ref. 6264

Sotheby's Rolex Daytona "John Player Special" Ref. 6264

Sotheby’s Rolex Daytona “John Player Special” Ref. 6264 Courtesy of Sotheby’s

This reference is notable for its limited production (roughly three years in the early ‘70s) and for being the last pump pusher-equipped model. Its 37mm case came in either steel (roughly 1,700 examples) or gold, and it was powered once again by the Valjoux cal. 727. It featured a black acrylic tachymeter scale which, when combined with the pump pushers, made the 6264 the first (and last) reference to feature this combination. Both standard and “Newman” dials were on offer, with the “Newmans” featuring either colour-coordinated seconds-track markings or red ones.

The Zenith Era

In 1988, Rolex switched began using the Zenith-produced El Primero automatic movement, which is famous for having been one of the first automatic chronograph calibres upon its release in 1969. Originally a hi-beat movement, Rolex dubbed this El Primero variant the Caliber 4040, certified it as a chronometer and slowed down the beat rate to 28,800vph from 36,600vph in an effort to increase power reserve and lengthen service intervals. The watch’s case size also increased to 40mm, which is where it remains today. These “Zenith” Daytonas are highly sought after by collectors.

Ref. 16520

Rolex Cosmograph Zenith Daytona Ref. 16520 with 225 tachymeter scales

Rolex Cosmograph “Zenith” Daytona Ref. 16520 Courtesy of Phillips

Production on this first El Primero-equipped reference lasted from 1988-2000. Featuring a 40mm stainless steel case, it featured either a white or black dial, a steel bezel, screw-down pushers, and, for the first time, sapphire crystal. (There were three different bezels and five different dial variations during the watch’s production run.)

Ref. 16523/16528

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16528

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16528 Courtesy of Christie’s

These are essentially ref. 16520s in precious metals: the Ref. 16523 came in two-tone gold and steel, while the Ref. 16528 came in solid gold. Dials were back, white or gold, while some were equipped with diamond indices. “Daytona” is found in red above the 6 o’clock sub-dial.

The In-House Era

In 2000, Rolex released the first Daytona with an in-house, Rolex-produced movement, the Cal. 4130. Automatic and featuring column wheel actuators, it featured an increased power reserve of 72 hours, and the brand subtly upgraded it as new technology became available. Due to the movement’s design, the Daytona’s running seconds moved from 9 o’clock to 6 o’clock, while the dial also changed somewhat—if you look carefully, you’ll see that these newer Daytona models feature wider, arrow-shaped indices filled amply with lume.

Ref. 116520

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116520

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116520 Sotheby’s

Produced from 2000 to 2016, the ref. 116520 is aesthetically similar to the previous generation of Zenith Daytonas—the reference number simply adds a “1”—but features an in-house Rolex movement. This stainless steel model featured a case diameter of 40mm, was available in a black or white dial, and had a fixed steel bezel with a tachymeter scale. Sapphire crystal, 100m of water resistance and an Oyster bracelet rounded out the package.

Ref. 116500LN

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500LN

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500LN WatchBox

This is the current-production “Oystersteel” Daytona. Introduced in 2016, it features all the fixings—a 40mm case with screw-down pushers, an Oyster bracelet with a folding Oysterlock safety clasp and Easylink comfort extension, the in-house Cal. 4130, and, most notably, a Cerachrom ceramic bezel with an engraved tachymeter scale. As usual, it’s available in black or white.

Other Modern Daytonas

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona "Eye of the Tiger"

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona “Eye of the Tiger” Ref. 116588TBR Rolex

The current-production Daytona is available in more varieties than one can safely shake a stick at. It comes in several iterations of solid gold, two-tone, platinum, and even comes with a rubber strap in place of the typical Oyster bracelet. On top of this, there are special, limited-production dials with precious gems-studded bezels, wild dials, and more. At this point, the sky is sort of the limit for Rolex’s most in-demand model.

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The 10 Best Omakase in Sydney

Sydney’s best Japanese chef’s-table dining experiences.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 06/06/2024

In Japan, where food is a cultural art form, omakase stands for traditional Japanese foods made with seasonal ingredients. A good omakase meal, prepared with purity and mindfulness, can make an unforgettable imprint on the culinary memory. Yet in a land defined by seasonal traditions, omakase is a relatively new concept.

Omakase originated in Japan in the 1970s as affluent Japanese began to dine more regularly at first-rate sushi counters. Bowing to the expertise of the sushi master, omakase loosely translates to “I’ll leave it to you.” In a setting where money is no object, letting the chef decide was designed as a chic way to take the awkwardness out of ordering.

