The Greatest of Grails: Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman”By Sumit Nag
The first time I truly — in every sense of the word — understood the importance of the Paul Newman Daytona for the collective watch community, is when I had to work with Wei Koh in publishing five comprehensive epics, in which he underlined who Paul Newman was, what the eponymous watch is and what it’s become to mean in today’s watch collecting context. Wei Koh also went on to explore the various doubts and controversies that exist around the watch and had them dispelled, once and for all, with the help of a scholar among scholars, Mr. Eric Ku.
So, I hope you will forgive me and my excitement for the news of Phillips Watches having found this, one of the greatest of grails in all of horology, the “Paul Newman” Daytona that was gifted to Paul Newman by his beloved wife, Joanna Woodward.
The news of the discovery didn’t take long to spread. It was first published on wsj.com, late on Thursday, (Singapore time) the 1st of June 2017, following which, there was word on watchesbysjx.com and, of course, Hodinkee.
It was, however, our wish that we not just help shout about this fantastic news, but add to it, as well. And by some incredible luck — or may be just dumb luck — while on the phone, discussing this matter, our deputy editorial director, Tracey Llewellyn shared that she happened to know Mr. Michael Clerizo, the gentleman who wrote the wsj.com article, quite well.
A call was quickly made to Mr. Clerizo and his brief words led to this piece of journalism by Revolution UK’s editor at large, Mr. Ken Kessler. The same article revealed that a key mastermind behind the brilliant announcement of the discovery of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” was none other than Mr. Paul Boutros, Phillips Watches’ Head of Americas and International Strategy Advisor, Senior Vice President.
Again, luck would have it, that a while back, while in Hong Kong for Phillips Watches’ Spring auction 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting Paul in person. Fortunately for me — and unfortunately for Paul — he handed me his business card and advised that I should call him if ever the need ever arose.
So, I did. Call on Paul that is. With far too many questions and requests than I’d be willing to admit to. Paul, of course, was patient and incredibly kind and answered all of my enquires, with great depth, on a Saturday morning no less.
In our exchange, Paul explained the importance of the story of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman”, what it means to have found it, what it means for their inaugural New York auction, WINNING ICONS (26 October 2017) and what it might mean for the Paul Newman Daytona once the auctioneer’s gavel seals the deal on the day. Here is, all of that conversation:
1. Michael Clerizo’s shared with us that you, Paul Boutros were the one who called him with the watch story of the year. That was on the 27th of February. Can you tell us the events that lead to that call to Mr. Clerizo?
For me, it all started with a most exciting phone call received from Aurel Bacs late in the summer of 2016, when he shared the highly confidential news that he was in talks with the owner of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Daytona, who might potentially consign it with us. As you can probably imagine, I was in disbelief at first considering the watch’s legendary — even mythical —status in the collecting community.
Very quickly, we analyzed the potential it could have at auction, profiled the potential audience — both inside and outside the watch community — and all agreed that New York had to be the platform for this treasure. Auctioned in the country where he was born, raised, and worked; it’s truly an American story of one of the most famous American actors of all time.
After months of creative deliberations, considering all aspects — legal, marketing, timing — when we received the signed consignment agreement, we were off to the races, so to speak, to develop a strategy that would best tell the world not only about the watch, but also about the amazing and emotional story behind it. Its provenance, which is as legendary as the watch itself, had never been shared publically.
We decided early on that American media would be the best positioned and the most motivated to “break the news” in a way we felt could do justice to the watch. We also had in mind to find a media partner that would not only reach established watch collectors but also attract as many new people to the world of collectible watches as possible. Mainstream media was the way to go.
Thinking through the options, including television, Hollywood, motorsport and watch-focused publications, we also thought carefully about working with the right journalist. One who could capture the story, understand the subtle nuances of the Paul Newman Daytona and who could weave together the entire story that could easily be understood by many — not just watch enthusiasts.
Without too much deliberation, Michael Clerizo, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, came quickly to the forefront. He had recently written a superb, in-depth article on Heuer watches owned by Steve McQueen and used in the movie, Le Mans, which we were all impressed by.
Outstanding historical knowledge across timepieces of all types, impeccable credibility, and a long-time personal relationship with Clerizo — not to mention the global reach of the Wall Street Journal — made him the most compelling choice.
Editor’s Note: Read Michael Clerizo’s Wall Street Journal article here.
2. How important was it to get word of the discovery story out rather than just the details of the watch out into the public?
