ICONS: The Gold Paul Newman Daytona
When so much has been written about the icon that is Paul Newman, the legendary Rolex Daytona configuration that acquired his name, and how his personal watch went on to sell in October 2017 at Phillips in New York for 17.7M USD, there is not much more colour that can be added in relation to this particular part of the story.
The related stainless steel references 6239, 6241, 6262, 6264, 6263 and 6265 containing so-called exotic dials are well known to the market and have been discussed in detail elsewhere, it is the examples produced in 14 and 18 karat gold that, in an extremely short period of time, have seen perhaps the most remarkable value appreciations when they have appeared at auction.
While many nuanced reasons could be put forward for this both macro and micro, the clearest contributing factors to this rise, from a collector’s perspective, are the beauty of the gold Daytona and incredibly rarity of those fitted with Paul Newman dials (although it should be remembered that scarcity does not equate to value in and of its own). This rarity can easily be attributed to demand for these gold watches simply due to the price difference when compared to their steel counterparts, which inevitably drove the quantities that Rolex decided to produce. As an example, in 1974, a 6263 in steel on a bracelet was 910 DM, while in gold it was 3,900 DM, more than 4 times the price, a difference that inevitably applied to earlier pump pusher models.
As it is always impossible to give an exact production number for any Rolex reference, the consensus is that somewhere in the mid tens of thousands of manual wind Daytona were made, with only a couple of thousand of these being in gold, and a fraction of these being fitted with exotic dials. Once we remember how soft gold is as a metal and that once the watch has been worn for any period of time, it will inevitably have been polished and serviced, the number that remain in near perfect condition after all these years dwindles even further to perhaps just a few dozen.
Produced in three different dial variations, simply referred to by collectors as “champagne”, “JPS” and “lemon”,we take a closer look at each version plus a few additional rarities and oddities, to try and gain a clearer understanding of these elusive watches.
Perhaps the best place to start is with the model that appears to be the most common, a heavily relative term given the scarcity of the gold Daytona, the “champagne” dial which appears most frequently in references 6239 and 6241, both in 14K and 18K gold. The nickname for this iteration comes from the warm yellow tone to the grené dial which is complemented by the contrasting black subsidiary dials and outer 1/5 seconds track, both with gilt printing for the divisions and markers. The “champagne” name is also applied to non-Newman-dialled manual wind Daytona, but the two should not be confused due to the matte finish for exotic dials and the sunburst metallic, so called soleil, for the “standard” dial.
It is perhaps important to discuss the quality of the printing of the champagne dial Paul Newmans. It has sometimes been said that the definition to the squares markers in some examples are below the quality that one would hope for from Rolex. The most plausible explanation that has been put forward for this is that, much like someone trying to paint a wall white when it used to be black, the simplest explanation is that to get the gilt to adhere to the black subsidiary dials, the employees at Singer had to load the pad with ink to avoid issues with opacity, but this resulted in some ink flow outside of the intended area for the design.
It is always amusing to look back at ancient auction results and see what are now known to be extremely rare and desirable watches selling for a tenth of their current market price or less, but it is the recent sales figures which provide the most relevant insight regarding the market. Saying that, those offered earlier can prove to be useful from a provenance perspective, as the case numbers are frequently listed so we can see the same example appear repeatedly (hopefully in the same configuration);for the sake of this article we will focus on those offered in the last 5 years.
During this period, 20 examples have come to market with Antiquorum, Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s as detailed below (one result during this time has been removed due to debate over its quality and possibly its authenticity). From the list, it is easy to see that case numbers are grouped between 1.697M and 2.1129M with clusters emerging most noticeably at 1.757M, 1.947M, 2.084M and 2.112M, presumably when batches were completed.
While the results show a trend, they certainly warrant closer inspection. The first take away is how exceptional the prices achieved in Daytona “Lesson One” were, with the figure for the champagne Newman sold in the thematic auction in November 2013 not being surpassed until four years later; interestingly they were only 11 case numbers apart. The second point of note is that during this time, one watch has returned to market, case no.1’757’887, which was sold by Christie’s in May 2013 and then again offered by Phillips in May 2016. It is always extremely useful when the identical examples shows up repeatedly, given that the condition will be virtually identical, and during this time the prices moved by nearly 120,000 CHF representing a 60% appreciation.