In Australia where there’s an abundance of fresh seafood, omakase menus have experienced a recent rise in popularity. Today omakase is any series of small dishes served directly by the chef to the diner. Each part of the meal is presented on beautiful ceramics and lacquer wear, with a great —and somewhat— intimidating reverence for elegant details. It’s a chance to see a chef’s knife skills up close and get a feel for their cooking style.

Omakase menus are based on whatever is freshest at the market and can be influenced by the chef’s mood, expertise, and response to the guest. They can be slowly paced like a ceremony—hushed and reverential—but they can also be rowdy, humorous, and personal.
Here we give you 10 of the best to try in Sydney.

Yoshi’s Omakase at Nobu Crown Sydney

Crown Sydney, Level 2/1 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo. Open: 12–3 pm, 5:30–9:30 pm Phone: 02 8871 7188 Reservations: F&B-SYD-Nobu@crownresorts.com.au; $380 per head (including matched wine and sake). Crownsydney.com.au

Sushi Oe

16/450 Miller St, Cammeray; Tue – Sat. SMS only 0451 9709 84 E: jizakana16@gmail.com Phone: 0426 233 984 $230 per head. jizakana.com.au

Kisuke with Yusuke Morita

50 Llankelly Place, Potts Point; Tuesday – Saturday: 17:30 – 10.45 (closed Sunday/ Monday) $185-200 per head Kisukepottspoint.com

Haco 

102/21 Alberta St, Sydney. Lunch, Friday to Saturday 12 -2:00 pm Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday 5:45 pm – 8:1 5pm (closed Sunday & Mondays) P: 0408 866 285                                     E: haco@hacosydney.com.au; $150 – $210 Hacosydney.com.au

Kuon

Shop 04 2/58 Little Hay St, Sydney, Lunch: Fri-Sun 12:30 pm. Dinner  Tue-Sun 5:15 pm or 7:45 pm sittings.  Reservation via SMS at 0488 688 252; $220 per head @kuon.omakase

Sokyo 

The Darling, Level G, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont. Open dinner Monday to Thursday from 5:45 pm P: 1800 700 700 $300 per head Sokyo.com.au

Kuro

368 Kent St, Sydney; Open Tue – Wed – Thur: 6 pm Fri & Sat: 5:30 pm P: 02 9262 1580, reservations@kurosydney.com $220 per head. Kurosydney.com;

Choji Omakase

Level 2, 228 Victoria Ave, Chatswood —upstairs from Choji Yakiniku. Every Monday to Wednesday at 6.30 pm. One seating per day only. $295 per head. Chojiomakase.com.au

Gold Class Daruma

The Grace Hotel, Level 1/77 York St, Sydney; 12–2:30 pm, 5:30–9.00 pm Phone: (02) 9262 1190 M: 0424 553 611 booking@goldclassdaruma.com.au·$120 – $150 per head Goldclassdaruma.com.au

Besuto

Besuto Omakase, Sydney Place precinct, 3 Underwood Street, Circular Quay. Omakase is available to book for dinner – Tuesday to Saturday. 5:30 pm & 8pm sittings. From $250. Besuto.com.au

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is no soy and wasabi offered during my omakase meal?
Even though sushi and sashimi are being served, the chef is serving each piece of sushi so quickly and directly that the chef is applying the wasabi and soy to the sushi themselves. Watch as they brush the top of the fish with soy and dab a tiny amount of wasabi on the rice, under the fish. You should not need to add extra, and in fact, it can be insulting to the chef to add more. Bathing the bottom of the rice of your sushi in soy sauce is considered bad manners, as it is seen as detracting from the flavour of the fish.

Nobu, Sydney

Can an omakase experience accommodate my dietary needs?
Although there is often little variation once the chef has set the daily menu, some customisation is possible. Advise the restaurant when you book and remind them of allergies or aversions again as you sit down. They will let you know when you book if your allergy is possible for the chef. Japanese menus feature a lot of seafood and dashi so accommodating a no seafood request can be genuinely tricky.

What are the golden rules for chopstick etiquette?
Use your chopstick holder in between eating, rather than putting chopsticks on your plate. Don’t use your chopsticks to gesticulate or point; if offering food to someone to try, never pass food directly from your chopsticks to theirs. Rather place the food onto a small plate and let them pick it up.
Never touch communal or shared food with your chopsticks. The longer, slightly larger chopsticks are like sharing cutlery, never put these in your mouth.

