The Rolex Daytona 'Paul Newman' And The False Dials
Cars & motorsport

The Rolex Daytona 'Paul Newman' And The False Dials

Episode 4 - Rolex also kitted out certain Rolex Daytona chronographs with different dials from the ones that came series-built. These unique, exotic references (from 1963 to 1978) gave rise to many design excesses, in particular the dial embellishment on watches now referred to by everyone as the ‘Paul Newman’.

By Vincent Daveau
Managing Editor France

The number of false dials of varying degrees of craftsmanship being extraordinarily prolific, fans of this type of product would opt for the version proposed here supplied by Rolex to commemorate its anniversary and it would be the benchmark against which all other versions were measured. There are certain tiny details recognizable to only a few specialists to identify whether the dial is genuine or a counterfeit. Counterfeiters are very talented, very well informed and mostly base their work on genuine dials. However, given the price difference between a basic model from the 70s and a model of the same era featuring an exotic dial, it is easy to understand the counterfeiter’s obsession with introducing embellishments, especially since only the dial differs on these vintage models and the components are easily interchangeable…

It should be noted that the initial purpose of this particular dial with a white background and black counters was to further improve the legibility of the chronograph functions in the difficult lighting conditions of the race. This dial, favoured by Paul Newman, who was also a racing driver, features a seconds scale circling the dial, printed onto a band the same colour as the three counters. Another noteworthy point is that in some cases, the graduations are picked out in red transfer. The counters stand out from current models by the presence of indices as well as square markers on the counter divisions, once again to improve poor legibility. Care should therefore be taken with this very ‘trendy’ product. In the case of this very particular model, it is a good idea to refer to well-established dealers, should one be thinking of buying such a model. Counterfeits are legion, we therefore strongly recommend reading the leading reference book on the subject by Fabrice Guéroux: ‘Real & fake watches’, published by Watchprint.com.

The Rolex Daytona "Paul Newman" legend

Everything there is to say has been said about this chronograph, and no wonder.… In reality, the evocative power of this model, and no doubt its aura, comes from the fact that it was one of the ‘sacred watches’ of American cinema, worn by a man with an immense charisma and huge sex appeal. But let there be no mistake, the epithet ‘Paul Newman’ was not attributed by Rolex, but by collectors who associated the rare so-called ‘panda’ type dial with the actor. It is said that he wore a chronograph sporting this dial in the 1969 film ‘Winning’ (as referred to in “The best of Time Rolex Wristwatches” co-authored by James Dowling & Jeffrey Hess). This remains to be proven, since there are no apparent shots of the watch. Also, further to a comment made by one Eugenio Zigliotto in International Wristwatch No.23, everyone started talking about its appearance in the 1970 film entitled “Carrera Mexicana”. 

In his book “Rolex Wristwatches”, Osvaldo Patrizzi makes the same reference, but without including any images in substantiation of his theory. But one thing is certain: there are a lot of photographs of Paul Newman wearing his Daytona chronograph with ‘Panda’ dial, although they are all photos of him during endurance races, since he was also an experienced real-life driver. For the record, the finest photographs are to be found in the book entitled “Paul Newman: a life in pictures” co-authored by Yann-Brice Dherbier and Pierre-Henri Verlhac, published originally by Editions PHYB and given the support of Rolex in 2006.

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