It might seem odd that wristwatches with such names as Daytona, Speedmaster, Autavia or Submariner should acquire nicknames, but they do. Not only do they pick up nicknames, but many of these watches are concreted into history as a result of it. These applied contexts can often make or break a reference, hence brands attempting to attribute their newest releases to well known celebrities. The Davidoff Brothers, Roy and Sacha, decided it was time to honour a collection of nickname watches in a one-day-one-evening exhibition at the Kempinski hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. The exhibition, which displayed everything from Tudor to Omega will ultimately be published as a book later this year. We had the chance to sit down with the Davidoff’s and shoot some of the stand-out pieces.
Let’s begin with a reference which has gained a huge amount of notoriety over the past ten years, something which has transformed from almost entirely undesired into one of the standout watches of recent years; the ‘Paul Newman’ Rolex Daytona, reference 6239. There are a few varying origin stories attributed to the Paul Newman / Daytona connection, but according to Rolex experts, his wife gifted him this particular configuration of Daytona, along with a Bund style strap, which has also been given a nickname of ‘The Paul Newman strap’. A short time later, Mr. Newman was profiled in an Italian magazine, and in the images accompanying the article, he was wearing a white dialled 6239. According to the available information, this is when the watch was noticed by collectors, prompting the legend to grow. What is maybe lesser known, is that Newman would become an official ambassador of Rolex some time shortly after. This affiliation would certainly do wonders for the Daytona range, and assisted in affirming its legend status among collectors and fans.
Rolex Ref. 6239 'Paul Newman' Daytona in stainless steel
The 6239 featured a tachymeter engraved into a metal bezel, differing from later references which opted for a bakelite material without engraving. The Paul Newman nickname would ultimately apply to all examples featuring this ‘exotic’ dial style, despite the fact that he was never seen wearing others. During its evolution, there was one reference which would trump all others, reaching a record price of CHF 1,985,000 at Phillips last year. This record would stand until just recently, again at Phillips, with the sale of a yellow gold ‘exotic’ dialled Daytona 6263 at CHF 3,722,000. This piece featured screw down chronograph pushers and a black dial with white subsidiary dials; this remains as one of the most sought after, despite it being not the ‘original’ ‘Paul Newman’.
Rolex Ref. 6263 'Paul Newman' Daytona in stainless steel
The next nickname reference comes from Breitling, and while the company may be in the midst of a buyout and a long period of dull design, their watches from the middle of last century certainly don’t reflect this. This example is a very early 1953 first series, which appears as though it has a date aperture, however it’s a little more complicated than that. The 765 AVI was designed as an aviators watch, and the small display actually serves as a fifteen minute countdown function. Before taking flight, pilots are required to make 15 minutes-worth of pre-flight checks, which, with this complication, they could time in a rather satisfying way. The nickname assigned to this piece is the ’Lucy Digital’, which may seem fairly abstract, but it makes reference to a nickname given to the remains of a 3.2 million year old skeleton of a predecessor to the Homo Sapien species. The name applies to the very first example of this reference, the idea being that it was the genesis of a number of evolutions of the 765.
Breitling Co-Pilot 765 AVI 'Lucy Digital' in stainless steel
Now for a reference which is deeply rooted in motor-racing, Heuer; more specifically Autavia Heuer. The Autavia range was introduced by Jack Heuer, deriving its name from the combination of AUTomotive and AVIAtion, the two primary markets for their timing instruments. The earliest pieces were dashboard mounted chronographs, but would later become ‘wrist-mounted’ too. The wrist-worn chronographs would prove very popular among racing drivers during the 60s and 70s, with a number of nicknames being given to various configurations. This white dialled reference 1163 MKI is attributed to the famed Swiss F1 racing driver Jo Siffert, known for driving for teams such as Lotus, Scuderia Filipinetti and the racing team of Rob Walker. Unfortunately, Jo would be involved in an incident during the 1971 World Championship Victory race, which would result in his untimely death. There are a number of configurations termed ‘Siffert colours’ which include both black and white dialled versions. In addition to Jo wearing this piece, there are a number of other drivers who were publicly spotted wearing the Siffert, including Steve McQueen. While this may not be the most popular of the vintage Autavia’s, it’s certainly one of the rarer pieces, as it’s thought that only 20-30 of these remain.
