The Rolex “John Player Special” Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241By Bob Ridley
Just as the clothes can make a man, so a dial can make the watch.
Although, the intended function of a watch dial is to simply provide for the telling of time, in the world of vintage watches, it alone can distinguish value and rarity.
There’s no better example of this than the Rolex Paul Newman Daytona dial you see here, which comes from a 14K yellow gold ref. 6241. It’s said that once Paul Newman — the man — graced magazine covers wearing his Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 this exotic dial gained exceptional notoriety.
1963 launched the era of Rolex Daytona Chronograph models. This auto racing inspired watch, originally called the Le Mans, was later renamed Daytona by Rolex for the American market.
Rolex did more than just change the name; they redesigned the dial and bezel for this very reason.
Before 1963, Rolex chronograph dials featured a printed tachymeter and sub dials that matched the dial color. These models are often times referred to as the “Pre-Daytona” models.
Then came along the Daytona dials that featured inverse colored sub dials and bezels with an engraved tachymeter on the bezel as shown below.
This particular 6239 Paul Newman with the pump pushers was produced in 1966.
A quick side note on the matter of their rarity. A question that I got question asked recently: “Why, if they are so rare do I see them everywhere?”
Ever hear the phrase, “frequency illusion”? I looked it up to understand that there’s a phenomenon in human behavior where upon learning or noticing something of interest, we start seeing it everywhere. I can see why with the high desirability, distinctive dial and upcoming auction, that the eye is drawn to any article or reference to the Daytona.
How rare? Take for instance the 14k yellow gold Daytona I started off with. It is understood that less than 400 of these 6241 Daytona’s were produced and of those, very few received the Paul Newman dial.
The Black and Gold dial presented here is also known among the vintage Rolex guys as the “John Player Special”. Now, John Player Special was the brand name of tobacco products sold in a striking black and gold box.
In 1972, the Formula One motorsports team, Team Lotus, accepted sponsorship from the John Player Special Brand and had immediate success winning both the Constructor’s Championship 3 times in the 1970’s as well as the Driver’s Championship in 1972.
Let’s take a look at some close-up pictures the 14K yellow gold 6241I recently enjoyed at the bench.
This 14K yellow gold 6241 Rolex came in for some preventative maintenance. What a beauty she is!
The earlier chronograph cases were designed with “pump-pushers” rather than the screw down pushers. The Paul Newman dial wasn’t put in production into gold screw pusher Daytonas. You will see an odd example appear at auctions now and then — like the gold 6263 that sold with Phillips earlier in March of 2017 — but not that these aren’t production pieces and always have this odd dial variation of the Paul Newman, termed the “Lemon Dial”.
This particular model was produced in 1969 as realized by the serial number.
A Closer Look at the Movement
Rolex used the 722 and 722-1 Calibre movements for both the steel and gold 6241 models.
It is understood that Rolex reserved the 6241 14K models (less than 400) for the North American market.
Because of import laws to the US, each movement bore an engraved “ROW” US Import Code on the balance bridge. However, a remnant, meaning very few, remained at Rolex. The model in this article was one of those few that remained in Switzerland. As you can see, there’s no import code on the balance bridge, which makes the piece extremely rare. Our client (single owner) received this watch as a gift from his father’s partner who picked it up when traveling through Switzerland in 1972.
Going back to our 6241, here’s a top view of the movement without the dial.
If by now, you’re experiencing an unexplainable need for a yellow gold 6241 in your life, here is a check list of sorts that you need to have on hand:
- Begin with knowing the owner you are making the purchase from, if possible, since buying the watch is buying the owner. The history and integrity of the seller can aid with your decision.
- Regarding the dial, case and movement — look out for these characteristics:
Rolex Daytona Cosmograph with “Exotic Dial”
A. Sub dial cross-hairs
B. Sub dial art deco font style (more on the font specifies, here)
C. Sub dial #’s 15, 30, 45, rather than the #’s 20, 40, and 60 as seen on other Daytona sub dials
D. Square shape markers as seen in this 6241 dial (more on the marker specifies, here)
These dials were produced in the few different color variations — two tri-color types, the panda, the Oyster Sotto and the Lemon — the four above mentioned dial characteristics are consistent across all Paul Newman dials.
More hallmarks can be found under the dial.
Looking at the bottom side of these dials, one should see a “Singer” mark, as these dials were manufactured by the company known as Singer.
The inside of the case cover should include among other markings, the “14K” and the squirrel symbol.
Bottom of case lug should reveal the second squirrel symbol.
The movement caliber should be a 722 or 722-1.
In finer detail, one of the modifications Rolex made was with the balance bridge. The stud holder plate should have a triangular opening for the hairspring stud and a recessed rectangle with a round ended opening for the regulator screw.
After flipping to the dial side, you can see the “Rolex” stamp on the movement.
Although service/restoration needs for each piece can vary, preserving the original components is important.
Both modern day and vintage Rolex watches need preventative maintenance and, therefore, require similar services. However, the difference comes in to play when components begin to lose their functional integrity. While replacing parts in modern watches is appropriate, replacing parts in vintage Rolex watches can have serious consequences. Where current parts are in production, the availability of vintage parts has severly dwindled.
The repair of a current Rolex with rust is pretty straight forward. A professional watchmaker can replace any part including the dial and hands knowing full well that both the functionality and market value can been restored.
However, a vintage Rolex with rust requires different considerations due to the rarity of period correct parts. Shown below are some before & after pictures of a serviced 6239 PN Daytona.
Not only was the task on hand to bring back full functionality, but more importantly, to retain whatever parts could be restored in order to keep as much of its market value as possible.
Looking inside the case, you can see that moisture entry occurred through the worn pusher gaskets.
Overtime, moisture effected both movement and dial in this steel 6239 Paul Newman.
A before and after view of the movement once it had been serviced.
My goal was to extract blemish without removing the paint.
Two Simple Goals
- Maintain your watch case seal’s integrity since the dial and hands are vulnerable to moisture. If the seal integrity is compromised, so is the preservation of your dial and hands.
- Maintain fresh lubrication in your watch, since the movement components cannot function properly otherwise. If the internal cleanliness and lubricants are compromised, so is the functionality of your watch movement.
Neglecting these two goals will hasten its demise.
Having cared for various upper scale watch brands throughout the years, one characteristic I’ve observed with Rolex is that they include not only prestige but durability. Care for them in the short run and they’ll care for you in the long run.
Robert Ridley, the man behind Watchmakers International Inc., has been in the business of care and maintenance of Rolex, Patek Philippe and other pocket watches — vintage and present — since 1977.
Go on to watchmakers.com for more information on the work that Bob and his team are capable of.