Basic Rolex Daytona Was A Sales Failure Before Paul Newman

Basic Rolex Daytona Was A Sales Failure Before Paul Newman

Basic Rolex Daytona Was A Sales Failure Before Paul Newman

Paul Newman’s Own Rolex Daytona wristwatch recently hammered at Phillips in NYC for $17.8-M.

And you may have read all the engraving Joanne Woodward had done on the caseback, and about Paul Newman passing the watch to his daughter’s boyfriend as they restored the old treehouse in Connecticut.

My personal part of this story is that back in that day, our company trained Paul Newman to be a race driver for the film Winning about Indy drivers and racing.  I was there when Joanne gave Paul the watch in 1968. The rest is history.

What you likely do not know is that the ref. 6239 Daytona, the “Paul Newman,” was a the Edsel of watches. A complete sales failure they were just a couple of hundred dollars.

In Y 1963 when the Daytona 1st shipped from Geneva, Rolex dealers could not sell them.

The ref. 6239 was the cheapest Daytona Rolex made at the time, it is in stainless.

People preferred dialed watches, and race timers were stop watches, I still have my Heuer from there somewhere.

And I still have my ref. 6239 that I bought in 1970 new, the dealer gave me 20% off to buy it.

The Big Q: So, why is it now the most expensive standard watch ever sold at auction?  

Note: The last watch that sold for anywhere near the Paul Newman record was a 1-off, extraordinarily complicated solid gold Patek Philippe.

The Big A: Watch collectors get excited about movements, but there is nothing remarkable or even rare about the movement inside the Newman’s Daytona case. 

The ref. 6239 was powered by a standard, 17 jewel Valjoux calibre 722, with a balance running at a lowly 18,000 beats per hour.  And you have to wind it yourself every day, no automatic system in side.

 Now, if you open the caseback on a Harvard chronograph made by the West End Watch Co., you would have found the same Valjoux movement.

Likewise, in the contemporary Heuer Carrera, for under $200. The point is that the Daytona was far from the only watch with the Valjoux inside.

Eterna, Longines, Wakmann all produced watches built around the Valjoux 72X series. This is not to say it is not a fine, accurate, and robust motor, but it’s far from the exotic heights of Lampredi V12 found in some Vintage Ferraris.

The case is stainless steel with a tachometer scale around the bezel and pump pushers for the chronometer.

The crystal was cheap, serviceable plexiglass. It would not shatter like sapphire, and you could even polish out the scratches.

This was a tool watch, not destined to be a collectible ever. 

In the 1960’s, it was just 1 of the other watches Rolex were known for making then.

Waterproof Submariners for divers; everything-proof Explorers for explorers; anti-magnetic Milgausses for engineers; and chronograph Daytona’s for race drivers, watches regular people did not buy or wear retailing in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, and certainly not millions.

As late as the 1980’s you could have bought a ref. 6239 Paul Newman Daytona for under $4,000.

Notably, the ref.6239 is not the only Paul Newman Daytona. That is because the term refers specifically to the dial rather than the watch as a whole.

You can spot a Newman by the art deco numbers on the crosshair sub-dials, the tiny squares on the 5-minute marks on the chronograph sub-dials, and the contrast between the sub-dials and the main dial, and some have the word Daytona in red wrapped above the lower sub-dial, I have one of those.

Now here is where the value begins, sans the celebrity endorsement.

Rolex’s dial suppliers at Singer is the Key to value of a Newman, yes is all in the dial. We find Newman dials on refs. 6240, 6241, 6262, 6264, 6265, and 6263.

Now come Watchworld.

Watchworld is a place where a bit of Red writing on the dial of a Rolex Submariner lifts the price from $6,000 to around $30,000.

A bit of white writing, specifically the word “COMEX” is even more powerful, and it can turn a $6,000 watch into a $132,000 collectors’ item, I have 1 of those. 

If watch lovers were rational, Watchworld would not exist because people would all be wearing ultra accurate, Casio F-91w’s or just using Smartphones for the time worldwide.

There are few Key reasons behind the ascent in the value of a rare watch, but it’s hard to pin a rise of this size on one thing. What I can tell you is that towards the end of the 1980’s sales failure got a fresh name.

Photographs showing Paul Newman wearing his ref. 6239, shot by Douglas Kirkland, was the blessing.

The ref. 6239 became known as The Paul Newman.

Collectors love a Rolex with a name, and the association with film star and car racer Paul Newman drove the ref. 6239 to the Top of the named lots. 

By the early 2000’s, the Newmans rose from about $10,000 to $40,000 at auction, then to nearly $70,000. From there, the line on the graph is a ‘Hockey Stick’.

Funny enough, despite not selling well when new, now there’s intrinsic rarity in these watches. That is because the Singer-dial watches did not sell, and Rolex made very few of them to meet the very small demand.

Watch collectors believe around only 2,000 were produced.

And so Paul Newman’s own Newman Daytona is very special. Provenance does not come any better than this.

The contemporary photographs, the engraving on the back, the family link and that wonderful story about PaulNewman himself simply giving the watch away.

The watch that auctioneer extraordinaire Aurel Bacs declared is “History Now” is the very peak of vintage Rolex collecting.

The new owner has a beautiful, historic watch and the #1 collector watch in the world.

Stay tuned…

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Paul Ebeling

Paul A. Ebeling, polymath, excels in diverse fields of knowledge. Pattern Recognition Analyst in Equities, Commodities and Foreign Exchange and author of “The Red Roadmaster’s Technical Report” on the US Major Market Indices™, a highly regarded, weekly financial market letter, he is also a philosopher, issuing insights on a wide range of subjects to a following of over 250,000 cohorts. An international audience of opinion makers, business leaders, and global organizations recognizes Ebeling as an expert.

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