Paul Newman is no stranger to the watch world. In fact, he’s a bit of a legend. The Rolex Paul Newman Daytona is arguably the most coveted vintage Rolex of all time. This is the watch responsible for kicking off vintage watch collecting as we know it today. But that wasn’t always the case.
When Rolex first debuted the Daytona Exotic White Dial in the mid 1960’s, it initially flopped. But, when Newman first sported the Exotic White Dial in the early 1970’s, the world took note of the once overlooked model.
Even before he wore the famous Exotic White Dial, Newman was a one-watch man. Over the years, he accumulated at least five different Daytona models in his collection. The first was a Ref. 6263 with black dial and silver sub dials, which was a gift from his wife, Joanne Woodward. His next three Daytona models didn’t come into his collection until years later—a white dial stainless steel Daytona with a Zenith movement, a black dial stainless steel Daytona with a Zenith movement, and a white gold Daytona with a black dial.
Newman’s acclaim as an actor and racecar driver made him the perfect match for Rolex. He first made a name for himself through his work on Broadway, television, and film. Then, he reached a turning point in his career in 1969 while he was working on the motorsport film Winning. He was required to take a professional racecar driving course to prepare for his role and discovered a new passion for cars. By 1972, Newman achieved his first racing victory, and by 1977, he became a professional racecar driver.
His next notable motorsport win didn’t come for nearly twenty years. In 1995, at the age of 70, Newman served as a member of the winning team at the Rolex 24—making him the oldest driver to win the 24-hour race, with a Daytona on his wrist, of course.
Today, we’re still discovering Daytonas from Newman’s collection. In June 2017, Forbes reported that another one of the iconic actor and race car driver’s very own watches has been found—a Ref. 6239 with a personal inscription on the caseback reading, “Drive Carefully, Me.” The timepiece will go up for sale in October at Phillips inaugural New York auction.
Newman’s name will continue to live on in watchmaking history for his ties to the Rolex brand. However, he isn’t just responsible for making the Daytona famous. He’s the embodiment of the Daytona—timeless, rugged, and sturdy.
Image Credits: Header, 1; Wikimedia Commons. 2; Max B. Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images. 3; WSJ.