Reference Points: Understanding The Rolex Paul Newman Daytona
The “Paul Newman” Daytona is a watch as infamous as it is famous, as dangerous as it is beautiful, and as valuable as it is rare. And here’s everything you need to know about it.
In the second installment of our Reference Points series we will tackle perhaps the most discussed family of watches in modern timepiece collecting. This watch is as infamous as it is famous, it’s as dangerous as it is beautiful, and valuable as it is rare. I’m talking about nothing short of the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona, and here we will explore the six references of this absolutely legendary timepiece, as well as go into its history, ups, downs, ins and outs. But first, if you haven’t read our first “Reference Points” feature on Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronographs, we encourage you to do so here.
First things first, this report will not be an exposé on the life of Paul Newman, nor the several watches that he wore. For that, I encourage you to read this story over at Jake’s Rolex World. Here will examine each reference of the Paul Newman Daytona so that you, our dear readers, will understand the varying qualities of this highly collectible and oft misinterpreted watch.
So, What Makes A Paul Newman A Paul Newman?
Both of the watches you see above are Rolex Cosmograph Daytonas Reference 6239 in stainless steel with black dials. Both were made (approximately) in 1967. The 6239 on the left would have a fair street market value of around $25,000-$30,000, while the 6239 on the right would have a value of around $90,000-$100,000. To be specific, the watch on the left sold for $28,750 in December of 2013, while the one on the right sold for $93,750 in the very same auction. These two watches are all but identical mechanically, and in fact the case of the 6239 on the left appears to be even stronger than the case of the 6239 on the right – so why was there a price difference of $65,000 between the two? Because the watch on the right is a Paul Newman Daytona, and the one on the left is not. The only difference, really? The dial, and that’s it. The only thing that makes a vintage Daytona a “Paul Newman” Daytona is the dial. And that is why the Paul Newman is one of the most dangerous vintage watches to buy. More on that shortly.
Let’s zoom in on some dials so you can see, specifically, what makes a Paul Newman a Paul Newman:
In the two photos above, you can see the differences quite clearly. The Paul Newman features an art deco style font for the numerals, and the hash marks have a small square at the end. Additionally, there is a small “step” in the dial between the outer minute track and the center of the dial. In this particular example of the 6241 PN, the dial features a third color (red) which adds a bit of character. But, are a few little design traits worth paying that much more for a Daytona? When the exotic dials were first shown by Rolex, not many believed so.
In fact, these dials sat on shelves for years and years. The traditional Daytona dials were much preferred by Rolex clients to the funky multi-colored dials that now fetch so much money to collectors. As such, it is not uncommon to see Paul Newmans with original sales receipts in some cases several years, if not decades, later than the production date. This is just one reason why the world of Paul Newmans is so murky.
And, because these exotic dials didn’t sell well, Rolex simply didn’t make that many of them. Andrew Shear of ShearTime estimates that for every 20 normal Daytona dials, there would be one exotic dial made. And we mustn’t forget that Rolex was not the vertically integrated manufacturer that it is today – it was another company, Singer, who was making the dials for them. And Singer was making “Paul Newman” style dials for not just Rolex, either. For example, here is a two register Vulcain with exotic style dial that we sold in our Chicago Pop-Up last year for practically nothing.
It is Singer’s involvement with the production of these massively valuable dials that makes the whole situation even murkier still. In the period of the 1980s through the early 2000s, when exotic dial Daytonas gained in popularity and Italian collectors soon proclaimed them The “Paul Newman” Daytonas, we began to see an enormous up-tick in the numbers of these dials. And this is when the slow-seller of the 1960s and 70s became the hottest vintage watch in the world.
