On June 1st, the Wall Street Journal reported something that vintage watch collectors and Paul Newman fans have been hoping to hear for years: The “Paul Newman” Daytona had finally been found. Phillips in New York City will auction the piece later this year, and it’s more than likely that it will shatter the record for the most expensive Daytona ever sold.
The most recent record breaker? A gold Daytona known as “The Legend” that sold at auction for a mere $3,717,906.
The Paul Newman will break that record because well, it’s THE watch. Every vintage collector has at least heard of it, and most wish they could put their eyes on it just one time. The Paul Newman Daytona is the watch that essentially fueled the popularity of vintage watch collecting.
Read also: The Vintage Watch & a Pitch
Who was Paul Newman? Why is the “Paul Newman” Daytona so important?
Paul Newman, an actor, philanthropist, and IndyCar driver, became synonymous with the Rolex Daytona watch during his lifetime. Because of his massively successful acting career, good looks, and swagger – he became known as the kind of guy that all of us would want to be.
His watch of choice was the Rolex Daytona, which in turn made it the watch that every guy wanted to wear. More specifically though, Paul Newman wore six references of the “exotic dial” Rolex Daytona (the 6239, 6241, 6262, 6264, 6265, and 6263). These watches looked exactly the same as a normal stainless steel Daytona, with the exception of Art Deco styling on the dials.
From the 1980’s to 2000’s, the specific models worn and co-developed with Paul Newman became increasingly popular, and were eventually coined as the “Paul Newman” Daytona watches.
Read also: The Rolex Daytona: Life in the Fast Lane
The watch that was recently found is a Rolex Daytona reference 6239 with an exotic dial worn by Paul Newman himself.
Vintage collectors have known for some time that this watch still existed, but exactly where and who owned the watch were in question.
In turns out that Paul Newman actually gifted the watch to his daughter Nell Potts’ then boyfriend, James Cox. Here is how the story goes according to Hodinkee.com:
“In the summer of 1984, James was at the Newmans’ home in Westport, Connecticut, when Paul asked him what time it was. He responded, “I don’t know, I don’t own a watch.” Paul then handed him his Rolex and said, “Here, here’s a watch. If you wind it, it tells pretty good time.” The rest is history, and Mr. Cox wore the watch every day until the mid 1990s when he was informed of the relative value of a so-called “Paul Newman” Daytona.
Two years after Mr. Newman died, his daughter founded the Nell Newman Foundation, and the treasurer of this foundation contacted a well known collector in California named Tom Peck about possibly selling the watch. Some weeks later, none other than Aurel Bacs, the man who had set the record for the most expensive Daytona last year (and recently broke it once more) was in California to see the watch. Aurel was “as excited as a Swiss guy in a suit could get,” according to James.”
The Paul Newman Daytona
The watch itself is absolutely incredible. From a quality standpoint, it looks every bit in line with what you would look for in this level of vintage watch. There is a patina on the dial, and the hands and lume plots show good age without being physically damaged.
Probably the most exciting feature is found on the back of the case. Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, had the words “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME” inscribed. It’s just another layer to an already fantastic watch.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this watch as this story unfolds, but be ready for a very large price come auction time.
Images courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and Hodinkee.
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