The next point to consider is the incredible rarity of the reference 6239 in gold with Paul Newman dial, and how that can effect pricing when it is the missing pieces for the most important collectors. Of the 20 pieces that have appeared in the market, only 3 were reference 6239 instead of 6241 and while the scarcity of these pieces may have been under appreciated historically, at the Phillips Daytona Ultimatum sale the watch had a coming of age achieving an incredible 948,500 CHF, nearly double the price of a reference 6241 offered by the same house the following day in their main sale. The condition was not directly comparable, but even so, this alone would not account for the vast difference in price and having witnessed the bidding battle, it was clear that both the eventual winner and his rival were determined to secure it.
The last point relates to the November 2017 Geneva auction results, and how much impact condition can have on the final price. At Christie’s and Phillips there were two similar examples offered but with significant differences when it came to condition, causing one to achieve more than double the price of the other. While collectors looked at both watches, it was clear once they were inspected up close that case no.1’757’892 suffered from damage to the luminous markings (most noticeable at 2, 3 and 6), signs of restoration to the subsidiary dials, and scuff marks to the edge where it had been removed from the case, a replacement chronograph hand and a bezel which was original but in poor condition. In the end, the results spoke for themselves.
As with the steel Paul Newman, Daytona models in gold have their inverse-panda equivalent to the champagne dial, with its black background and metallic-gilt outer 1/5th second track and subsidiary dials. But this matter of fact description does not do justice to the cult collectibility that the watch has obtained, on a larger level for its attractive colour combination and serious rarity; the fact that it has acquired such a coveted nickname cannot be discredited.
The three little letters stand for John Player Special, once remembered as a the name of a cigarette brand, but is now eclipsed to be defined by the livery that adorned Lotus F1 cars from 1972 until 1986, forming the backdrop to victories for such great drivers as Emerson Fittipaldi, Ronnie Peterson, Jacky Ickx, Mario Andretti, Carlos Reutermann, Nigel Mansell and, perhaps the most defining association, Senhor Ayrton Senna.
As with its champagne hued sibling, the JPS dial can appear in both references 6241 (most likely) and 6239 (extremely rare), plus a small group of examples have been seen in 6264 cases, but the design design is ever so slightly different with what collectors refer to as a straight “T SWISS T”, instead of the “mountain” or “sing song”. This is common across all pump pusher Paul Newman dials, with references 6239 and 6241 appearing with a peak above the “i” in Swiss, more or less pronounced, while 6262 and 6264 is uniform in height, shown more clearly in the image below.
The cases for reference 6241 have appeared in both 14K and 18K gold and perhaps this is a good opportunity to clear up some of the mythology around Rolex and difference fineness of gold cases. There is a commonly held belief that the US was the only market to receive 14K gold case early on and got them almost exclusively, but there have been watches come to market with ROW stamped movements in 18K cases from long term ownership, and serviced by Rolex. Conversely, we have seen 14K gold watches without an ROW stamp to the movement, which could either be because they possibly went to other markets, have been serviced at some point and the balance cock was replaced, or it might be because Rolex stopped stamping the calibres destined for the US market as requirements around importation markings changed with time. Suffice it to say, there is no hard and fast rule, and as a result it should not be do-or-die if a 14K or 18K case comes with or without an ROW movement.
During the same five year period that we have already compared, 12 examples of the JPS have made it to auction (1 result has been excluded due to very poor condition), and as with the champagne dial we see a similar case range, between 1.697M and 2.1129M, and clusters of case numbers 1.757M, 1.947M, 2.084M and 2.112M, giving the impression that the cases were produced in batches and the dials were fitted ad hoc.