Heuer Autavia Ref. 1163 MK1 'Jo Siffert' in stainless steel
The Omega brandname has been involved with a number of historic events, resulting in many well documented nicknames, but one such nicknamed reference remained unconfirmed until very recently. The Omega Speedmaster ‘Ultraman’ was thought for a long time to be a non genuine reference, as very few were known to exist, making it extremely difficult to confirm originality. The difference between a regular Speedmaster and the ‘Ultraman’ is the central chronograph hand, which is bright orange as opposed to the usual white. For many years, collectors were deliberating over this special configuration, which had been spotted on the wrist of a character in the Japanese science-fiction television series, Ultraman. Ultraman was created by Eiji Tsubaraya in 1966 and the basic premise was that the superhero, named Ultraman, would protect planet earth from monsters and alien invasions week-to-week. The Ultraman Speedmaster featured in episode 8 of the series, with elements of the characters’ uniform matching the orange of the chronograph hand. The model is now officially recognised by Omega, as they were able to confirm the configuration using their archive.
Omega Speedmaster Ref. 145.012 - 67 'Ultraman' in stainless steel
The penultimate nickname belongs the Rolex reference 6036 Triple Calendar, along with its given title, the ‘Jean-Claude Killy’. Before we get onto the watch, Jean-Claude Killy, who happens to have a nickname of his own (Gilette), is a former professional ski racer. Born in Paris during the German occupation of WWII, his father, a former Spitfire pilot, decided to relocate the family to Val-d’lsére in the Alps, where he opened a ski shop and operated a hotel. By the age of 15, Jean-Claude had made the French national junior team, and had won his first international race by the age of 18. He would go on to win multiple gold medals at the Olympic games in 1968, among other equally prestigious accolades.
Rolex Triple Calendar Chronograph Ref. 6036 'Jean-Claude Killy' in stainless steel
While Jean-Claude would become an ambassador of Rolex, spanning forty odd years, the nickname originates from a slightly less predictable place. It was quite known that Jean-Claude owned a yellow gold Rolex 6036, making reference to this fact in the preface of a book he had written in 1996, but it wasn’t until around 1997 that Antiquorum dubbed an auction lot of the same reference number, the ‘Jean-Claude Killy’; and so, the legend was born. While it may have been a technique to bolster the desirability of the auction lot, it became the nickname of any triple calendar chronograph of similar design, including the variation below.
Rolex Triple Calendar Chronograph Ref. 4767 'Jean-Claude Killy' in stainless steel
The final nickname, and perhaps the most commonly recognised - bar maybe one - is the ‘James Bond’ Big Crown Submariner. The famed Rolex reference 6538 featured on the wrist of, in our opinion the greatest of all Bond’s - Sean Connery in Goldfinger (1964). Now, we know what you’re about to say, “But this is a Tudor”, and you would be correct in saying so, but the nickname has, like many others, become true of a whole host of variations which include references 6538, 6200, 5510 and the below pictured Tudor 7924; the sister reference to the 6538. The Tudor has been known to be called the poor man’s ‘James Bond Sub’, but given the prices these are now trading for, we feel that it’s time to drop the prefix. Tudor have been experiencing a renaissance in recent years, with particularly early and mint examples fetching sums thought never possible.
Tudor Submariner Ref. 7924 'James Bond Sub' in stainless steel
The predecessor to the above ref. 7924, ref. 7923 was quite publicly sold for $99,999 on eBay of all places. Though, the watch emerged a short time later with an asking price of $350,000, alarmingly close to the hammer price of a watch Tudor created in its likeness, which was auctioned through Phillips for charity in 2015. We suspect, the logic on the part of the seller, is that if the homage piece is worth $350k, then so too should a well preserved original be. Maybe they’re right.
Share your nickname watches on instagram with the hashtag #watcheswithnicknames and look out for the book over at www.db1983.com, due for release later this year.