One of life’s most coveted treasures, the Paul Newman Daytona is the sexiest of trophies. A grand object of desire, it whips men into a frenzy of spending. At auctions and on questionable Internet sites their ardor knows no bounds. An engraved Rolex Daytona went for $17.8 million in 2017, a manually-wound “Big Red” 6263 sold for $5,475,000 in 2020 and even discernibly-worn pieces fetch around $300,000. Why this attraction? A bit of history. An association with Hollywood star power, and the testosterone-driven world of auto racing. A timepiece with impeccable craftsmanship. Paul Newman Daytonas do have certifiable allure. But even if the prices of Rolexes have been increasing, does that mean a new collector of rare vintage watches needs $300,000 to start his/her treasure hunting?
Reassuringly, entering this world of complex movements and artful designs doesn’t demand a limitless PayPal account. Instead, similar to pursuing paintings, or other art objects, it does require a bit of knowledge, doing one’s homework, and most importantly, collaborating with an expert. Insisting that spending $10,000 on a timepiece is the judicious approach, Eric Wind says, “the favorite watches of US Presidents, Kennedy, Nixon, Eisenhower, the Vulcain Crickets are grossly undervalued…with a tremendous upside. They have history (Italian climbers wore Crickets in their 1954 ascent of K2 in the Himalayas), passion, great aesthetics. Watches with an alarm function, they are increasingly rising in value. ” An advisor to “serious” collectors, or those with $500,000 plus galaxies of prized timepieces, Wind was named “Best Vintage Watch Expert” by the Robb Report in 2020, and was a consultant to the Crazy Rich Asians film (for their sourcing a Newman Daytona).
As a Christie’s Vice-President, he curated numerous “important” auctions, and is admittedly “always searching for watches with an artistic and mechanical uniqueness.” “It’s a love affair, discovering watches with great design, history and superb condition,” says Wind, who’s wearing a 1966 Rolex GMT-Master with a 24-hour timezone which was crafted in partnership with now-defunct Pan Am Airlines. But it’s also a world where the uneducated find “Frankensteins” (rebuilt pieces with questionable value), dials that are liable to crack, and repair bills that far exceed the value of the watch. “One has to be very cautious,” continues Wind. “Getting advice is always a good strategy. Since Daytonas are true rarities, very pricey, I like going after other pieces that have a real upside.
Nautiluses from Patek Philippe, Royal Oaks from Audemars-Piquet, steel sport watches from Rolex, all these are hot right now. “I also like vintage Heuers from the 1940s. There are watches from Certina that are equally undervalued. This is a brand that is coming back. You can find some for under $1000 that are great bargains.” What critically impacts that pricing? Is it the brand name, rarity, a certain calibre, or having ownership papers to establish a certain provenance? Sitting in his Palm Beach, Florida office, Wind is asked this question, and never hesitating, says, “rarity is important. But for me, collecting is all about condition, condition, condition.”
Written by Edward Kiersh
Based in Palm Beach, FL