Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman”: What It Is and Why It’s So Valuable

Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona is something of a legend in the watch community. Newman’s iconic wristwatch singlehandedly saved an entire series of Daytona watches, before setting records itself when it sold. In a high-profile auction, the 1968 Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman wore over the decades sold for $17.5 million, setting the record for the highest price ever recorded for a wristwatch to date.

Not only is the original watch Newman wore highly valuable, but it has also raised the value of similar models of Daytona watches. As an example, a watch of the same reference number as Newman’s Daytona recently sold for $275,000 at auction.

Who Is Paul Newman & Why Is the “Paul Newman” Daytona So Valuable?

Paul Newman, the famous American actor and philanthropist, starred in classic films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Color of Money, The Sting and Cool Hand Luke. Many people know him for his movies, but he also put his stamp on history as a professional race car driver and getting a collection of Rolexes to carry his namesake.

The Rolex Daytona was first introduced in the 1960s, proclaiming Rolex’s sponsorship of the popular Florida racetrack. Despite the design taking inspiration from race car drivers, the timepiece did not speed to the top of the sales charts. Instead, sales faltered and the watch spent a long time only going for $200 on the market. Versions of the first official Daytona models, reference 6239, were also made with an “exotic dial”—featuring large art deco fonts and a red seconds track. It had a distinctly “colorful” look that was quite uncharacteristic of Rolex—further hurting its sales. As a result, a very limited quantity of these exotic dial versions were made.

Popularity for the Rolex Daytona began to rise when people started seeing Paul Newman wearing an exotic dial reference 6239 Daytona—gifted to him by his wife, Joanne Woodward. As people began to notice the watch on his wrist, demand for it continued to grow. This clamor exploded in the 1980s, when the desire for the exotic dial Rolex Daytona’s hit the collectors’ world.

Dealers started to take an interest in earlier references of Daytona watches, and termed Daytona’s with the exotic dials “Paul Newman” Daytona’s. The value of these wristwatches has only grown over the years, and the relative scarcity of the “Paul Newman” Daytona’s have made them especially coveted by collector’s at auctions.

how to recognize a paul newman

How to recognize a “Paul Newman” Daytona?

If you’re looking to purchase a “Paul Newman” Daytona or want to know how to identify one, you should be aware of a few details. For example, not all reference 6239 Daytona watches are “Paul Newman” Daytonas, and not all “Paul Newman” Daytona’s are reference 6239.

To get more information on telling the Daytonas apart, consider some of the identifying information listed below.

1. Check the Dial

The primary difference between a regular Rolex Daytona and a “Paul Newman” Daytona comes down to the design of the dials. The large Art Deco fonts in the sub-dials and the use of red in the outer seconds track differentiate the “exotic” dial from the more simplistic, standard Daytona dials.

On closer examination, the sub-dials of a “Paul Newman” Daytona will also contain block markers or small squares in the hashmarks, instead of the modern lines commonly seen on most Daytona’s. **You’ll also want to check that the sub-dials all have crosshairs.**

Another detail to look out for are the numbers on the sub second dial. An authentic “Paul Newman” Daytona will have a sub seconds dial on the left with 15-30-45-60 markers, while other vintage Daytona models will only have 3 markers on their sub seconds dial with the numbers 20, 40 and 60.

2. Reference Numbers

Vintage Newman Daytona’s will only come in the following reference numbers: 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 or 6265—and can range from $100,000 to even over $1 million at auction.

The reference that Paul Newman wore was a reference 6239, and can be thought of as the most authentic “Paul Newman” Daytona. But because they are also the most numerous of all the “Paul Newman” references, they usually fetch between $100,000 to $200,000—the lower end of the spectrum of value for “Paul Newman” Daytona’s.

3. Dial Color Combinations

The color of the dial is another way you can tell if it’s an original Newman Daytona. An original Newman Daytona’s dial will come in one of four color combinations.

  • Panda dial that has a black background and white chronograph totalizer sub-dials
  • Inverse panda dial with a white background and black chronograph totalizers
  • Inverse panda dial with a cream-colored background and black chronographic totalizers
  • Anthracite-colored background paired with white chronograph totalizers

Bid on High-End Watches With FORTUNA®

As the world’s only no-risk jewelry and watch auction house, FORTUNA has a mission of providing a positive experience for buyers and sellers. If you’re looking for new watches or other pieces of jewelry, you should consider signing up for FORTUNA’s future auctions. Notably, the December Important Watches auction will even offer a Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona Ref. 6239, among a host of other collectible watches.

If you’d like more information about our current offerings or are curious about our future auctions, please feel free to contact us.

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