Important Watches

Important Watches

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 103. Reference 6241 Daytona Paul Newman 'John Player Special' | A yellow gold chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1969.

Property from the Family of Original Owner, A Midwestern Gentleman


Reference 6241 Daytona Paul Newman 'John Player Special' | A yellow gold chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1969

Auction Closed

December 7, 07:12 PM GMT


400,000 - 600,000 USD

Lot Details


Dial: black, Paul Newman John Player Special

Calibre: cal. 722-1 mechanical, 17 jewels

Case: 14k yellow gold, screw down case back

Case number: 2'084'230

Size: 37.5 mm diameter

Signed: case, dial and movement

Box: no

Papers: no

Entirely fresh to the market, this 14k yellow gold example of the iconic John Player Special is truly a superlative and astonishingly well preserved masterpiece. This reference 6241 distinguishes itself by its untouched dial and case, robust and heavy with patina. Indeed, the rarity and exceptional preservation of this John Player Special cannot be overstated. Offered from the family of the original owner, the piece was a surprise discovery when settling a family estate. It is said to have been purchased between 1970-71 and enjoyed a very short tenure with its owner who unexpectedly passed in 1974. Hidden in a small pouch within a bank’s safety deposit box, the watch was forgotten and laid untouched for nearly 50 years. The short period of wear and tempered, dark storage has certainly allowed the watch to pass time with imperceptible age to the dial, as it remains almost as if just born from the factory. Likely opened for the first time this year, the inside case back and movement exhibit no signs of previous service.

Among the greatest joys of collecting Rolex Daytona are the remarkable and seemingly endless variations to consider, including the highly coveted Paul Newman iterations. Nevertheless, there is one variation that exists in such small numbers that it is somewhat legendary and a centerpiece in any collection - The John Player Special. Affectionately named for its resemblance to the black and gold livery of John Player Special sponsored Team Lotus cars of the 1970s, this watch evokes the excitement and boundary-pushing opulence of Formula One racing in unmistakable style. It is believed that 3,000 reference 6241 were made, of which only 300 are estimated to have been produced in 18k yellow gold. Rarer still, from this tranche of 300 only a small fraction were fitted with the coveted John Player Special dial.

This watch represents, by far, the rarest iteration of the already scarce JPS, as it is cased in 14K yellow gold as opposed to the usual 18k yellow gold. 14k gold cases were made for sale in countries such as the United States in an effort to abate import taxations.

Sotheby’s is honored to celebrate this venerable time capsule on behalf of the family of this Midwestern Gentleman.

For a similar example, see Papaleo, PP., Ultimate Rolex Daytona, pp. 256-259.