Sotheby’s June 2013 New York, Case No.2’084’2XX - 171,600 CHF
Christie’s November 2013 Geneva, Case No.1'757'9XX - 497,000 CHF
Christie’s November 2013 Geneva , Case No.2'112'9XX - 389,000 CHF
Christie’s May 2016 Geneva, Case No.1’947’3XX - 305,000 CHF
Sotheby’s December 2016 New York, Case No.2’084’2XX - 214,000 CHF
Sotheby’s December 2016 New York, Case No.2’084’3XX - 277,000 CHF
Christie’s May 2017 Geneva, Case No.1’697’0XX - 559,500 CHF
Christie’s November 2017 Geneva, Case No.1’947’3XX - 744,500 CHF
Christie’s December 2017 New York, Case No.2'084'2XX - 665,800 CHF
Phillips May 2018 Geneva, Case No.1’926’5XX - 912,500 CHF
Antiquorum May 2018 Geneva, Case No. 2'084'2XX - 569,000 CHF
The results above give us a chance to take a small look into the dynamics of the auction room, a topic that will be explored in more detail in a future article. Of the two examples offered by Christie’s in the November 2017 Geneva and the December 2017 New York auctions, there was a large disparity in quality, with many speculating before the auction that the Geneva piece, case no.1’947’369, would remain unsold as the dial had service marks to the surface, the luminous material was badly damage with most of it missing, and it was accompanied by a poor quality aftermarket bracelet. Conversely the one offered in New York, case no.2'084'276, was fresh to market, from the original owner and in very handsome overall condition. But as can be seen in the end, the Geneva example sold for the best part of 80,000 CHF more with the result being driven by the emotions rather than the experience of two new collectors.
Last but certainly not least we come to one of the rarest production Daytonas, the “lemon” dial Paul Newman reference 6264. Nicknamed the “limoncello” by Italian collectors, and since butchered/anglicised; the name comes from the intense yellow colour, a contrast which is difficult to understand when compared to the grené champagne dial until they are seen side by side as in the title image of this article. What makes the dial even more striking is a feature that is obvious once you are told, but takes a while for the eyes to pick up on it, and that is the white printing for the markers to the subsidiary dial.
Unsurprisingly, for such an elusive watch, the case numbers are extremely tightly grouped and exclusively in 18K gold with all of the public auction results spanning less than 100 case numbers between 2’357’384 and 2’357’468, and three others coming to market privately and confirmed to be extremely close to this range as well. In addition, an example is illustrated in John Goldberger’s 100 Superlative Watches with case number 2’357’363 bringing the range to just over 100 case numbers.
Given the incredible rarity of the lemon dial, it makes more sense to included every example that has appeared in the market, which stretches the data range from 5 years to 10 years, but only adds two additional examples and are unsurprisingly watches that have returned to market later. Between November 2007 and May 2013 case number 2’357’468 increased in valued by approximately 165,000 CHF, representing a return of more than 100% but now appears to be quite the relative bargain when compared to later results. Case number 2’357’421 which was original sold by Christie’s Geneva in November 2011 for 165,000 CHF came back to market with Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 2018 and achieved 5,760,000 HKD.
As with the champagne dial, in 2017 we saw two very different results for what on the surface appear to be the same watch to the untrained eye, both offered by Christie’s. But as one would expect it was due to the condition of the piece that caused the variation in price: while the Geneva watch may have had a “tropical” dial, the brownish hue had come at the expense of the condition of the luminous plots which had turned black in addition to spots of humidity throughout the dial and a pronounced service mark to the centre where the hands had been removed. Conversely the watch offered in New York was a true barn find in amazing untouched condition, representing possibly the best example of the lemon dial that exists, down to the case back sticker remaining in place except for the centre portions that was removed to add a French control mark. Once again the paddles and the gavel did the talking.
Other Rarities & Oddities
So now we have the synopsis of the three common variants of the gold Paul Newman Daytona, but there still remains a few other obscure versions, as well as a few executions, which are up for some debate.
The first to cover is what could be considered the absolute pinnacle of rarity for the Paul Newman Daytona, nicknamed the “Legend”: the gold reference 6263 Paul Newman with “lemon” dial and “Rolex, Oyster, Cosmograph” text. A close relation to the reference 6263 in steel with black Paul Newman dial, known as the “RCO” or “Oyster sotto”, two examples of the “Legend” have appeared in the market, once at Antiquorum May 2013 Geneva, Case No.2’330’402 which sold for 841,300 CHF and perhaps most famously at Phillips May 2017 Geneva, Case No.2'330'529 which went on to sell for 3,772,000 CHF following one of the most interesting and entertaining auction room battles in recent memory. While there is now no question about the authenticity of the dials in these watches, how they came to be fitted into watches and out in the wild rather than hidden in a basement in Bienne is still a bit of a mystery and certainly did not hinder the results in the end.
