The Paul Newman Daytona, An Unauthorized History...

By John E. Brozek

© InfoQuest Publishing, Inc., 2002-2003

By definition, a chronograph is a timepiece that, in addition to the normal time telling function, also performs a seperate time measuring function such as a 'stop watch'--with a seperate seconds hand which can be started, stopped and reset to zero, via push buttons on the side of the case.

Rolex introduced their first chronograph models around 1937. These watches featured Valjoux movements, and while they saw numerous styles over the following decades, their success was somewhat limited. In 1960, Rolex gave the line a major facelift when they introduced the Cosmograph (model 6239), a Rolex trademarked term which is similar to the chronograph, the cosmetic difference being that the 'tachymeter scale' is printed (or engraved) on the bezel rather than on the outer rim of the dial.

In 1961, Rolex released a similar version (model 6241), and soon these watches became known as the Daytona, so named for Daytona Beach, Florida, which is home to some of the biggest names in auto racing. The watches were very popular in the racing community, due to their usefulness when calculating average lap speed.

These first models were available in a number of dial configurations, including what has become known as the exotic dials. These exotic dial configurations were either black (with white registers), or cream white (with black registers), and featured square markers within the registers. It is also important to note that these configurations were subsequently nicknamed the Paul Newman models, and were quickly in high demand in the Italian markets, as they still are to this day.

How Mr. Newman's name became attached to these models has been a topic of discussion in the Rolex community for some time, however, there has yet to be any substantial evidence to back up the numerous theories. One such theory was that Mr. Newman wore one of the watches (featuring the exotic dial) in the 1969 indy car racing film Winning, in which he co-starred with (his wife) Joanne Woodward, and Robert Wagner. It was further suggested that it was his appearance on one of the movie posters that caused the Italian public to become enamored with the Daytona, thus sparking a love affair which has lasted over 30 years. You might liken this to the overwhelming popularity of the leather bomber jacket after Tom Cruise wore one in the 1986 film Top Gun.

Another theory, suggested by Dowling & Hess, co-authors of The Best of Time, Rolex Wristwatches, proposes that the actor was subsequently featured on the cover of a highly popular Italian magazine (again wearing the exotic dial Daytona) which launched the watch's popularity.

First let me say that I have viewed the film (Winning) on numerous occassions, and while he does wear a "stainless steel" chronograph in nearly every scene, the watch is never shown clear enough to positively identify the make or model. Furthermore, the face appears to be silver in color, and the trademark contrasting registers are not identifyable...



Stills from the 1969 film Winning, showing
Mr. Newman wearing an 'unidentified' chronograph.

(Images courtesy of Edward Heliosz)


I have also acquired a number of the promotional movie posters and lobby cards for the film, however, they too fail to positively identify the watch as a Daytona. Originally, I believed it to be a Daytona (model 6239), with silver dial and all silver registers, as this was a dial option at the time. However, I recently uncovered some information which may discredit that theory as well...



Lobby Card from the 1969 film Winning. You will notice
that Mr. Newman's watch cannot be positively identified.

(Image © 1969, Universal Pictures.)


On February 23, 2003, I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Newman at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida. After presenting him with a copy of my book (The Rolex Report), we had a lengthy conversation regarding Rolex, and his connection to the Daytona. He stated that he was unaware of how his name became attached to the watch, and did not recall wearing a Daytona during the filming of the movie Winning. Furthermore, he specifically stated that his first Daytona, and the one he currently wears, was given to him by his wife Joanne Woodward in 1972, the same year he started his professional racing career. It is worth mentioning that the aforementioned watch is NOT a Paul Newman (exotic dial) model at all, but rather appears to be a 6263 or 6264, with black dial and white registers...



Mr. Newman and myself taken at the
Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Feb. 23, 2003.

(Image © 2003, InfoQuest Publishing, Inc.)


During a period in the 1980s-1990s, Mr. Newman was pictured on occasion wearing a true Paul Newman model (exotic dial, cream white with black registers), featuring a black military-style leather strap, however, this is obviously AFTER the popularity of the Paul Newman Daytona had already been established...



Mr. Newman wearing a 1960s Daytona (model 6239),
with 'exotic dial'. Photo circa 1980s.

(Image © Douglas Kirkland)



Mr. Newman on the cover of a magazine wearing what
appears to be the same 1960s Daytona (model 6239),
with 'extoic dial' as shown above. Photo circa 1995.

(Images courtesy of James M. Dowling)


As for the theory regarding his appearance on the cover of a popular Italian magazine, Mr. Newman said that it is possible, and it does seem to be the most logical explanation. However, I am still not convinced that the appearance actually featured the exotic dial, but instead I suspect that it was the aforementioned watch that Ms. Woodward gave him in 1972. Furthermore, it is likely that the magazine would have been around 1972-73, again coinciding with the start of Mr. Newman's professional racing career.

So, we're back to square one... How was the Paul Newman name attached to these specific exotic-dialed watches? It's possible that rumors were spread about Paul Newman wearing one of these models, possibly in order to boost the sales of said watch--It wouldn't be the first time that a celebrity was falsely 'attached' to a product for monetary gain. Or, maybe it was just an honest mistake--stranger things have happened. Either way, I don't suspect we will ever know for certain.

While all versions of the Daytona with contrasting registers have subsequently become 'known' as Paul Newmans, some would argue that the only true Paul Newman models are described as follows: The 6239 and 6241 case numbers, manual wind, stainless steel non-Oyster cases, non-screw-down pushers, and pre-Triplock crown, with either the black dial with white registers, or the cream white dial with black registers--featuring the aforementioned square markers within the registers.

It is also worth mentioning that all Daytona models were 'manual wind' until 1988, when the first Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona (model 16520) was released. You will notice in the images on the right that Mr. Newman has a habit of keeping the crown and pushers unscrewed, thus making it more convenient to wind on a regular basis.

In addition to Mr. Newman's many contributions to film, auto racing, and yes even the legacy of Rolex, he has become quite the philanthropist, donating large sums to charity, including his own personal foundation Newman's Own, which was founded in 1982, and to date has raised over $125 million. So next time you're at the grocery store, pick up some salad dressing and help give back to the man that has given us so much for so long.

(Click any of the images on this page to view larger.)

Image courtesy of Watchcommander
Rolex Daytona (model 6239), featuring the 'exotic dial'. Circa 1960s.

(Image © 1969, Universal Pictures.)

ABOVE: Movie Poster from the 1969 film Winning.

BELOW: Enlargement of the same photo.

Image courtesy of Watchcommander
ABOVE: Rolex Daytona (model 6263), Circa 1970s, which appears to be the same model worn by Mr. Newman (shown below).

BELOW: Mr. Newman's Daytona, given to him by Joanne Woodward in 1972.


Image © 2003, InfoQuest Publishing, Inc.

Image © 2003, InfoQuest Publishing, Inc.

ABOVE: Mr. Newman at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

BELOW: Enlargement of the same photo.


Image © 2003, InfoQuest Publishing, Inc.
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