Since I first set eyes on the inverted-bathtub shaped futurist sculpture that is the Porsche 356 Speedster, I’ve always wanted one. But for now, the dream has remained out of reach. The story goes that Max Hoffman, Porsche’s US importer, suggested creating a stripped down lightweight car to compete with Jaguar’s XK120. After an initial misstep with a model named the American Roadster, the result was the legendary 356 Speedster.
The Speedster was a “cut down” version of the cabriolet — the steel windshield frame was excised for a lightweight, aggressively raked aluminum unit — with all soundproofing and weather-stripping ripped out. Even the windows were discarded in favor of largely useless plastic side curtains. And with this a legend was born. And, thanks to its association with James Dean and Steve McQueen, the Speedster is more than just a car — it is a symbol of rebellion and freedom.
Today, a good condition original Speedster will cost you close to half-a-million dollars, but it is not the price of the car but its utter irreplaceability that will stop you from pinning its ears back while careening through the canyons. But the price point of the car does beg the question: “Why should only the Thurston Howl IIIs of this world have all the fun?” The desire for democratizing the Speedster experience gave birth to an entire generation of lookalike cars by the likes of builders Beck and Intermeccanica.
Far from cobbled-together kit cars, the fiberglass bodies of these machines are hand laminated on molds taken from original cars, combined with hand-made tubular frames and even liquid-cooled engines. These homage cars allow non-millionaires to tap in to the ethereal, primal, soul-nourishing joy of piloting these automotive icons without the requisite bank vault full of cash or accompanying anxiety. Most importantly, these cars don’t pretend to be real 356 Speedster but modern, very sincere and very cool tributes.
OK, now let me segue to the Gevril Tribeca, probably the most famous homage to the single most famous watch of all time, the Rolex Paul Neman Daytona. By now, you all know the lore. Newman had embarked on his career as an endurance racer. So, his wife Joanne Woodward walked into a New York watch shop and bought him a chronograph replete with 12-hour totalizer to aid him in this sport. The likelihood is the wily salesman in question saw this as the perfect opportunity to shift a Rolex Daytona – in its manual wind iteration a total flop – featuring an oddball, three-color “exotic” dial, which was an even less successful version of an already totally unsuccessful watch. And a legend was born.
Newman was photographed extensively wearing his go-fast timepiece and, as the vintage Rolex market picked up steam in the 1990s, kick-started by Italian and Japanese dealers, the Paul Newman Daytona became the single most identifiable watch. Why? Because the dial was so gloriously bizarre, replete with sperm-shaped sub dial minute markers that you could spot a mile away. Also, due to its lack of initial success, it was rare, yet not so rare that some very smart guys couldn’t create a market out of them.
Remember, this was still the relatively idyllic times of the late-20th century where flannel and grunge prevailed, before these watches became the essential wrist adornment for would-be Bobby Axelrods, Adam Levines and Ellen DeGenereses. This was before the pump-pusher version set you back a cool quarter mil and screw-pusher ones, three to four hundy large. At the time, a Paul Newman Daytona would go for 20 grand max. So, when the folks at the small Swiss watch brand Gevril decided to create an homage to the Paul Newman it was with a certain naivety.
If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Right
The objective, recalls Danny Govberg, at the time a shareholder in Gevril: “Was to create a really fun watch that guys who couldn’t afford a Paul Newman could wear. At the same time the challenge for us was to build something of the highest quality and, from a sense of detail and dimension, totally faithful to the original.” Step one was to find an original watch, which fortunately several people in the company owned. Says Govberg: “These guys were genuinely crazy about the Paul Newman and the homage was incredibly sincere. They actually dismantled their watches and began measuring each component with calipers down to the micron. That’s how the Gevril Tribeca was born.”
Eric Ku — vintage watch expert and owner of the Vintage Rolex Forum — has pointed out that the bezel and pushers on the Gevril Tribeca are so faithfully made that they can be interchanged with a real 6263 or 6265. Holding a Tribeca next to my original Paul Newman 6241, I marvel at how the watch, in particular the dial, expresses much of the same emotional quality as the original.