The Power Of Paul Newman, And The Italians
Above you see a photograph of Mr. Newman wearing his own Reference 6239 exotic dial. It is not clear when this photo was taken, or for what, but it since become the quintessential Newman on Newman photograph (borrowed from my friend Jake). But, how did this dog of a watch become such an icon, and how exactly did watch collectors discover Mr. Newman’s tie to this particular dial? The often told yet completely unsubstantiated story is that Newman wore his 6239 on the cover of an Italian magazine, and that it was at that moment that the powerful Italian collector/dealer base decided it would be the next thing in watches. I’ve never seen this magazine cover, nor spoken to a single person that has either. But, some how, some way, Newman’s ownership of an exotic dial Daytona became known, and the watch was off to the races, so to speak.
Let’s take a look at a copy of The Habsburg, Feldman (now Antiquorum) catalog I keep in my office, which shows estimates for some fantastic watches on December 7th, 1988.
Here you see two reference 6241 Paul Newmans. One of them is in gold and has an estimate of $8,000-$10,000. The other is steel and has an estimate of $3,000 to $3,500. There is a third PN in this catalog – a steel 6239 white dial, with an estimate of $3,000 to $4,000. FOR A PAUL NEWMAN DAYTONA. It doesn’t sound like much, but remember, retail on this watch just 15 years before was $300. Still, it’s interesting to note how quickly the prices of of Paul Newman have climbed since right around this sale.
If we take a 20 year look at the Paul Newman, using the 6239 white dial as our model, you can see that the rise is meteoric. In fact, there isn’t another serially produced watch in the world that could match the increase in value that we’ve seen with Paul Newmans over the past 20 some years.
2013 $75,000 (Christie’s, New York, June 11, 2013)
2008 $66,000 (Antiquorum, October 17, 2008)
2003 $39,434 (Antiquorum, October 11, 2003)
1998 $17,296 (Christie’s, London, March 18, 1998)
1992 $9,257 (Antiquorum, April 11, 1992)
But, because of this, and because there is no technical difference between a basic Daytona and a Paul Newman Daytona beyond the type of dial it uses, it has presented one of largest opportunities for the ugly side of vintage Rolex to rear its head. There are more fake Paul Newman dials in the world than there are fake dials for all other watches combined. In fact, based on conversations with seasoned collectors, it is fair to say there are more fake Paul Newman dials in the world than there are real ones. It is for this reason that for the Paul Newman in particular, I highly, highly recommend you buy the seller as much as the watch when looking for one of these undeniably cool chronographs. I will not go into how to spot fake Paul Newman dials in this article – it’s a rabbit hole simply far too wide and deep to explain in a solitary article. We also do not want to encourage anyone who might be looking to create a counterfeit dial by telling them what they’re doing wrong. But, below I will explain each of the six references that you may come across in perusing the Paul Newman so that you can understand the differences.
The first, most common, and least expensive Paul Newman Daytona also happens to be the most authentic, in that it’s the actual reference worn by Newman himself. The 6239 features pump pushers and a steel bezel, with the Rolex Valjoux 722 beating inside. It may be found with both a white or black dial with production beginning in the mid 1960s, certainly after the MK 1 Daytonas found only in 1963. The dial is a three color dial, in that it consists of black, white, and red, and features the word “Daytona” written above the register at 6 o’clock.
The 6241 is identical to the 6239 in every way, but with the addition of a black acrylic bezel. Again, we have the Valjoux 722, a three color dial, and pump pushers. More desirable and rare than the 6239, expect a 10-15% premium on the 6241 compared to your basic 6239.
Transitional Reference 6262
This is a 6262. Looks a hell of a lot like the 6239, doesn’t it? It does. In fact, it’s all but identical on the outside. On the inside, however, the 6262 features an upgraded Valjoux caliber called the 727. The base 722 found in the 6239 beats at 18,000 vibrations per hour, while the new 727 is sped up to 21,600 beats per hour. The 6262 features a steel bezel, tri-color dial (though it may be found with a two-color dial, too), and pump pushers. It is only made for one year, from 1970-1971, and is a very rare reference, though because it looks just like the 6239, doesn’t fetch a tremendous premium. Still, if you’re a nerd like me, the 6262 is a super cool watch.