This was vital! When we learned of the story behind the watch and how it ended up in James Cox’s hands, we were all overcome with emotion. Paul Newman’s own Paul Newman Daytona is legendary itself, but the story of how he gifted it to James, who was the boyfriend of his daughter Nell Newman, his generosity, and the fact that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Nell’s charity, the Nell Newman Foundation — it’s a story as legendary and beautiful as the watch. It’s a story that deserves to be told in its entirety.
3. Let’s take a step back to the year 1963, and the introduction of the Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 and later the “exotic dial”. How successful were these watches for Rolex from the start and, in your opinion, why?
According to scholarship and our research, the “exotic dial”, now known as the “Paul Newman” dial, only began appearing in ref. 6239 Cosmograph Daytonas in late 1966. At the time and even through the mid-1980s, the Daytona was not at all a popular model. In fact, it was one of the very few Rolex models that dealers offered at a considerable discount due to the difficulty they had selling them during this era.
The multi-colored “exotic dials” were introduced three years after the Daytona was launched as an option for clients — most likely to help entice sales. Unfortunately for Rolex, they were rarely chosen, and therefore, production numbers were very low.
There are several reasons why the Daytona was a poor seller. During the 1960s, the vast majority of consumers preferred smaller dress watches. Tool watches such as chronographs were for specialized use, targeting a small niche market with buyers who chose them mainly for functional purposes. Furthermore, from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the Daytona struggled to compete with other sport chronographs on the market — competing brands offered self-winding chronographs, which were much more practical for daily wear, versus the Daytona’s manual winding movement.
4. The “exotic dial” progressed from the 6239 into the Oyster Daytonas. But somewhere along the way, the dial stopped being the “exotic dial” and turned into the “Paul Newman” dial. How did this happen?
During the mid-1980s, as wristwatch collecting began to grow in popularity, and rumors began swirling that Rolex’s manually-wound Daytona would soon be discontinued (to be replaced in 1988 by the self-winding Daytona model ref.16520), interest in them soared.
The generally held belief is that around this time Paul Newman was spotted either on the cover or prominently featured inside a widely-read magazine or other wearing the ref. 6239 with the “exotic dial” – the very watch we are offering on 26 October, in New York. Astute dealers immediately nicknamed vintage Daytonas fitted with this style of dial, the Paul Newman Daytona. The name “stuck”, and it is this association with Paul Newman that led to the Daytona becoming one of the world’s most sought after and collectible watches.
5. Paul Newman, the man, was many things: A gifted screen/theatre actor, a race car driver and even a philanthropist. However, never in his lifetime was he ever known as a prolific watch collector. How is he, as a person, so important to us today in the collecting community and the world of watches at large?
Paul Newman was the definition of “cool”. A Hollywood legend in every sense, he lived a distinguished life with multiple careers as an actor, director, racecar driver, entrepreneur, family man, and at one point, was the world’s most generous philanthropist through his Newman’s Own company. His incredible success across all these paths didn’t come from luck or just having to-die-for good looks.
He was a devoted student in any endeavor he undertook, relentlessly honing his skills through honest hard work — working harder and smarter than his peers out of sheer determination. At the same time, he was fun-loving — a prankster, who would play tricks on his fellow actors making their long days at film studios a pleasure to endure.
Even though he was one of Hollywood’s most famous actors of all time, he largely shunned the Hollywood lifestyle, choosing to live in low-key Westport, Connecticut — on the other side of the country, far away from the glitz and glamour. The fact that he ended up wearing several generations of Rolex Daytonas for most of his life — chosen because of his affinity for motorsport and its functional relevance and not for commercial purposes — elevated the allure and mystique, and his association with the Daytona, to mythical status.
6. Coming back to present times: The demand for the Paul Newman Daytona (regardless of references) continues to grow. Its performance at auctions alone is self-evident to this fact. For that matter, it is Phillips Watches that presently hold two records for the most ever paid for a Paul Newman Daytona — one was the RCO “Oyster Sotto” and the more recent was the gold 6263, “the legend”. How important has the hunt for Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman’ been for the team at Phillips?
While so many of us who are watch enthusiasts and collectors have dreamed of one day finding Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Daytona, thanks to Aurel Bacs’ longstanding relationships with his clients through the years, Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” found him in the summer of 2016.
As you can imagine, when he and the team learned through a friend of the owner, James Cox, and former client of Aurel’s that it may be potentially for sale, we were thrilled but at the same time bracing ourselves for potential disappointment, in case the owner decided against selling the watch. Fortunately, once Aurel met Mr. Cox in person, a positive rapport was immediately established, and it was clear he was ready to part with the watch in order to raise funds for Nell Newman’s growing charity organization: The Nell Newman Foundation.