Without a menu, how can I know what I am eating during omakase?
Omakase is often a no-menu situation, and you are expected to try new things. Attending an omakase experience with an open, trusting mind yields the best results.
There are Wagyu and tempura omakase that reflect the chef’s personal predilections and training, but in a standard luxury omakase, the format will include a lot of freshly caught seafood and will usually kick off with a delicate appetiser. This will be followed by a sashimi and sushi course, a savoury egg custard (chawanmushi) with meat and seafood, a cooked or blow-torched market fish, a soup course, and dessert.

Can I talk to the chef during omakase? What is the protocol?
Guests at an omakase experience are welcome to ask questions of the chef; in fact, interacting with the chef is part of the experience. It is considered polite to ask questions or inquire about the food so they can explain.

What is best to pair with omakase  in terms of drinks?
In general, wine and sake are a perfect match for omakase. Aged fish and vinegar have strong umami flavours so depending on which course you enjoy, different wine and sake will pair well. Dry chilled sake is a great choice. Amazing sakes are imported into Australia, so trust the restaurant to advise you and take you on a sake journey at the same time.  If you don’t like sake, drinking chardonnay, a crisp young riesling, or even a dry complex Riesling is also totally acceptable. All three styles help bring out the flavour of the fish. Champagne can also be good. Try a blanc de blancs— 100% chardonnay —for a great way to start the meal. As you progress, remember that sake is good for dishes with a strong taste, such as uni and eel.

Nobu, Sydney

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The Sonos Ace Headphones Are Music to the Ears

The audio giant has (finally) revealed its foray in the personal listening category.

By Josh Bozin 20/06/2024

In the ever competitive market for premium headphones, few brands have captured the hearts (and ears) of audiophiles, professionals and enthusiasts alike. Bowers & Wilkins, Bose, Sony, and even Apple come to mind when debating great audio brands in 2024. Then there’s Sonos.

For over 20 years, the American audio manufacturer has been lauded for its high-end capabilities, particularly in a home setting; Sonos changed the game for the integration of home entertainment. But it had yet to venture into the realm of headphones.

Until now. Earlier this month, the company marked its long-awaited entry into the personal-listening category, with the launch of its highly anticipated Sonos Ace over-ear headphones.

“Fans have asked us for years to bring the Sonos experience to headphones,”says Patrick Spence, CEO of Sonos, “and we knew our first foray into the category needed to champion the type of innovation and sound experience Sonos has become synonymous with.”

Sonos

On paper, the Sonos Ace is an enticing proposition: a premium over-ear headphone featuring lossless and spatial audio, intuitive Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and Aware Mode. Most appealing, however, might be its new immersive home theatre offering; the Sonos Ace can pair to compatible Sonos soundbars with just a tap of a button. The new TrueCinema technology, which arrives later this year, will precisely map your entertainment space and then render a complete surround sound system for an unparalleled listening experience.

Sonos

Retailing at $699, they aren’t exactly cheap, and there more affordable headphones that compete with Sonos in terms of audio output and high-fidelity sound. But where Sonos thrives is in the details. Available in  stealthy black and pure white, the Sonos Ace are sleek and stylish right out of the box. Sure, there is some resemblance to the Apple Air Max Pro—arguably its greatest rival in the over-ear headphone segment—but Sonos has also added its own design touches, and it’s clear the Ace was made to look and feel as good as it sounds.

Its distinctive, slim profile elegantly blends metal accents with a sleek matte finish, and thanks to the use of lightweight, premium materials like memory foam and vegan leather, you get an airy fit that isn’t overbearing, even after extensive use. The design of the Sonos Ace is also intuitive; tactile buttons make controlling the headset a cinch, and pairing with Apple or Android devices is also straightforward. The dedicated Sonos App is also helpful for customising (somewhat) your listening experience, from altering EQ to turning on certain capabilities, like Head Tracking.

Sonos

It does fall short on a couple of key fronts.  I was expecting more from the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) for over-ear headphones of this price point; there’s no way the ANC as it stands will filter out the sounds of a plane engine, for example. I also found the Sonos Ace has an issue, albeit subtle, with the mid-bass, which can sound muddy and lack punch at times.

But these are small nits. The Sonos Ace only adds to the company’s impressive standing as an unimpeachable innovator in the audio industry.

For more information, visit Sonos.

 

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Wake Up To World Martini Day 19 June

Cocktail legend Dale de Groff talks Grey Goose, World Martini Day and getting wet.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 18/06/2024

Dale de Groff knows his way around a bar. Back when late nights and heavy drinking were a badge of honour, he presided over one of New York City’s most legendary venues, The Rainbow Room, and is credited with reviving the classic cocktail across Northern America.

To promote World Martini Day on June 19 he’s teamed up with vodka company Grey Goose, for which he has served as a brand ambassador since 1997, to make a winning case for the classic Martini everywhere. He is even lending a hand at the opening of Le Martini bar at Crown Melbourne. 

