The Story Behind The Iconic $1.3 Million 'Paul Newman' Rolex
Paul Newman still represents, for many, the ultimate in Old Hollywood glamour: the Renaissance-jawed silver screen charmer with eyes that could take him straight under any and every velvet rope.
A man who looked as good clad in a dinner jacket cruising through the canals of Venice aboard a Riva as he did hanging out in a white tee and beaten up tennis shoes. The salad dressing statesman who drove fast cars, gave vast sums to charity and, so it seemed, wore his stratospheric celebrity and genetic blessing with a lightheartedness that few could muster.
On top of all that, Newman has, by way of the virtues listed above, done some great promotional work for Rolex down the years, especially when it comes to the Daytona: a model now known as the 'Paul Newman', because, well, Paul Newman liked wearing it and that's the kind of effect he had on things.
The real difference between a Paul Newman Daytona and a plain old Daytona lies in the seemingly minute but hugely significant difference in dial design.
For the uninitiated: a Paul Newman Daytona features an art deco style font for the numerals of the chronograph, and the chronograph register markers, or 'hashes' are squared at the end.
The regular, original Daytona doesn't feature those design quirks. Watch collectors: they do like their details.
Funnily enough, the highly-coveted 'Paul Newman' Daytona was initially a design that sat unsold on Rolex store shelves (hence why they are so rare now). Legend has it all that changed as soon as the actor was photographed on the cover of a certain Italian magazine sporting one.
Such is the now incredible desire for PND's, that, in October 2017, Newman's personal stainless steel Cosmograph Daytona–gifted to him by his wife Joanne Woodward in 1968 and engraved with the message "Drive carefully," in reference to the actor's passion for driving cars really, really fast—sold for $17,752,500 million in auction. It was originally expected to sell for a meager $1.3 million.
Even the versions that have never been strapped to the wrist of a Hollywood royal have exploded in popularity, so much so that since 2013 there has been a 981% increase in value of the PND at auction.
And while you might never be able to lay claim to the original Newman-owned PND, you could—theoretically—buy the next best thing: an incredibly rare, 18k yellow gold 6264 Daytona with a 'lemon yellow' dial, one of only five known to exist and the first to reach the second hand market—making it one of the watch world's great white (or lemon yellow) whales.
“This piece has been beautifully preserved with all features in excellent condition,” describes Joe McKenzie, founder of Xupes.com, the British pre-owned luxury specialists who acquired the watch from a collector in Milan. There, it was was kept in a bank's safe for 25 years, its owner blissfully unaware of the excitement it would cause upon its release.
"The dial colour and pump pusher combination is really what makes this PND so special" adds Joe. "This was known as an exotic dial, and was only used by Rolex in a few of the gold Daytona references at the end of the 1960s before the Oyster case was introduced with screw down crowns."
According to Joe, "The Yellow Gold models were produced in fewer numbers than the steel models, and an even more unseen variety is this lemon dial. The features that make this watch particularly special are."
- Pump Pushers
- Square chronograph register markers
- Outer seconds track contrasting main dial and matching the sub-dials
- White sub-dial hashes/squares
- Exotic cream or ‘lemon’ main dial color
Like we said: details. Millions of pounds of details, in fact.
Legend has it that in 1984 Newman gave his (future) £13.5 million Daytona to his daughter’s then boyfriend, James Cox, who did not own a watch, saying it "keeps good time".
You wonder what the great man might make of all of this if he was around to see it.
The Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona 6264 is one of thirteen rare men’s and women’s watches currently featuring in Xupes new Hard To Find category. Xupes.com
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.