The early pump-pusher Daytonas were something of an anomaly in the Rolex family, as they were watches that were not waterproof and as such could not be called “Oysters.” Ever the innovators in 1965 Rolex arrived at a solution for this. They fitted screw down elements to the pushers to prevent them from being activated when under water. Accordingly the word Oyster could now take its place of honor on the dial of these new Daytonas.

The very first screw-pusher Paul Newman Daytona is the model 6263 and it can be found with a black three-color Paul Newman dial, which are found typically in 2.085 and 2.197 serial number batches of the 6263s – how incredibly and wonderfully specific right? The three-color black dial is identical to the dials found in 6262 and 6264 including the flat printing of the “T swiss T” mark at their base with the exception of the word “Oyster” that was added to these dials to designate this new watch’s water proof status. It is for this reason that the word Oyster appears in non-serif font inconsistent with the serif font on the rest of the dial.

It is also the reason the word Oyster always appears under the words Rolex and Cosmograph and why they are known by the acronym black RCO dials. The Italians with their exuberant ability to bestow sobriquets refer to these dials as “Oyster sotto” or “Oyster beneath,” for obvious reasons.

How relevant is this? Is it just navel-picking, as the naysayers would have it? Well, one such RCO sold at the recent START-STOP-RESET stainless steel chronographs auction held by Phillips in Geneva for a staggering CHF1,985,000—a newly set world record for any Daytona. I don’t think the buyer is in doubt as to the relevance of this artefact in the context of 20th-century art.

In contrast the new two-color Panda dial was created by Singer for Rolex uniquely for the screw-pusher model watches. It appears that the design brief to Singer was to keep the unique graphic design of the three color dial, while making it less busy and more legible. The result is one of the most beautiful dials to ever appear in a modern wristwatch, taking the basic design iconography of the exotic dial and injecting an appealing dose of Zen reductionism. It is also the only Paul Newman dial that should read Rolex, Oyster, Cosmograph in this order. The vast majority of screw-pusher Paul Newman Daytonas have this two color Panda dial. They are further divided into Mark 1 and Mark 2 dials. Each with slightly different font for words on the dial. These typical Panda Newman dials Mark 1-2 were scattered in standard production ranges of both the ref. 6263 and 6265s, up until the high 3m serial numbers. Currently the 6263 Mark 1 watches are selling for a premium.

Ref. 6263 ‘Mark 1’ Panda Dial

Ref. 6263 ‘Mark 2’ Panda Dial

An exceptional Paul Newman

The Paul Newman Daytona is a fractal subject: the closer you look, the more you see, constant surprises await. The closer we get to the limits of price and scarcity, the weirder things become. At Christies a watch surfaced some time ago that they dubbed the ‘Black Ghost ROC’. Debate instantly raged over the authenticity of this piece.  The order of the words on the dial goes against all received wisdom, and there are what appear to be smears on the dial. It looks for all the world like a test proof dial or prototype that ought, at best to have been left locked in a drawer at Singer. However, on every technical level, the printing seems to be perfect. The experts who want to deny entry of the watch into the Rolex canon are having to fight their case on the circumstantial plane. You can read a rather lively debate about it’s authenticity on the Vintage Rolex Forum.

Years ago, there were troublesome dial variants like the so-called ‘Texas’ Daytonas, and of course, the contentious vivid red dial Paul Newmans to have appeared at auction from the early 2000s (quickly followed by various other Crayola-hued examples). It’s in this stratospheric range where divisiveness arises, expert opinion splits, and yet the watches continue to sell.

Is there still room in the value of the Paul Newman as a sound investment? Definitely. Studying auction sale prices reveals an interesting position. Rather than leap up in quantum steps, the value of Paul Newmans has tended to slowly and steadily rise. Prices roughly doubled between about the years 2000 and 2006. During the events of 2008, a lot of watches came to the market, yet prices stayed firm. However, they have begun to rise again since late 2010. Fair examples of pump-pusher watches command £70,000 to £90,000 now, while screw-pusher watches are more. And then more recently, in London, a screw-pusher Newman sold at an auction this month (July 2016) for £140,000 under the hammer, which works out to about £175,000 including commission.

The best advice we can offer is: align yourself with those in the field with genuine horological foundations and ignore the background chatter of blogs and Internet opinion pages—it’s all white noise. The best experience comes from having the courage, after lots of study, to take the plunge and become an owner-pupil of one of these enigmatic watches.

Revolution would like to express a special note of thanks to Eric Ku for providing some of the excellent photographs used here.