We asked de Groff about his time serving stars like Michale Douglas, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood and, of course, how he likes his martini.

Dale for the uninitiated, please describe the Rainbow Room.

In the 1980s Rainbow Room was situated high atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Back then, it was just the pinnacle of glamour.

It has stunning views of the city from way up on the 65th floor. Being situated in the same building as NBC Entertainment, still pretty synonymous with late night TV,  it was and still is the home of Saturday Night Live. You can imagine the kinds of people we’d be getting in each week—from celebrities, musicians, even governors, you name it. 

Robb Report ANZ: What was one of your favourite memories from that time?

Dale de Groff: In ‘88 we held the 30th anniversary Grammys afterparty at the Rainbow Room which I’ll never forget. The event took place over multiple floors, but in the bar itself, the three tiers that go up from the dance floor were taken over by the who’s who of the time. I remember roping off a zone just for music legends like Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and Madonna—who was no stranger to the bar during those times. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

RR: What role do cocktails play in making a good venue truly great?

DD: A venue’s popularity ultimately comes down to the bartender or team behind the bar. How they interact with people, size them up as they walk through the door, talk to them over that three feet of mahogany, I mean, it’s everything.

RR: What’s the trick to becoming a great bartender, one who can easily impress guests, friends and family?

DD: Knowledge behind the craft. Let’s face it, understanding how to create a really high degree of deliciousness is required, but getting deep into how beverages are made is a massive skill in drink making. The research and innovation behind it is just mind-blowing.

RR:What three cocktails should every sophisticate know how to make?

DD: Well, a martini obviously! I personally like mine 50/50—equal parts vodka and vermouth. I used to drink my martinis for the power, but now I prefer a wet martini. Then I think a classic spritz is a must—always effervescent, lower in alcohol, really it’s the preprandial libation. Then thirdly, it’s gotta be an Old Fashioned.

RR: How do you make a solid martini at home?

DD: If I’m making a classic martini at home, I’m adding Grey Goose, vermouth and bitters to a mixing glass with ice, stirring then straining into a chilled glass. Garnished with lemon twist of course.

Le Martini, the world’s first standalone Grey Goose bar, is now open and will welcome guests in time for World Martini Day on 19 June. You can follow:  @LeMartiniBar 

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Can Italy’s Lake Garda Finally Compete With Como—or Will It Become a Victim of Its Own Success?

Crowded, cacophonous Lake Como is overflowing, filling its nearby villages and lakes with new luxury hotels and savvy, in-the-know travellers.

By Jake Emen 17/06/2024

The sun is shining down and your wooden Riva Aquarama boat is slicing through the lake. The crowd is beautiful, well-tanned and they like their spritzes. Sound like Lake Como? Almost. You’re about 150 kilometres southeast on the larger, yet less frequented, Lake Garda.

As the popularity of Lake Como has grown thanks to non-stop celebrity endorsements filtered down via social media, an in-crowd is discovering that Garda offers the same glitzy perks of its neighbour with far fewer headaches.

“Giorgio Clooney is to Como what Tom Hanks is to Garda,” says Katie Parla, author of “Food of the Italian Islands” and a tour leader across Italy. “Sure, Como is beautiful and charming, but Garda is equally talented, and some would say, more versatile and well-rounded.”

Grand Hotel Fasano, which turned 135th anniversary, is welcoming a new crowd.
Grand Hotel Fasano,

Long the preferred destination for Italians and other continental families, the secret of Garda has now well and truly been leaked. Investment is pouring in at Ferrari speeds.

On the hotel front, historic, legendary properties such as Grand Hotel Fasano (from USD$470)—which celebrated its 135th anniversary in 2023— are joined by a flock of newcomers. There is the new family-owned spa hotel Cape of Senses, a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member (from USD$628). Conti Thun (from USD$225) debuted as an on-vineyard wine resort last year. And this spring, Borgo Tre (from USD$640) opened a small collection of luxury apartment suites in a converted 18th-century farmhouse. (If you haven’t noticed already, a stay here is still considerably cheaper than say, Lake Como’s Passalacqua at USD$2,660 a night).

The region’s established properties are doing their best to stay ahead of the new arrivals, too. The mountain-top wellness haven Lefay Resort & Spa (from USD$460) is famous for encouraging its guests to wear their plush robes across the grounds from morning to night, as the saunter from treatment to treatment. It’s just unveiled a new, elevated room category dubbed Sky Suites that will speak to Como expats. These top-floor units are 1,500 square feet and come with a terrace hot tub, a private in-suite sauna and, of course, unimpeded views of the lake, mountains, and valleys beyond.

