A "Holy Grail" watch is set for auction on October 26 at Phillips' New York sale room.
Rolex began making Daytona chronographs in 1963 to meet the needs of professional race car drivers. The main innovation had to do with the tachymeter, a scale that works in conjunction with the chronograph (the stopwatch), according to Paul Boutros, head of watches for the Americas at Phillips. Around 1966 the company came out with a Daytona version featuring an “exotic” dial, he says. It had art deco-style fonts and multiple color details such as a red, outer seconds track.
Newman got his “exotic” watch—a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, reference #6239, made in 1968—as a gift from his wife, actress Joanne Woodward. The two starred together in the 1969 movie Winning, which sparked Newman’s successful real-life racing career. The wristwatch had a white dial, three black subdials, the red outer track, and Woodward’s engraving on the back: “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME.” [Bloomberg Pursuits]