Sure, there are very obvious differences. The Gevril dial is not as stepped as the Singer dial, material has been used to replicate the tritium dots of the original but is not really luminous, the black dials use silver and not cream for the subdials and minute track. But the most obvious difference is that instead of the word “Daytona”, the series number of each watch is printed on the dial in red. As there were 500 three-color white dial versions and 500 three-color black, each watch reads XXX/500 just above the hour totalizer at 6 o’ clock.
The Real Deal
The Pretty Cool Deal
The other impressive aspect of the watch is how the dimensions of the original, and even the feel and finish, have been faithfully recreated. What is particularly cool is the chosen movement. The original watches featured the Valjoux 72, crazily placing a manual-wind caliber in a watch with a screw-down crown. The Gevrils retain the same dimensions of 37mm in diameter and 15mm in height, but feature an ETA 2824 paired with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module – the same as is found in a Royal Oak Offshore.
One hint of the chronograph’s modular construction is that the pushers sit slightly higher than the crown, though Gevril worked hard to ensure that this is very subtle. Opening the caseback, I was delighted to discover the movement features both decent perlage and Genève stripes, making it significantly more decorated than the movements in some “limited edition” watches from high-end brands. Brooklyn Bridge anyone?
And then there are the small touches. The Tribeca uses a Hesalite acrylic crystal just like in the original watch and incredibly, the bracelet is highly reminiscent of the original and, if anything, features a slightly wider and chunkier clasp.
A Functional Tribute
So, as the owner of an original Paul Newman Daytona why am I so excited about a watch that costs 1/100th of my original’s potential price at auction? Well precisely because of that! I remember having dinner in London recently only to realize that I’d lost a pusher on my 6241, causing massive panic and the immediate need to dive under the table. In the end, the pusher was irretrievable and it was only the kindness of vintage Rolex dealer Philip Stahl that allowed me to find a suitable replacement.
Look at this way. With summer coming up I want a watch that has a degree of the emotional value of the real thing, but that I can wear with reckless abandon. That accompanies me riding my motorcycle or jumping off the deck of the yacht into the Gulf of Naples. When my friend Alexander Kraft, owner of Sotheby’s International Realty in France and Monaco and, proprietor of both a pump- and screw-pusher version of the Paul Newman saw my Gevril he said: “I’m getting one and I’m going skiing with it on.”
And that’s the cool thing about the Gevril Tribeca, it appeals to both actual Paul Newman owners and the young collectors who want to approach the mythology and emotion of the real deal in a way that is thoroughly accessible.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, these watches were made in 1999 and finding one on the secondary market is getting increasingly rare with prices averaging $2,500. Amazingly enough, Brian Govberg, son of the aforementioned Danny, received a Tribeca years ago from his father, and has been amazed by the burgeoning cult-following of the watch in recent years. This prompted him to reconnect with the manufacture, only to discover that not all of the 500 watches for each series had been completed between 1999 and 2001 when the watches were made. After requesting a tally of the remaining parts and a calculation as to how many watches could be made from them, he was given a reply that 67 watches could be assembled from the remaining components.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Of the watches that were created for this new micro-series, 45 of them feature a dial configuration rarely seen before. Instead of a three-color white dial, Govberg discovered several two-color white dials reminiscent of the original Panda dials found in the 6263 and 6265 screw-pusher Paul Newman Daytonas. So, it gives us great pleasure to offer this “new version” for sale alongside the classic three-color black dials.
There are four versions in total. White dial with black sub-dials and black ceramic bezel (40 pieces). Black dial with silver sub-dials and black ceramic bezel (20 pieces). Silver dial with black sub-dials and steel bezel (five pieces). Black dial with silver sub-dials and steel bezel (two pieces), these — oddly — feature full polished cases. Go figure.
The casebacks of these watches do not have the same markings as the original watches to distinguish them as new-old-stock. Further, each watch has been fully tested for chronometric performance and reliability and, most importantly, despite that fact that they were made a decade ago, we have arranged for each watch to come with a brand-new Gevril full warranty. At $2,900 retail, I feel these are some of the best deals around. And it was super important to me that we offered our readers and PN fans a strong value proposition. And with only 67 watches, they won’t last long so I encourage you to grab yours while they are available. Regardless of whether you have a Paul Newman Daytona or not.