Our nerves were soon calmed, and as Aurel, Livia Russo (Aurel’s wife and business partner), and I continued conversations with the client, strategizing hand-in-hand on our approach to selling it, we were absolutely thrilled on the day we received the signed consignment agreement — when Mr. Cox showed his full trust in our team to sell this legendary dream watch through Phillips.
7. No one’s championed the word, provenance in the watch auction scene as much as Phillips. How does the word continue to be of importance to you guys, perhaps now more than ever?
From the day we established our Department back in late 2014, the Phillips team has been committed to quality, scholarship, transparency and client service. We aim to offer only watches that we would personally recommend to close friends or enjoy wearing ourselves. And those that excite us most are watches with extraordinary provenance.
We are highly selective in the watches we choose, and, of course, originality, condition and collectability are essential criteria for a “Phillips” auction watch. We, like our clients, love watches with a great story to tell. So, when all these elements come together along with impeccable provenance, we know all of our clients — even those who are the most demanding — will be especially interested in bidding.
8. How important is it to the Phillips team that Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” has been found? Rather as the story has been told by Michael Clerizo, that the watch found you guys?
We are very proud to have been entrusted with the sale of this “holy grail” of collectible timepieces. We’re thrilled to continue telling its amazing story, from its original owner, to how it was given to its current owner, and the charitable nature of the sale.
You can be assured that we will do our very best to share this legendary watch and its equally legendary story to people around the world. It’s the perfect watch to attract and excite new people to the world of watch collecting!
9. Can we predict how it may perform?
While we do not speculate on potential results of watches we offer, I can comfortably say it’s a worthy contender for achieving some sort of world record price.
10. Since the announcement on the 1st of June on WSJ.com, has there already been interested collectors calling in to inquire?
From the moment the story went live, clients from all over the world have expressed to us their genuine enthusiasm and excitement, and even sheer joy, that we will be offering Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman”. Not only are clients eager to consign their timepieces in our inaugural New York auction — the thematic sale designed around this watch titled “WINNING ICONS” — clients have already booked their flights to attend the sale have already reserved seats in the auction room. Clients have already signed up for telephone bidding, and even absentee bids have been received so far!
Editor’s Note: Shit. That’s amazing.
11. Where would you, personally, like to see Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman’ end up at the end of the October sale?
As a collector at heart, I would like to see the watch end up in a museum, where it can be seen and enjoyed by the public for years to come. Alternatively, I would also enjoy seeing it with a collector, with a museum curator-like mindset, who will look after this treasure for years to come, upholding it in the respect it deserves.
12. How will the performance of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” affect the price of subsequent instances of the Paul Newman Daytona turning up at auctions?
While we don’t have a crystal ball, the publicity generated with the sale of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Daytona could very well help expand the market for collectible vintage watches in general, and also increase demand for Paul Newman Daytona watches in particular.
13. There are suggestions in the watch journalism sphere that Paul Newman didn’t just own one Daytona with the “exotic dial”, but up to five. We know there is at least one in his daughter Clea’s possession, which was profiled in January 2017 and Rolex themselves have seen it. She has said it is not for sale! Will it now become a mission for Phillips to hunt down all the other instances?
As we performed our research and due diligence when preparing to announce the watch, we looked at every single image of Paul Newman found on image databases such as Getty Images, taken over several decades, and have identified a handful of Rolex Daytona watches he owned and wore through his lifetime.
Our research has also been corroborated by the good research published on Jake’s Rolex World Magazine, where he posted all of the Rolex Daytonas worn by him, found in images taken over the past nearly five decades. According to our findings, we can confidently state that there is only one Daytona he owned that is fitted with an “exotic” dial now known as the Paul Newman dial — this very Cosmograph Daytona, reference 6239 made in 1968 given to him by Joanne Woodward.
14. What other grails would you like to see brought to the Phillips Watches portfolio, what others are yet to be found? Buzz Aldrin’s Speedie for example?
In all sincerity, we hope the publicity of this watch and its sale reaches owners of other legendary and important watches yet to be unearthed. Whether to be sold through us, or to inspire a new generation of collectors simply by having their timepieces’ forgotten stories told. We will all stay tuned for such discoveries, hoping to share with all of you what we might find.
Editor’s Note: A massive thank you to Paul Boutros and the Phillips Watches team of specialists for the patience and the privilege to publish this conversation. Here’s to more.