FOR SALE: The Best Paul Newman I’ve Ever Seen…

It doesn’t get much better than this watch. I fell head over heels for it when I previewed it earlier this year. I know what you’re saying, “it’s a ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, what’s not to love?” That may be true, but then again, all Paul Newmans are not created equal. A watch of this magnitude is scrutinized up and down, inside and out – six ways to Sunday – before being added to someone’s collection.

For me, the vetting process for this Rolex Paul Newman-dial Daytona was actually pretty simple, given the fact that it comes directly from the gentleman who bought it back when it was a $200 wristwatch aimed at sportsmen. 

Needless to say this watch is fresh to market. And that marketplace, I’m proud to say, is my very own backyard – Chicago, IL – where on the evening of Tuesday, April 25th, it’ll be up for grabs at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

I think it’s safe to assume collecting Rolex watches wasn’t really a thing forty-plus years ago. I’m sure there were a few contemporaries of Mr. John Goldberger out there (with the taste and foresight to collect), but most of the sport watches we fawn over today were bought for their utility – not their collectibility.

Watches like a Rolex Daytona were marketed as indispensable to professionals because of their durability and functionality – like having an Oyster case and built-in stopwatch. If you actually read the fine print of an old Rolex brochure, models such as this Cosmograph targeted “pilots, navigators or passengers of a small plane… [to] check ground speed and wind speed.”

Case in point is this exotic, “Panda dial” Paul Newman. It was purchased shortly after the current, original-owner graduated from flight school.

I don’t know what capacity it was used (perhaps just to record takeoff and landing times in his logbook). What I do know is this particular Newman Daytona enjoyed an early retirement. I found out from Alex Eblen, Director of Fine Jewelry and Timepieces, and James Wallace, Associate Specialist in the department, that the owner stopped wearing it after a couple years because “it didn’t fit his lifestyle – [he thought] it was too expensive, too precious.” He replaced it with a Seiko.

The fact that this Paul Newman was grounded shortly after its maiden flight helps explain the condition it’s in, which if you haven’t taken notice already, is near perfect (at least in my book). I won’t waste words describing the case, the dial, the lume. A picture is worth a thousand words, so just look at these photos…

Even through my amateur lens you won’t find much in the way of a flaw. I’ve held the watch, I’ve tried it on, I’ve louped it, I’ve flexed the expandable links of its riveted oyster bracelet… I’ll say this to the future winning bidder: Just dab some polyWatch on the crystal and wipe down the case and you’ve got yourself one of the best Paul Newmans on the planet.

Regarding the condition, the owner told Alex and James that his Daytona underwent a servicing one time. He had the movement only maintained by Rolex during a trip to Geneva (presumably in the 1970s). After this checkup he put it away…

For probably the last thirty-plus years it’s gone pretty much unworn. Only in the last year or so has the thought crossed his mind to pass it on to a family member…

To make it more presentable for gifting, he brought it to a local jeweler for a cleaning. (Yes I too cringed at the thought of a what a “cleaning” would entail…) Crossing the threshold of the jewelry store, the owner didn’t know the significance of his Rolex timepiece, but you can bet the jeweler had an idea… Just as you’d expect, he immediately made an offer to buy the watch on the spot.

However much the jeweler offered, it must’ve tipped the owner off because he politely declined and reconsidered leaving his watch behind. In that moment he thought it more prudent to conduct some due diligence before making another move.

Of course, not wanting to let a minty Paul Newman walk out the door, the jeweler upped his initial offer (by an exponentially higher increment). Again, the owner cordially turned down the jeweler’s offer, remaining firm in his decision to hold off on selling until he knew more about what he had… A few more valiant attempts were made to purchase this time capsule Daytona – all to no avail. (The story goes the jeweler continued throwing out enticing numbers as the pilot was walking out the door and in the parking lot.)

Once the pilot delved into the scholarship on the Daytona he came to realize the rarity and value of his old watch. As he grasped the fact that he possessed such a coveted Rolex, he started thinking the next owner should be someone who would appreciate the watch through and through. And since no one in his family is even remotely a watch enthusiast, he felt comfortable putting it up for auction to find it a new home.

I’d like to think the owner read on some forum (or was told) that leaving his watch in as is condition is preferred by collectors over “cleaning” it. That’s why when it came to Leslie Hindman, its original, honest state had been preserved. Seriously, this watch checks all the boxes – including coming with its original box and paperwork. Like I said, when it comes to Paul Newmans, it doesn’t get much better than this one…

* for more information on this Rolex Daytona or Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, please refer to their current Fine Timepieces catalogue and/or contact with your questions  

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