Discover the Paul Newman Rolex

Feb 23, 2023 | Rolex, Watches

The Paul Newman Daytona

Is the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona the first example of successful influencer marketing? At its auction in 2017, the unusual Daytona Paul Newman dial fetched $17.8m. Did a watch that struggled to sell at the time enter popular culture because the right person wore it at the right time in the right place? It would certainly appear so, but to understand why this watch went supersonic we first need to take a look what was happening with the Rolex Daytona at the time.

The Road to the Paul Newman Daytona 6241

Named after the world’s speed capital in Florida, the Rolex Daytona encapsulated the brand’s journey as a chronograph used for timing. From the single push stop, start and reset buttons of the 1930’s Oysters to the 1955’s manual-wind Rolex Oyster Chronograph ref. 6234 with outer ring tachometer and inner ring telemeter scale for distances, each change enhanced functionality. Ref. 6239, launched in 1963 and first marketed as the Le Mans, became known as the Rolex Daytona. By 1965, the Daytona name featured on the dial and Rolex introduced a version with a new dial known as ‘exotic’.

Who Was Paul Newman?

The golden boy of Hollywood, Paul Newman was the real deal. Dynamic, hugely marketable, a skilled actor and a proactive humanitarian fundraiser, Newman gave Hollywood a soul. But he had a love for speed, falling in love with motor racing on the set of his 1969 film, ‘Winning’. When spotted wearing a Rolex Daytona, the watch became synonymous with the actor.

Paul Newman’s Personal Rolex Daytona

A slow seller for the brand, ‘exotic’ dials had failed to capture hearts and minds. This changed dramatically when Newman featured in a 1980’s Italian magazine article wearing the Daytona ref. 6239 with an ‘exotic’ white dial. Exotic dials introduced a hint of colour and details that set them apart from other Rolex dials.

What is a Paul Newman Daytona?

Intrinsically linked with Paul Newman, the exotic Daytona became a focus for collectors – but they were few and far between. Only produced for a few years around 1965, these Daytonas were often fitted to order, driving up their current value. To own a true Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, you must have a Rolex Daytona ref. 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 or 6265 watch, installed by Rolex as original.

Vintage Rolex Daytona in Short Supply

Very few of the vintage Paul Newman Rolex Daytona were ever made. It’s estimated that, in the 9 years between 1963-1972, only 14,000 Rolex Paul Newman Daytona ref. 6239 were produced, 420 of which were yellow gold Paul Newman Daytonas. Only 3000 of the Rolex Daytona 6241 Paul Newman were made, with 2300 in stainless steel and 700 in gold. If you’re hoping to find a ref. 6263 or 6265, or if you have one, only 24,000 with made with over 90% of these made in stainless steel. These are highly sought after but very rare watches.

Comparing Vintage Paul Newman Daytona with Later Versions

The features that set the Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona apart from other models lay in the detail. With the Daytona Paul Newman, an outside minute track offers contrast, appearing to make the dial look smaller, but a coloured bezel ‘lifts’ the lay out. Sub dials feature squared-topped lollipop indexes and shorter, squared dial indexes to match the sub-dials.

Daytona Paul Newman Dials

To truly understand the difference between a vintage Paul Newman Daytona and a more modern version is to focus on the dial. The features that set a vintage Daytona Paul Newman apart also make it a really easy watch to counterfeit. In addition to the bursts of colour on the exotic dial, the Rolex Paul Newman dial features stylised numerals with shark fin elaborations and can have a third colour, like the Paul Newman Daytona Big Red. It seems that the funky, coloured dials that attract so many collectors now once put buyers off, hence the original low production rates.

While simple colour is the mark of a vintage Rolex Daytona, it is more vibrant colour palette that marks a modern Daytona. While 2000’s refs. offered stainless steel, yellow gold and white gold models, ref. 116505 comes in Everose gold, Rolex’s own proprietary pink gold alloy. One modern Daytona, ref. 116509, is white gold with meteorite dial and roman numerals. 2011’s Daytona ref. 116515 has a pink gold case with ivory or chocolate dial. 2013 saw the launch of the Daytona Cosmograph Platinum with an ice blued dial and chestnut brown lacquer counters to celebrate 50 years since the launch of the Rolex Daytona.

How many Paul Newman Rolex Daytonas are there?

A good question. With so many finely honed differences, the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman is a hard watch to distinguish as authentic, with some tiny counterfeit anomalies being accidentally classified as rarities on a genuine model.  Rolex Daytona Paul Newmans attract such interest and high price tags that it makes them vulnerable to duplication. With very few of some models ever made, it is also hard to source other watches for comparison.

Can you spot a fake Paul Newman Daytona?

These were not popular watches when launched, only escalating in price and popularity in the 1980s. Not originally sold with certification or documentation to mark them as a genuine ‘Exotic’ Daytona, there is also anecdotal evidence in watch forums of dial swapping – putting an exotic dial from an older model on a newer Daytona – in order to create a super-selling Rolex Paul Newman. In order to authenticate a Rolex Daytona Paul Newman, it’s important to have the back removed and the dial inspected for details, including the Singer mark, as Rolex outsourced dial production on exotic dials.

Who owns the Paul Newman Daytona?

Ed Sheeran and Eric Clapton are notable owners, but the most famous owner, apart from Paul himself, is James Cox. One-time boyfriend of Paul’s daughter, Paul gifted James the watch. Auctioning the watch in 2017 for $17.8m, the original Paul Newman Rolex Daytona broke all auction records for a wristwatch.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman – The Legacy

The Paul Newman Rolex Daytona story has transfixed generations, from watch collectors to film fans, connecting with audiences on the big screen and resonating when Newman wore it for a magazine shoot. Because both Newman and Rolex had integrity, the Daytona became a cultural icon.

Watches as Investments

The sale of the Paul Newman Daytona charts the rise of the luxury watch as an investment. Not only was the watch worn, but it was passed on allowed someone else to leverage its value. Some of the funds raised were put back into Newman’s charity, still run by his daughters. All from one watch.

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