The Rolex Paul Newman Daytona is a complicated watch. Beautiful, famous, infamous, rare, dangerous, are all adjectives that have been used to describe this piece, and all of them are accurate. The Rolex Paul Newman has a lengthy and up-and-down history that spans decades.
It’s value is undeniable, but the reasons are somewhat murky. Why is that? What makes this particular Rolex so important?
First you must understand why it’s even considered unique. Look at the two images below.
At first glance, both of those watches appear to be identical, and you’d almost be right. They each are the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Reference 6239, both made with stainless steel and featuring black dials. They were also made in the exact same year (1967). However, the one on the left will fetch around $25,000-$30,000 at fair market value, while the 6239 on the right will go between $90,000 and $100,000.
Mechanically speaking there is almost nothing different about them. In fact, the case on the left appears to actually be stronger than the one on the right. So why is there a $65,000 price difference? Well as you probably deduced, the Rolex on the right is a Paul Newman. There is actually only one thing separating the two watches – the dial.
Here, take a closer look at the Rolex Paul Newman.
And here is the regular 6239
From up close, the differences are obvious. Note that the numerals of the Paul Newman are done art deco style, and the hash marks feature a small square on the end. Also, a small ‘step’ separates the outer minute track and the dial’s center. Additionally, this model added red as a third color, which enhances the already stylish features.
However, do these arguably inconsequential differences really justify the massive gap in value? At one point, the answer was a resounding no. Originally, Rolex owners preferred the traditional Daytona dials, so these exotic multi-colored ones just sat on the shelves collecting dust.
So when a product isn’t doing well, the company stops making them, and that’s what Rolex did. Nobody wanted them. In fact, the manufacturer who made the exotic dials, Singer, wasn’t even making them exclusively for Rolex.
Take a look at this watch:
That is a Vulcain that sold two years ago at auction for basically nothing. Yet once the Italians referred to the Daytonas with the exotic dials as ‘‘Paul Newmans’ and hailed them as the next big thing, the value skyrocketed.
The story of why exactly these exotic dials were so beloved by the Italians is a mystery. The often cited story is that the legendary Paul Newman wore the 6239 with the exotic dial on the cover of an Italian Magazine, and an influential Italian dealer/collector saw it and proclaimed that watch to be the next big thing.
Yet despite the fact that this magazine cover might not even exist, somehow the word got out about Paul Newman’s choice of Rolex and it became the must-have vintage watch. The meteoric rise of the Paul Newman Daytona has resulted in a lot of fakes. In fact, it is believed that there are more fake Paul Newman dials than any other counterfeit watch combined, which means there is also likely more fake dials than real ones.
So if you’re looking to add one of these to your collection, make sure you thoroughly research the buyer.