8. Paul Newman
If the James Bond Sub has a challenger for the title of most famous collector watch, it’s the “Paul Newman” Daytona. These are regular production Daytonas originally produced with exotic dials. These watches were not highly popular when they came out, meaning relatively few were sold, and that translates to fewer of them being available today.
Production of the rare dials begin in the mid-1960s, and the dials appeared on a total of six different references: 6239, 6241,6262,6264, 6265, and 6263. The dials were made with two colors – black and white, and some dials featured a third color, red. Among other details, the dials featured Art Deco-style numerals on the subdials, and the some of the subdial hash marks had small squares at the ends.
As is often the case with cult watches, the origin of the celebrity association is unclear. One story is that an image of Newman wearing the watch appeared on the cover of a top Italian magazine. While Newman was photographed wearing a Daytona with the exotic dial on several occasions, original copies of the Italian magazine cover remain elusive, so the story is likely untrue. Another story is that Newman was pictured wearing the watch in promotional posters for the movie “Winning.” Examples of the poster do exist, and that story does not hold water. However the association came to be, it took hold, and today “Paul Newman” Daytonas are worth far more than their weight in gold.
9. Steve McQueen
Another iconic actor and racing driver closely associated with Rolex is Steve McQueen. McQueen’s name is often linked with the model 1655 Explorer II – the original model with the big orange hand. However as there don’t seem to be any pictures of him wearing that watch, it’s considered more likely that dealers eager to generate interest in the watch fabricated the association.
The watch McQueen was photographed wearing on several occasions is the reference 5512 non-date, chronometer-rated Submariner. Indeed Antiqourum sold McQueen’s personal 5512 for $234,000 in New York in 2009.
10. The Mariana Trench
The deepest spot in the world’s oceans is the Mariana Trench, and the deepest part of the trench is the Challenger Deep, where the bottom lies about 35,800 feet below the surface. Rolex visited those depths for the first time in 1960, when Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh piloted the Swiss-designed bathyscaphe Trieste to the bottom. Attached to the Trieste’s hull, on the outside, was a specially-made Rolex called the Deep Sea. At that depth, the water pressure is about 1,086 bars, or 15,750 psi. After returning to the surface, Piccard sent Hans Wilsdorf a telegram reading “Am happy to confirm that even at 11,000 metres your watch is as precise as on the surface.”
Rolex returned to the Challenger Deep as a partner in filmmaker James Cameron’s expedition in March 2012, again with a specially built watch attached to the outside of the submersible. The new experimental watch was dubbed the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, as a tripartite tribute to the name of James Cameron’s project (Deepsea Challenge); to the 1960 Deep Sea watch that accompanied the Trieste; and to the 2008 Rolex Deepsea timepiece, which provided the technical and aesthetic blueprint for the new experimental watch. Rolex designed and manufactured the experimental watch in less than two months. It was attached to an arm on Cameron’s submersible, where it reached a depth of 35,787 feet.
Rolex commemorated the Cameron dive by releasing the Deepsea D-Blue Dial watch. Based on the Sea-Dweller Deepsea, it features a dial that is deep blue at the top and gradually fades to black at the bottom. The design represents the change in ocean color from the surface to the bottom.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.