Over the past five to ten years or so, there have been many watches which have gone from relative obscurity, to becoming the ‘must-have’ piece for any serious collector. Watches from the likes of Universal Genève and Heuer have piqued collectors' interest with their charming designs, but, one watch has broken record after record, owing to its connection to the late great actor, Paul Newman. The watch in question is the exotic-dialled version of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival
The Rolex Cosmograph, as it was then known, was originally released in 1963 with the reference 6239, however, it wasn’t until 1964 that we see the Daytona signature added to the dial. The watch was designed for use by racing drivers, and it was only after Rolex had sponsored the iconic 24hr Daytona race, in Daytona Beach, Florida that the piece would receive its now familiar name. These original models were made available with either a silver dial with black subsidiary dials, or a black dial with white sub-dials. The design was immediately popular, owing to its sleek proportions and elegant display of the tachymeter engraved into the bezel, rather than on the dial. While the watch had become popular, it wasn’t until one actor stroke racing driver wore one, that it would become an icon.
The Rolex Cosmograph 'Paul Newman' Daytona
It’s not uncommon for watches to receive nicknames after notable figures are seen to be wearing them, and after Newman was spotted wearing this particular dial variation, it became known as the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona. What differentiates a ‘regular’ Daytona from a ‘Newman’ Daytona lies within the circumference of the three subsidiary dials. A ‘regular’ Daytona will have thin stick markers, coloured either white for the white dial or black for the silver dial, with quite practically designed numerals.
This rare model has appreciated in value by astronomical figures, costing roughly $250 dollars new in 1963, it can now fetch anywhere from $100,000 to $3,700,000; the current record holder for an incredibly rare 18k gold version.
The ‘Newman’ Daytona features a Bauhaus inspired design with elegantly curved numerals, teamed with squares on each of the stick marker ends. The dial was manufactured by a company called Singer, and was made available in either matte white with black sub-dials or black with white sub-dials. This rare model has appreciated in value by astronomical figures, costing roughly $250 dollars new in 1963, it can now fetch anywhere from $100,000 to $3,700,000; the current record holder for an incredibly rare 18k gold version. This may seem an entirely unjustifiable amount to spend on a watch, but it’s set to be dwarfed by the watch that defined them all - Paul Newman’s personal Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona.
Paul Newman's personal Daytona with the caseback engraving 'DRIVE CAREFULLY ME'
The watch was gifted to Newman by his wife, Joanne Woodward, who likely purchased the watch from Tiffany & Co in 1968, during the filming of Winning; a film, starring Paul Newman as a racing driver named Frank Capua, set around the Indianapolis 500 race. Joanne had requested that the case-back be engraved with the words ‘Drive Carefully Me’, following Newman’s near death after a motorcycle accident in 1965. It’s said that his love of motor-racing was born after the filming of Winning, and would compete in many international races, including the 24hr Le Mans in 1979, racing against watchmaker Laurent Ferrier who placed behind Newman’s team in 3rd.
Paul Newman racing at Le Mans in 1979
In 1984, Newman received yet another gift from his wife; a black-dialled ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, and so began one of the great horological mysteries of recent times - Where did Paul Newman’s white-dialled 6239 go? After years of speculation, the whereabouts of this piece became known, and with it, a great story. Newman’s daughter, Nell Newman, had been on a family trip with her long term boyfriend, James Cox, at a property in Westport, Connecticut, known to the family as ‘Nook House’.
“If you can remember to wind this each day, it tells pretty good time”.
James had been restoring an old tree-house on the second property on the plot, across a small river. His daughter Nell recalls that her father had strolled down to the river to check on his progress, when he asked James if he had the time, as he had forgotten to wind his watch. James replied that he didn’t own a watch, at which point, he handed James his white dialled 6239 and said, “if you can remember to wind this each day, it tells pretty good time”. The watch remained in his possession ever since, and has been preserved in entirely original condition, right down to the Bund style strap it sits on.
Paul Newman wearing the Rolex Daytona
There has been a lot of speculation among collectors as to what it will hammer for in New York City by Phillips later this month, as the estimate states merely ‘in excess of $1,000,000’. The general consensus seems to be that it should break the world record for any Rolex ever sold at auction, which currently sits at just over $5,000,000, but many suggest that it could break the $10,000,000 mark, or even become the most expensive wristwatch ever auctioned. We will just have to wait and see on that. Let us know your estimates in the comments below.