Many watch collectors consider the so-called Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona their Holy Grail timepiece. In October, one fortunate (and, inevitably, wealthy) collector can become the owner of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman.” The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239 once owned by the actor who gave the model its enduring nickname will be the top lot at “Winning Icons: Legendary Watches of the 20th Century,” an auction of 50 rare, collectible watches held in New York by Phillips in Association with Bacs and Russo. Read on for more about the granddaddy of all Paul Newman Rolexes, as well as five other notable timepieces on the block.
The Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona owned and worn by Paul Newman is far and away the most historically significant piece at Phillips’ inaugural New York auction, to be held on October 26 at the auction house’s New York saleroom. The watch is being auctioned for the first time ever, and is expected to fetch in excess of $1 million. Rolex nicknamed its Cosmograph chronograph watch “Daytona” in 1962, the same year that the brand became the official timekeeper of the prestigious Daytona 500 auto race. This timepiece was conceived expressly for racecar drivers, which explains why the tachymeter scale on the bezel is significantly larger than its counterparts on most other watches. Paul Newman, as many of his fans know, wasn’t just an actor but also a very successful racecar driver, who even had his own racing team in his heyday, and wore his own Daytona (Ref. 6239) while racing. In the 1980s, collectors gave the nickname “Paul Newman” to this style of Daytona, which can be recognized chiefly by the contrastingly colored seconds scale along the dial’s periphery.
The 49 other significant timepieces in the auction, all made before the turn of the 20th Century, represent an extraordinary catalog of watch manufacturers, including Patek Philippe and Rolex, as well as A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Cartier, Omega, and Vacheron Constantin, and important independent watchmakers such as Philippe Dufour. Here are five highlights.
Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (Estimate: $600,000 – $1,200,000)
Patek Philippe only made 281 pieces of this reference, the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph produced in series. The vast majority are in yellow gold, along with just a rare few in rose gold, and only four known examples in stainless steel. This previously unknown watch, made circa 1951 — which comes fresh to the market from a descendant of the original owner — is one of those exceedingly rare rose-gold pieces.
Rolex Ref. 8171 “Luminous Padellone” (Estimate: $400,000 – $800,000)
This extremely rare stainless steel example of Rolex’s Reference 8171 is one of the most coveted vintage wristwatches ever made, by Rolex or any other manufacturer. Making this model even more special is its luminous dial and hands, one of the rarest types found on this reference. This triple calendar watch with a moon-phase has been preserved in remarkable condition.
Audemars Piguet Ref. 5516 Perpetual Calendar ($300,000 – $600,000)
Audemars Piguet produced its Reference 5516 during the 1950s. The watch is notable not only for its modern day appeal, but also for its importance in the history of horology as the first perpetual calendar wristwatch with a leap year indication. Manufactured in 1957, the watch up for bid is of just nine examples ever made. Fresh to the market and preserved in excellent overall condition, the watch is in an 18k yellow gold case.
Vacheron Constantin Reference 4764 “Cioccolatone” (Estimate: $200,000 – $400,000)
One of barely a handful known in rose gold, this Vacheron Constantin “Ciccolatone” made circa 1958, is one of the best-preserved examples of the triple-calendar moon-phase Reference 4764 known to exist. The unpolished, barely worn case retains its original factory finishing throughout, helping to make this piece, according to Phillips, “one of the most important and desirable Vacheron Constantin wristwatches to be offered at auction in recent memory.”
Rolex Submariner “Big Crown” Ref. 6200 (Estimate: $250,000 – $500,000)
Another example of a “grail” watch for many collectors, this Rolex Submariner Reference 6200 was made in 1954 and features the rare and desirable “Explorer” 3-6-9 dial that marks it as a first-generation model, lacking both the Submariner signature and depth rating. This historic, stainless steel divers’ watch is fresh to the auction market and one of the very few examples of this reference to ever appear at auction.
Highlight pieces from the “Winning Icons” auction — including the headlining Paul Newman Daytona — will be on exhibition in Taipei (24 – 28 September), Hong Kong (30 September to 2 October), London (4 – 7 October), Seattle (10 October), Los Angeles (12-14 October), and New York (20-26 October).