In the world of collectible vintage watches, there is a special place for the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona known as the “Paul Newman.” And by special, we mean completely unique and without parallel. The “Paul Newman” Daytona is a cult classic, a must have for the serious collector—some even call it a “holy grail” watch.
No other vintage timepiece has quite the mystique, history, and allure as the legendary “Paul Newman” Daytona. And no other watch has been as widely impersonated. By some estimates, there are more counterfeit Paul Newman Daytonas on the market than there are genuine ones.
The Rolex Cosmograph reference 6239 was originally released in 1963, but it was not immediately referred to as the Daytona. In fact, for a brief time the name “Le Mans” was used in some advertising. Rolex finally settled on the legendary Daytona name, and by 1965, the word Daytona finally appeared on the dial. That was also the first year the watch was offered with a so-called “exotic” dial, which brings us to the “Paul Newman” Daytona.
What could possibly make one stainless steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6239 with a black dial worth well over three times another reference 6239 with a black dial? Mechanically identical, the two watches vary in only way: one is a “Paul Newman” of course. But it wouldn’t become known as that until the early 1980s when a certain super-cool race car driving celebrity was photographed wearing one, and his name became forever associated with the iconic timepiece.
So What Makes it a “Paul Newman” Daytona Anyway?
The only difference that makes a “Paul Newman” so legendary, and so much more valuable than any other Daytona, is that so-called “exotic” dial. Simply put, the distinguishing registers on the “Paul Newman” feature hash marks that have a small square at the tip of the indices, and an art deco style font for the numbers.
The other distinguishing feature is the prominent minute tracker around the edge of the dial—on the Paul Newman the tracker is a different color from the rest of the dial. And that’s pretty much it. How could such small differences in detail lead to such a great difference in value? Perhaps that very question is part of the allure of the watch itself.
When Rolex first offered the “exotic” dials, they weren’t immediately well received. Typical Rolex buyers favored the more traditional look of the standard dials, and many of the original “exotic dial” Daytonas sat on retailer’s shelves, often for many years. Occasionally a Paul Newman Daytona would come on the market with an original sales receipt that was many years later than the production date of the watch, only adding to the mythology of the watch. And because the original “exotic dial” Daytonas were not flying off the shelves, Rolex simply didn’t make as many of them.
By some estimates Rolex only made one “exotic dial” Daytona for every twenty with a standard dial. So the supply was low, but so was the demand, until those exotic dials were associated with a certain race car driving celebrity.
The ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona – What’s in a Name, Really?
Exactly how the “exotic dial” Daytona became associated with Paul Newman is an area of some mystery as well. One often repeated story is that Mr. Newman appeared on the cover of an Italian magazine wearing his ref. 6239 “exotic dial” Daytona in the 1980s, and that somehow it was decided by the influential Italian watch collector and dealer cognoscenti that the “exotic dial” would be the “must have” watch of the era. And so it was.
Eventually those not-so-popular models that languished at the Rolex dealers became the most sought-after vintage watch of all time. In the period between between 1998 and 2008, the price of a ref. 6239 white dial “Paul Newman” Daytona rose in price from near $20,000 to just under $80,000.
Due in part to how expensive they have become and to the fact that the only real difference between a “Paul Newman” and a standard Daytona is the dial, the “Paul Newman” is decidedly the most counterfeited watch in the world. All the classic, hand-wound Daytonas feature a variation of the venerable Valjoux Caliber 72.
As this caliber was produced for a great many watches, their price and availability make it relatively easy for a counterfeiter to cobble together a fake “Paul Newman” from various individual components. And because it was the dials that were the only real difference, the temptation is often great to fit a “Paul Newman” dial from a watch with a highly polished (less valuable) case to a mint condition case with a non Paul Newman dial.
The difference? Potentially $75,000 or more, which makes buying a Paul Newman Daytona a potentially dangerous proposition. Only with very careful, professional scrutiny can a genuine Paul Newman be distinguished from some of the better fakes.
The Original “Paul Newman” Daytona: Reference 6239
The ref. 6239 is the earliest, most common, and least expensive of the “exotic dial” Daytonas—the first “Paul Newman.” This watch is also considered the most “authentic,” as it is the actual reference worn by the man himself. The 6239 features a steel bezel with pump pushers, and the Rolex Valjoux 722 caliber, but it differed from the standard 6239 Daytona in a few ways.
The exotic dial featured a small step in the register; the outer track running around the edge of the dial matched the subdials; and the sub-dials had cross-hairs meeting at the center, with block markers instead of lines. Also, the seconds sub-dial at the 9 o’clock position is marked at 15, 30, 45, and 60 instead of 20, 40, and 60 as in the standard models.
The dial was produced in either white or black (the one Paul Newman owned was a white dial version), with the seconds hash marks on the dial in red. The word “Daytona” is featured just above the register at the 6 o’clock position. Production on this reference began in the mid 1960’s and continued into the early 70s.
The Rolex Daytona Reference 6262
The Daytona reference 6262 is often referred to as a “transitional” reference for the Paul Newman Daytonas, and was only produced for one year, from 1970 to 1971. The 6262 looks almost identical to the 6239, but features a new caliber inside: the Valjoux 727. The earlier 722 caliber found in the 6239 beats at 18,000 vibrations per hour, but the upgraded 727 is sped up to 21,600 beats per hour.
Like the 6239, the 6262 has pump pushers, a steel bezel, and a tri colored dial (though some were made with only two colors). Even though the 6262 is a very rare reference, it doesn’t command a correspondingly high premium as it looks so much like the 6239.
The Oyster Paul Newman Daytonas
The last two references of the manually wound “Paul Newman” Daytonas appeared around 1970. These are the “Oyster” Paul Newmans, and are considered the “kings” of the Paul Newman Daytonas. As the direct descendants of the ‘transitional’ 6262, the Oyster Paul Newmans feature the improved Valjoux 727 caliber, but now inside Rolex’s famous Oyster case. The new case is just a bit thicker and beefier, and gives these watches a slightly larger look.
The Rolex Daytona Oyster Reference 6265
The reference 6265 features the Oyster case with a graduated stainless steel bezel and screw down, waterproof pushers. Instead of a three color dial, the 6265 features the now iconic two colored “Panda” style dial in black with white subdials or white with black subdials.
Further setting this watch apart is the fact that the word “Daytona” does not appear above six o’clock. Complicating things just a bit is the fact that the 6265 with a black dial is not signed “Rolex Oyster Cosmograph.” Only the black dial 6265 with screw down pushers will be signed “Rolex Cosmograph Oyster,” and they are extremely rare.
The Rolex Daytona Oyster Reference 6263
The Rolex Cosmograph Oyster Reference 6263 with the “Panda” dial is by far the most coveted, sought after, and expensive of the standard Paul Newman Daytonas. The 6263 is technically the same as the 6265, with its Valjoux 727 caliber in an Oyster case with screw down pushers, but the bezel is in black acrylic, accentuating the contrast with the black and white “Panda” dial.
Similar to the 6265, there is no black dial 6263 signed “Rolex Oyster Cosmograph,” and only perhaps twenty that are signed “Rolex Cosmograph Oyster.” A black dial 6263 with the “RCO” signature was sold at auction by Christie’s in 2013, at a hammer price of $1,089,186. So tremendous is the cache surrounding the Oyster Paul Newman that a 6263 Paul Newman in good condition is easily worth over $200,000, whereas a non-Paul Newman 6263 might be worth about $40,000 in mint condition.
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