Twice a year I really-look forward to the Fine Timepieces auction conducted by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. THIS Monday, April 20th, the wait is no more. At their Chicago-based office the hammer will come down on sixty-nine lots, including one very-important wristwatch featured here. The auction house has been a Chicago institution for over thirty-years. They have a wealth of experience dealing in all major categories of collectible items: From fine art and rare furnishings to the most sought-after fashions and the highest-quality jewelry.
Season after season the Fine Timepieces department at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers truly outdoes itself – so I had pretty-high expectations for their upcoming auction. When I downloaded the virtual catalogue a few weeks ago, my jaw dropped at the sight of the much-coveted Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona gracing the cover. There was something about the way its trademark, tri-color – ‘exotic’ – dial seemed to stare back at me: Like it was begging to have its story told. And if there’s any watch befitting of a story to be told about it, it’s the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona. After all, the origin of its cult status among watch collectors is the stuff of legend.
Right away I emailed the director of the Fine Timepieces department: Alexander Eblen. I was extremely curious about the lifecycle of this watch – and I knew serious bidders would be too. I envisioned watchpatina.com‘s coverage to include a few of the consigner’s personal accounts of ownership in order to provide context and support the provenance of the watch. Alex was open to my idea, but needed to get his client’s permission before giving me the ‘green light.’ Just the other day, the consigner gave his “Ok.” I’m extremely grateful to him and to Alex for allowing me to share the story behind this amazing watch.
There’s zero-doubt in my mind that watch lovers – the world over – would unanimously agree that the Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona takes the checkered-flag in the category of bad-ass watches. It’s the ‘grail’ watch for many collectors, so it’s hard to believe that back in the late-1960s and throughout the 1970s, Daytonas – in general – were the runts of the Rolex litter: Basically collecting dust in jewelers’ display cases. Think about this: Stores extended discounts to customers if they were willing to take a Daytona off their hands.
Not until the 1980s – when Italian collectors christened the ‘funky’ dial after the American actor who was photographed religiously wearing one on a bund strap – did demand for Daytonas rev-up. Whether their rise in popularity stemmed from a desire to emulate the trendy, blue-eyed celebrity or if the market for them was influenced by opportunistic dealers – seemingly overnight – Daytonas, especially those having the rarer ‘Paul Newman’ dials, went from the ‘back of the pack’ to the winner’s circle. To this day Daytonas remain very-much atop the podium.
Lot 67 of the fast-approaching Fine Timepieces auction has a unique story to go along with it: The original-owner purchased the reference 6239 Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona at an authorized dealer in Missouri around the time of the watch’s production – 1969. His reason for buying the watch was “absolutely utilitarian”: He needed a timekeeping device to “aid his jogging.” Keep in mind, there were no ‘Smartphones’ with running apps or ‘Fitbits’ back then – digital watches weren’t even around. If whatever hobby you were into required a stopwatch, you looked to an analog chronograph to do the job.
I gathered from Alex that the watch was worn sparingly for decades: Really only being used when the original-owner ventured out for a run. The watch underwent regularly-scheduled servicing: Most-likely through the same authorized dealer where it was bought.
Even though a Rolex is a robust watch, the thought of wearing one while engaging in vigorous exercise seems a little absurd at first-mention. It’s too bad that the intended – ‘tool watch’ capabilities – of a Rolex rarely get put to the test anymore. Instead, when purchasing a Rolex – especially a vintage model – it’s the dial and condition that are heavily-scrutinized; not so much the functionality.
When it comes to ‘Paul Newman’ Daytonas, collectors – and rightfully so – get wrapped-up in the minutia of the dial: ‘Paul Newman’ dials are recognizable by their primary background color contrasting with the recessed outer seconds/minutes-track and sub-dials. Other distinguishing characteristics of a ‘Paul Newman’ dial are the square, polished, applied hour markers, as well as the numeral’s font and ‘lollipop’ hashes inside the sub-dials. The color-palette is typically a black and white/off-white combination. This example has red hashes on the outer-track of the dial: A staple accent on ‘Paul Newman’ Daytonas with pump-pushers.
In 2007, this ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona was inherited by the son of the original-owner. Like father, like son, he wears the watch minimally: Actually only winding it up once-a-year to wear on his birthday.
He’s stayed in the habit of always keeping the watch in good-working order. It was on these trips to the local watchmaker that he was clued-in on the desirability of his father’s trusty watch: The borderline obsession the watch community has with it. When people ‘caught wind’ that he owned such a watch, he was flooded with offers. Although he politely turned them all down then, he feels that now the time is right to let it go. And even though he’s fond of the watch because it reminds him of his dad, his interest in it – as an object of great design and iconic status – pales in comparison to how others feel about it: He knows there are people out there who would get more of a thrill – actually wearing the watch – than he does. He’s aware – a watch like this – shouldn’t be tucked-away in a draw 364 days a year.
As for choosing Leslie Hindman Auctioneers: Alex described the consigner as a “principled and fair” gentleman who likes the idea of an auction-environment and market forces deciding who the next owner is…
The fact that this caliber of a watch – is completely fresh to the market – and direct from the original-family – is a remarkable set of circumstances that shouldn’t be taken for granted: Opportunities like this truly come around ‘once-in-a-blue-moon.’ To make the watch even sweeter – it is accompanied by the original box, instruction brochure, guarantee certificate, and the caseback is even faintly engraved with the original-owner’s name. You really can’t ask for much more…
Estimate: $50,000 – $70,000
Update: Hammer price was $75,000 (excluding buyer’s premium).
For more information on this lot or to receive a complimentary appraisal of your property, please visit lesliehindman.com or contact Alexander Eblen | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 312-280-1212
Reminder: Fine Timepieces Auction takes place on Monday, April 20th | 5:30pm CST at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers – 1338 West Lake Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Wednesday, April 15 | 10am – 5pm
Thursday, April 16 | 10am – 5pm
Friday, April 17 | 10am – 5pm
Saturday, April 18 | 10am – 3pm
Sunday, April 19 | 12pm – 5pm
Attention: Please DO NOT solely use my photographs or write-up/description to assess condition, determine provenance, or judge desirability. Serious bidders should examine the watch in-person and/or reach-out to the professionals at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.