What makes one timepiece more covetable than another? Two words: The story. Watches are just objects, after all. But when a watch has lived on the wrist of a person unlike any other, the object is elevated to a status that is beyond any dollar value.
There is only one watch that has done the equivalent of ‘breaking the Internet’ in the watch auction world.
That is the Paul Newman Daytona ref 6239. It famously sold for $17.8 Million usd at the Philips auction house in 2017. A couple years later in 2020, Newman’s Daytona 6263 sold for $5.47 Million usd. Considerably less than the first Daytona, but still for an extraordinary amount. In comparing these two watches, one has to wonder what a $12M difference in value looks like.
Let’s compare the two watches in terms of the watch itself and the story behind it.
There are very specific dial qualities that make a Rolex Daytona a ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona; a 3 coloured dial, Art Deco font, and small squares in the subsidiary dial. The Rolex Daytona 6263 doesn’t have this specific dial configuration. However, excepting the rare provenance of the ‘Paul Newman’ version, I actually prefer the 6263 model. The reverse panda dial is clean and classic, and it is perfectly balanced in its aesthetics. It holds the unique position of being adjacent to the most sought-after watch ever, but still maintains its own distinct character. Outside of the watch world, it is relatively understated and elegant.
The Rolex Daytona 6263 is the kind of watch that you can’t help falling in love with.
Both watches were owned by Paul Newman, a legendary actor, race car driver and philanthropist. That in itself is enough to elevate anything he owned to a status above others. In 1969, the 6239 Daytona was gifted to him by his wife, Joanne Woodward, with a thoughtful inscription to “Drive Carefully Me”. Newman and Woodward were married for 50 years which is unheard of by Hollywood standards, and she is a legend in her own right.
The love story and legacy of the two actors, combined with the meaning and thought behind the gift, and the fact that he wore it regularly throughout his racing career, made the 6239 very special.
These elements were enough to drive the 6239 to the third most expensive watch ever sold by auction.
(The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime and Henry Graves Supercomplication took spots 1 and 2, respectively.)
Similarly, the Daytona 6263 was also gifted to Newman by Woodward in 1983, also with an inscription to “Drive Slowly Joanne”. Some say that the 6263 gift was the reason why a year later, Newman gave his 6239 to his daughter’s boyfriend, James Cox. Cox helped Newman restore a treehouse on his family’s estate. From a story standpoint, both watches were owned by Newman.
But the fact that the 6239 marked the start of his interest and career in racing, and that it was the first watch gifted to him by his wife, make a huge difference in the provenance and the legacy behind it. These are the reasons that arguably define the much higher selling price of the 6239.
So the stories, rather than the watches themselves, are what makes Paul Newman’s Daytona watches rare and valuable.
What makes the 6263 intriguing to me, as a collector? The 6263 Daytona is not nearly as rare as the 6239 but it is very rare to find in this condition. The dial is perfectly balanced, and the Zenith movement is really cool and interesting. The red Daytona associated with the ‘Big Red’ moniker was a very limited run. This is the most iconic model that Rolex has produced, with the most love from watch collectors aside from the Submariner. Beyond any of these details, it’s the experiences had while wearing the watch that make it valuable.
That is what makes a watch more than just a watch.