Transitional Reference 6264
The 6264 is the black bezel counterpart to the 6262. Again, made only for just one year, the 6264 features the upgraded, higher beat caliber 727, pump pushers, and a black acrylic bezel. Though the example pictured here in 18k yellow gold, a steel example would indeed feature a stepped three color dial with “Daytona” above 6 o’clock as well, though it is possible to see a two-color dial on a 6264. Again, the 6264 is a very rare reference made for just one year, and serves as the bridge between the low-beat, pump pusher Daytonas and the high-beat, Oyster Daytonas.
Oyster Reference 6265
Starting around 1970 you begin to see the final two references of the manually wound Rolex Daytonas. Reference 6265, as seen here, features a thicker “Oyster” style case with screw-down pushers. The 6265 features a graduated stainless steel bezel, and now instead of three color dial, you have a traditional “Panda” style dial in just white and black. Additionally, there is no “Daytona” written above 6 o’clock. Further, there is no such thing as a 6265 Paul Newman with a black dial that is signed “Rolex Oyster Cosmograph.” The only black screw-down Paul Newman Daytona should be signed “Rolex Cosmograph Oyster,” and they are extremely rare at that. More on that below.
Oyster Reference 6263
The Rolex Cosmograph Oyster Reference 6263 with a Panda Paul Newman dial is, how do I say this… perfect? Yes, that’s it. The Panda 6263 is the most desired, most beautiful, and most expensive standard Paul Newman Daytona around. There is just something about the way the white two-color dial plays against the black acrylic bezel. Of course, the 6263 mimics the 6265 technically with the Valjoux 727 inside, with screw-down pushers. Again, you will not find a black dial 6263 Paul Newman with “ROC” signature, but you will find a few with “RCO.” And by a few, I mean really a few. It is estimated that less than 20 black dial screw-down Paul Newmans are known, and when they come up for sale, they do really, really well. Like, you know, over $1,000,000 well.
While the panda dial 6263’s are certainly more common than your black dial RCO’s, they are by no means common, and finding an original Oyster PN in good condition is becoming increasingly difficult. As such, the asking price of any nice 6263 Paul Newman is now over $200,000, where a silver dial, non-PN 6263 is around $40,000 in mint condition. Crazy, but true. That begs the question, if the Paul Newman is all about the looks, are they really worth the remarkable premium?
The Future Of The Paul Newman Daytona
Do not, even for a single second, try to reason with yourself why prices of Paul Newmans are so, so much higher than normal Daytonas. Or, why they are so, so much higher than exotic dial Heuers, Universals, or other comparable chronographs from similar time periods. It just doesn’t make sense if you look at things on an even remotely pragmatic level. But, nothing about collecting watches, in particular vintage Rolex watches, makes sense on paper, does it?
Is the Paul Newman a rare watch? Yes, it is. It’s actually far more rare than you might imagine based on how many you see in the online space. There are a lot of dials out there that should not be on the watches they’re on. There are a lot of dials out there that are really fake, and a lot of dials out there that are a little fake, and there are dials out there they are real, but on the wrong watch – indicating someone has swapped parts around (Why would someone do this, you ask? Say for example you have a highly polished case on a 6239 with a Paul Newman dial, but the dial is in mint condition. Then, you have a 6241 with a mint case but a normal, non-PN dial. All one would have to do to make that 6241 into $100,000+ watch is swap the dial, but if you do that with the incorrect reference, all of a sudden, you have a dial that doesn’t match the watch.) So, what I’m saying is that while you see a lot of watches that look like Paul Newmans, finding a 100% correct Paul Newman is no easy task, let alone one in nice shape. But, on top of that, a Paul Newman is still far less rare than two early chronographs I am particularly fond of: The Mark 1 6239 Daytona, and the 2915 Speedmaster. Both of these watches will run you $60,000 to $80,000 if in great shape, and I think they are both slightly more interesting than a Paul Newman, which today starts at $100,000. But, that doesn’t mean they’re cooler, or even have a bigger upside financially.
