As a watch collector, and the founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches, I often get inquiries from people stumbling upon timepieces that once belonged to a family member. A few months back, I received a call from a woman in Canada about a watch she wanted to sell. As she tells it, she was sitting on the couch one day when she dropped her phone. She stuck her hands in between the cushions to retrieve it, but instead of her phone, she pulled out a watch. Upon closer inspection, she saw that it was a Rolex. She turned to her 92-year-old father and asked him if it was his, to which he replied, “Of course that’s not mine. You know I can’t afford a Rolex.” But little did she and her father know that very few people actually could afford this particular watch. It turned out to be a vintage Rolex Daytona 6241 “Paul Newman.”
In the world of vintage watches, Rolex Daytona chronographs are king. And the Paul Newman variants of vintage Daytonas—characterized by a very particular dial style—are downright legendary. Paul Newman’s very own Daytona broke the record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction in 2017, with the hammer coming down at $15.5 million (for a total of $17.8 million with the buyer’s premium). But even before that historic sale, Daytona Paul Newman watches were hot items in the vintage market, built by Rolex in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s and made famous by the film star who wore one.
Rolex produced the manually wound Daytona ref. 6241 from 1966 to 1969, roughly. During this short three-year period, fewer than 3,000 pieces of the 6241 were made and just a small percentage of those were fitted with the “exotic dial” (that would later be nicknamed the Paul Newman dial). As with all collectibles, rarity and market popularity are golden attributes when dealing with vintage timepieces—and the Paul Newman Daytona 6241 boasts a combination of both.
So how exactly does a sofa magically produce an ultra-rare and highly desirable vintage chronograph? Turns out the conjuring couch was purchased for a whopping $25 at a thrift store four years before the Daytona discovery. The woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) did dutifully call the store, asking if anyone had inquired about a missing watch or if they knew who had been the previous owner (she wisely didn’t disclose the brand to the person handling the call).
As the sale of the couch was long in the past, the thrift store had absolutely no record of its previous owner, let alone a way to get in contact with him or her. So, once she realized the watch was unlikely to be reclaimed, she set out to research the timepiece in question.
She quickly understood how valuable it was and reached out to us at Bob’s Watches so that she could sell it and put the money to good use. She didn’t want to risk mailing the Daytona to our headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif. She also didn’t have the extra expendable income to take an impromptu international trip to Southern California to see us. Instead, one of our vintage Rolex experts hopped on a plane to visit our new Canadian client. And the watch was indeed a genuine vintage Rolex Daytona 6241 Paul Newman, worth north of $250,000.
A quarter of a million dollars is a life-changing sum for most people, and finding a Paul Newman Daytona in a thrift-store couch is easily one of the craziest stories I’ve come across. When asked what she would do with her newfound fortune, the woman replied that she would “buy a house and get a boob job.”