Next to be discussed are two versions of the JPS featuring retails signatures: a Tiffany & Co. stamped dial from Phillips May 2017 Geneva, case no.2'084'241 that sold for 730,000 CHF and a examples with Hermès engraving to the case back with number 1'947'352 that has come to market twice, once in the Christie’s May 2013 Geneva auction where it sold for 495,750 CHF, and again at Phillips November 2015 Geneva sale for 569,000 CHF. It should be remembered that Tiffany & Co. dials are extremely difficult to authenticate but the example offered was the only one known to the market and had been prominently featured in Pucci Papaleo’s “Ultimate Rolex Daytona”. In addition, while the Hermès engraved example had been confirmed by the retailer as having been sold at the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré store on the 30th November 1971, it is not possible to confirm that it was with black Paul Newman dial although the case number is well within range of the other examples listed above.
We should also mention that although it is a very limited series and that it seems only two examples have appeared in the market in recent years, a reference 6264 with black JPS dial was produced. While ostensibly the same as the version fitted to reference 6239 and 6241, there is an extremely subtle difference in that the “T Swiss T” marking is of the straight rather than the sing-song variety. One of these watches passed through the hands of the New York dealer Andrew Shear in April 2014, and another was sold privately in Asia in August 2017.
Now we come to a hotly debated version which on the surface appears to featured mis-matched dial and case when they have appeared in the market, but now seems to have mounting evidence to support the suggestion that they may have left the manufacture in this configuration: the reference 6264 with champagne dial.
So far, three examples have appeared at auction, although one was withdrawn at the 11th hour when its authenticity was called into question, and another surfaced in Davide Parmegiani’s “111 Fabulous Daytona” in December 2017, all with case numbers in a very tight range around those fitted with the lemon dial.
Antiquorum November 2014 Geneva, Case No.2’357’3XX - 219,750 CHF (18K)
Private Sale November 2017, Case No.2’357’3XX
Christie’s December 2017 New York, Case No.2’357’4XX - Withdrawn
Davide Parmegiani December 2017, Case No.2’357’XXX
Although it is impossible to draw any decisive conclusions, and Rolex themselves will not weigh in on the subject, it seems that for gold 6264 with Paul Newman dial, some were fitted with the remaining champagne dials from references 6239 and 6241, while an extremely small run were made with lemon dials as a test to see how it would work aesthetically before deciding to sell an extremely small number.
Last we come to the most recent oddity to make itself known, a reference 6241 in 14K gold with lemon dial sold at Phillips November 2017 Hong Kong with case no. 2'112'936 for 4,960,000 HKD (approx.619,700 CHF). While this is the only one that seems to have appeared in the market, the case number puts it in the very last batch of cases produced in gold for reference 6241 around 1969 to 1970 which is the transitional period to reference 6264, so chronologically it could well make sense. Once again it is virtually impossible to know for sure that this dial was born in this case so the buyer either got a combination that may very well be unique, or he got an extremely rare dial that could be housed in a 6264 case at a later date if they so wish.
The simple fact, when it comes to Paul Newman dials, is that a huge number, perhaps the majority in the market, have been swapped from case to case in the pursuit of perceived improvements in condition and quality. In the days before scholarly research this was extremely obvious when we saw configurations that never existed from the factory or dials in cases far outside of known ranges, lest we forget the Cartier retailed JPS gold 6263 with 6 million case number.
To an extent, ignorance is bliss, given that not even Rolex will wade into the debate, most likely due to the fact that they do not know which watches shipped with Paul Newman dials, but as you can see from the information presented above, there is certainly a clear pattern that emerges regarding known ranges and qualities to observe with these elusive and beautiful watches.
While the market is constantly evolving, it is hard to go against the perceived wisdom that the watch market is moving in the direction of other collectors’ items, with more research being done, more intelligence being shared, more of a focus on condition and rarity (especially when the two are combined) and, inevitably, more money coming into play.
With special thanks to the collectors who were kind enough to agree to share their watches for this article, the dealers who were prepared to contribute their knowledge on the subject and to Hughes Handcrafted for his beautiful alligator “Bund” straps which were fitted to each piece.
Also I would like to thank Mr Pucci Papaleo for his definitive guide “Ultimate Rolex Daytona”, Mr John Goldberger for his wonderful book “100 Superlative Rolex Watches”, Mr Davide Parmegiani for his insightful “111 Fabulous Daytona” and all those who were involved in the production of the Christie’s catalogue “Daytona Lesson One” from November 2013, all of which proved invaluable references for this article.