The Paul Newman is so desirable for so many reasons, one of which is the undeniable fact that the thing is just downright gorgeous. The playfulness of the dial is so beautiful, so very un-Rolex. On the wrist, a Paul Newman is hard to match. And, because it’s so well known, they are about as liquid as any watch in the world, even at the astronomical prices that we see now.
Will prices just continue to climb on and on, in perpetuity? They might, especially as we continue to learn more about the different dials and strive to weed out the bad eggs. The Paul Newman is arguably the most famous and sought after of the mega Rolexes, and I don’t believe that will change any time soon. Though, I don’t claim to know the future and do believe we remain in a bit of a spike after the Christie’s Rolex Daytona: Less One sale, where the average watch brought down over $264,000.
The Ultimate Ultimate Daytonas
Up until now, we’ve covered the basic Paul Newman watches to provide you a simple understanding of their core differences. But, even within this mega range of mega watches, there exists some that are even more special. First, there are the gold Paul Newmans. Like the 6264 featured here, these solid gold watches (in both 14k and 18) are highly sought after by collectors. They are typically found with either black or champagne colored dials.
Then, we have tropical Paul Newmans. Just like any other tropical Rolex, this refers to when the black of a dial begins to turn to a nice warm brown color. Expect to pay a little premium here depending on how even the fading is. Here is a 6241 tropical Paul Newman:
Moving along, there are the double-signed Paul Newman Daytonas. Here, for example, are two Tiffany-signed 6239 Daytonas for sale in Rome.
One of the most valuable double-signed Paul Newmans was sold by Christie’s approximately one year ago, and that was a gold 6241 retailed by Hermes in Paris. You can read about it here.
Then, we have the Lemon dial Paul Newman, which sold last year at Antiquorum for over $840,000 due to its solid gold Oyster case and never seen before dial. You can read about that one here.
Then, we have something even more exotic. This isn’t really part of the Paul Newman family in that it’s not technically a Daytona – it’s the original Yachtmaster. This prototype dial exists in just three examples: one belongs to Rolex, the other once belonged to Mr. Eric Clapton, and the third belongs to John Goldberger, who was nice enough to show it to us here.
Quick Reference Guide
The above chart is by no means the end-all of Paul Newman Daytona reference materials, but it will provide you with a basic understanding of the configurations most often found and accepted as valid. I should note that we have chosen to omit reference 6240 (early transitional Oyster case with caliber 722) because of its rarity. The consensus is that indeed it is possible to find a 6240 with original Paul Newman dial, and if you do, it should have a two-color Mark 1 Panda dial or a three-color RCO, and come on a later 6240 production watch.
I hope this version of Reference Points will serve not to dissuade anyone from pursuing a “Paul Newman” Daytona, but actually assist those that may be actively seeking to understand this watch better. The Paul Newman is absolutely the most dangerous high-end vintage watch in the world, and I can not stress enough how important it is to do one’s homework when buying, and to always remember that if something appears to be too good to be true, in particular with a Paul Newman, it likely is.
Having said that, there is something very special about the Paul Newman, and even just being around one can give a true watch lover serious chills – this watch is nothing short of true legend. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.
I would like to pay special thanks to Mr. Andrew Shear, who not only supplied the seven Paul Newman Daytonas featured in this article, but was also instrumental in the research put forth here. Andrew is one of the finest vintage Rolex experts and dealers in the world and I have no trouble recommending him for any of your vintage Rolex needs. You may view his website here.
Additional thanks go out to Silver Lining Opticians, who was nice enough to allow us into their awesome Soho shop for filming. Check them out at 92 Thompson Street for the best in vintage and independent eye-wear.