Lefay Resort & Spa is drawing wellness activists to the region.
Lefay Resorts

But change like this always comes at a cost. Locals and long-time visitors worry that the region’s newfound popularity puts it in danger of losing its distinctive atmosfera. Ironically, even the new guard hotels are concerned.

“We don’t want that, we’re not a mass tourism product,” says Cape of Senses general manager Alina Deutsch of any attempt to clone Como at Garda. “What is luxury today? It’s what people are missing from their lives, and that’s space and time.”

“Locals, like me, really hope that our beautiful destination will remain as authentic as it is now, even if international tourism is booming and new luxury properties are going to continue opening in the next couple of years,” added Alice Lancini, Grand Hotel Fasano’s sales and marketing manager.

But the scene in Lake Garda’s is already shifting. Lancini says that in the last three to four years, U.S. travellers have made the lake hotel the brand’s second strongest market after Germany. “Lake Garda is becoming more popular in the States as it’s much cheaper than Como, less crowded—still, for now—and it’s a completely different experience than Lake Como.”

Parla adds that the 50 kilometre-long Lake Garda has a natural protection from “becoming a Disneyland” overnight: its massive size makes it feel more like a sea than a lake at times.

“Como the town, Bellagio, and all the fancy hotels are beyond overcrowded and have become the playground of influencers generating their FOMO-inducing content,” she says. “I don’t see a way to enjoy the lake if you stick to those two towns, which most do…Lake Garda is so much bigger.”

Its other protection? Garda isn’t a first stop for first timers. After all, would you tell someone to skip the Eiffel Tower on their first trip to Paris, or forgo the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? Icons are icons and that includes Lake Como.

The new family-owned spa hotel Cape of Senses just opened on Lake Garda.
Cape of Senses

“Lake Como is for romance and honeymoons, and lounging around on a boat and never leaving the confines of a luxury hotel,” adds Parla, noting that other lakes and villages attract a more active, creative and adventurous crowd.

So will Garda ever become Como? Lancini thinks it’s likely, and that’s why you should get there sooner rather than later. “Lake Garda is going to boom as a destination in the next three to five years,” she says. “Now is the time to take advantage and come to this beautiful destination before it becomes too crowded.”

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Kyoto Has the Most Michelin Restaurants per Capita: Report

There are 100 Michelin-starred spots in the Japanese city, serving some 1.5 million people.

By Tori Latham 17/06/2024

The residents of Kyoto, Japan, are positively swimming among Michelin-starred restaurants.

The Japanese city is home to the highest density of eateries ranked by the French tire company, including five three-starred restaurants, according to a new report from website Chef’s Pencil. With 100 Michelin-ranked spots and a population of almost 1.5 million, Kyoto has one restaurant for every 14,637 people.

Coming in a close second is—unsurprisingly—Paris: The city’s 122 Michelin-starred restaurants serve 2.1 million residents, resulting in one spot for every 17,235 people. (Paris also has the second-highest absolute number of Michelin-starred restaurants, behind Tokyo.) Third place may come as a shock: Washington, D.C., has ranked highly, with 25 restaurants for 690,000 residents, or one for every 27,582 people.

Of course, there are some caveats for the Chef’s Pencil report. The website looked only at cities with 500,000 or more residents. And the restaurants had to be located within the city limits, rather than the larger metropolitan area. The Michelin Guide itself often includes eateries in a broader region, so this list may be slightly more abbreviated than the official selection.

To address some of that disparity, Chef’s Pencil has also released a ranking of Michelin density in midsize cities, those with 100,000 to 500,000 residents. At the top of that list is Nara, Japan, which has 23 starred restaurants for a population of just 367,000 (one restaurant for every 15,972 residents). That’s followed by Maastricht, Netherlands (six Michelin-starred restaurants and 120,000 residents, or one restaurant for every 20,038 people), and Geneva, Switzerland (eight starred eateries and a population of 204,000, or one spot for every 25,494 residents).

And while France is the country with the most Michelin-starred establishments, Switzerland actually has the most starred spots per capita. The country’s 134 Michelin-starred restaurants serve a population of almost 9 million, or one for every 66,872 residents. The much smaller Luxembourg, with just 672,500 residents, comes in second for this metric: With 10 Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s one for every 67,250 people.

While many people travel to the areas with the most Michelin-starred restaurants, they may be better served by going to the areas where they’re the densest. Neither Kyoto nor D.C. may be called its respective country’s culinary capital, but both are teeming with Michelin-ranked spots relative to their size.

 

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