Auction: Tropical Rolex 6239 'Paul Newman'

By A Collected Man

If there is one watch that has been firmly at the centre of attention these past few years or so, it’s the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. While the Daytona began its life as a bit of a sleeper, gaining traction only after the watch famously adorned the wrist of Paul Newman, it has now become a fully fledged legend with prices to reflect. The Daytona, originally named just Cosmograph - gaining the Daytona signature following Rolex’s sponsorship of the Daytona Beach 24hr LeMans - was an evolution of the Oyster chronograph; designed to address the increasing demand for a watch to suit the needs of racing drivers. With the introduction of the reference 6239, the tachymeter had been removed from the dial and engraved directly into the bezel, allowing for a higher legibility and a striking design. This particular example, which will go under the hammer with Sotheby’s this coming May, features the ‘exotic’ dial style as it was then known, now universally known as the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona.


The Rolex 'Paul Newman' Daytona 'Tropical' sitting with its original paperwork and old English one pound note.   


The connection between Paul Newman and the exotic dialled Daytona roots back to 1968, after Joanne Woodward purchased the watch for Newman as a gift while filming ‘Winning’; a film about the Indianapolis 500 race. The watch was then worn during filming and appeared in numerous press images, leading to hawk-eyed watch collectors buying up as many of the reference as they could. While collectors were able to find numerous pieces, the location of the holy grail - being Paul Newman’s actual watch - was a mystery. It surfaced last year, along with the entire story to quash the innumerable rumours that surrounded the piece. The watch was finally auctioned by Aurel Bacs at Phillips for $15.5M, setting a new world record for the most expensive wristwatch ever auctioned.


The dial detail of the Rolex 6239 'Paul Newman' Daytona 'Tropical'. 


As with many vintage items, the condition of any given piece is of crucial importance. A relatively recent trend, which somewhat contradicts the condition principle, known as ‘tropical’ ageing is multiplying the value of particular vintage watches. This reference 6239 is a perfect example of a ‘tropically’ aged dial, with its three originally black subsidiary dials turning into a beautiful chocolate brown. The vintage Rolex market can be quite challenging to navigate, with parts being modified or exchanged for more desirable ageing or rarity, particularly when it comes to age related patina. Given that this watch has been bought and owned by the original buyer, it has the benefit of an almost entirely tracked ageing process through photographs of the owner wearing it over the years.


 The Rolex 6239 'Paul Newman' Daytona 'Tropical' on the wrist. 


There were a number of variations to the case and dial design over the short period of time that the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona was manufactured. The 6239 & 6262, featured pump pushers and a steel bezel, while the 6265 would feature the same bezel but with screw down chronograph pushers. The reference 6241, 6264 & 6263 featured a black acrylic bezel; the 6263 being the most desirable of the three, owing to its screw down pushers which collectors tend to favour. While the actual manufacturing figures are a closely guarded secret in the vaults of Rolex, it’s thought that around 2000 6239 ‘panda’ dials were ordered from Singer; the dial manufacturer responsible for the ‘exotic’ design. As with many highly valued Rolex watches, the smallest detail or variation on the dial can dictate an astronomical value by comparison to a seemingly identical example. One example of this is known as ‘Oyster Sotto’ or Oyster Underneath which simply means that the word Oyster on the dial sits beneath the word Cosmograph, rather than above on more commonly seen examples. A standard 6239 will fetch around the half million dollar mark, where as one particular ‘Oyster Sotto’ with a tropical dial achieved just north of two million dollars.


The original owner (right) wearing his 6239 'Paul Newman' Daytona on his daughter's wedding day in 1982. 


This particular Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona 6239 was purchased on the 31st of May 1975 from Watches of Switzerland in Birmingham. It remains complete with every document, receipt, booklet and box, as well as the old English one pound note which was returned to the buyer after a cheque was written for £135 instead of the £134 price tag, when buying the watch. The watch has remained with the original owner who even wore it on his daughter's wedding day; albeit in less tropical condition at the time. The sales receipt erroneously bears the reference 6262, which at the time of sale was the current model, it is in fact a 6239 through and through.


The Rolex 'Paul Newman' Daytona 6239 'Tropical' 


The watch will be offered through Sotheby’s in May at their Important Watches sale in Geneva Switzerland carrying with it an estimate of CHF 200,000 - 400,000 or just shy of £150,000 - £300,000.

For more information, please visit the Sotheby's website by clicking here. 

UPDATE - 09/04/2018:

Sotheby's have confirmed that the One Pound Note accompanying the sale of this watch, was not in circulation at the date of issue of the receipt (31/07/75). Whilst accepting this mistake, which they feel was innocently made by the consignor, the Auction House stands behind all other aspects of the sale description. Special thanks to Gerald Donovan (@watchdxb) for bringing this to our attention. 

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