In May 2018, the auction house Phillips hosted a thematic auction called “Daytona Ultimatum” in which 32 of the “finest, rarest, and best-preserved” Rolex Daytona chronographs changed hands. One of these was the so-called “Neanderthal”, a watch featured in Pucci Papaleo’s legendary “Ultimate Rolex Daytona” book and presented by Phillips as the ancestor of the coveted “Paul Newman” Daytona. Unsurprisingly, the “most probably unique” piece fetched over three million Swiss Francs. Latest research conducted by yours truly has uncovered that not only is the dial far from being an early Paul Newman version – actually rather the opposite is the case – but that this very dial was installed in a different watch in April 1998. The nickname “Neanderthal” was chosen with great foresight it seems. As with the archaic species it refers to, false myths go eventually extinct as well.
Rolex Daytona Ref. 6240 “Neanderthal”, 1439122
Ref. 6240 was the first Daytona reference to feature screw-down pushers which were introduced to lock the pushers and prevent them from being accidentally operated underwater, thus avoiding water intrusion. Although many of the previous Rolex chronograph models carried the Oyster designation on the dial, the first Daytona models did not. Only with the introduction of the patented screw-down pushers (CH423638, 1964) Rolex felt confident to call the Daytona an “Oyster”.
For the uninitiated among us, “Paul Newman” is the nickname of a more decorative dial design, featuring fancier typefaces and a slightly lower sitting minute track painted in the same colour as the subdials. This type of dial was nicknamed “Paul Newman” in the 1980s after Italian dealers found numerous pictures of the actor Paul Newman wearing one of these. Paul Newman’s very own “Paul Newman” was sold by Phillips in 2017 and fetched the incredible sum of over USD 17 million.
Given that the first serially produced “Paul Newman” dials can be found in the 1.5 million case number range, the “Neanderthal” with its 1439122 serial fits the narrative of being the very first “Paul Newman” Daytona perfectly.
When I first saw the “Neanderthal” in February 2018, I was naturally suspicious of the watch. After nearly eight months of documenting every single Daytona that crossed my way in my own Daytona database, I had learned a thing or two about the shenanigans plaguing the world of the iconic Rolex chronograph. I had just exposed a Daytona where the “Cosmograph” print had been removed to create a rare “Solo”, which is Italian for “only”, meaning that Rolex is the only word printed on the dial.
Read more: What Happened This Weekend: A Kerfuffle Involving Phillips, Perezcope and a Rolex Daytona “Solo” (SJX)
Obviously, the “Neanderthal” is a “Solo” too. I also noticed the dial had a flat “T SWISS T” luminous material designation (tritium) as opposed to the weirdly shaped print found on early serial production dials. The hour markers lacked the lume but a closer inspection revealed the lume had most certainly been removed. All of this was strange to say the least but little did I know back then. In addition, the “Neanderthal” was featured in the “Ultimate Rolex Daytona” book by Pucci Papaleo who is considered the top expert in all things Daytona. Who was I to call the watch into question?
Four years later, I can say with absolute confidence that not only is the dial incorrect for an early Ref. 6240 Daytona but that this very dial was once installed in a different watch. Over the years, I collected all kinds of auction catalogues and watch magazines to understand the world of watches prior to the internet. In an Italian watch magazine called “Orologi & Market” from April 1998, I found the “smoking gun”, the “Neanderthal” dial installed in a different watch, a Ref. 6239 or 6262.
A closer look at the dial reveals it is one and the same. All stains and imperfections match perfectly.
At the time of writing it is unknown who put the “Neanderthal” together but it is possible the makers thought the dial is an early “Paul Newman” prototype and simply tried to recreate a watch they believed existed in this shape and form. The thing is, several dial features clearly indicate the dial is actually a much later version.
“Neanderthal” Dial Study
As previously mentioned, early serial production dials have a wide and weirdly shaped “T SWISS T” where the letters grow in height towards the center. The flat variant is actually a characteristic of later Ref. 6262/6263/6264/6265 “Paul Newman” dials.
Here is what happens if we superimpose the “T SWISS T” of the Neanderthal over the lume designation of the “Paul Newman” ROC Mk 1.75 (ROC = Rolex Oyster Cosmograph). As you can see, it is a perfect match!
Speaking of lume, an interesting observation is that there are no lume plots on the dial but a closer look reveals residues of what appears to be lume at the bottom of the square-shaped hour markers. The lume plots were either removed or they had fallen off. Furthermore, one cannot but notice the condition of the Rolex coronet which is covered with scratches. To me, this is a clear indication that the dial was probably stored on its own in one of those small Rolex metal boxes and moved frequently back and forth as in a drawer. There are also scratches on the Rolex print. Overall, the condition of this dial is very poor.
In addition, within the small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, there is an awkward reddish stain. Wait a minute, could this be dried spaghetti sauce? At this point, I cannot help but picture an exchange of the dial during a quick pasta lunch somewhere in the Trastevere district in Rome. Now I am hungry and cannot get a nice homemade Tiramisu out of my head.
The Rolex logo is printed with the very same typeface as found exclusively on later Ref. 6263/6265 “Paul Newman” ROC Mk 1.75 dials, a variant I discovered in early 2019.
By superimposing the logo, here too we get a perfect match.
Another interesting detail is the shape of the 2 in the 30 minutes subdial. The “Neanderthal” has a 2 that differs in shape compared to early serial production dials. Interestingly, the very same shaped 2 can be found on “Paul Newman” ROC Mk 1.75 dials.
And then there is of course the unique “monochromatic” minute track of the “Neanderthal”. Early black serial production dials have a red on white track. On white dials known as “Panda”, the track is red on black. With the introduction of Ref. 6262/6264 and later Ref. 6263/6265, Rolex dropped the red colour in “Panda” dials and used white on black instead, thus going full monochromatic.
To conclude the study, let’s take a closer look at the “Singer” dial maker stamp on the back of the dial. Whoever assembled the “Neanderthal” might have thought it was indeed an early dial due to stamp. Earliest Daytona dials have a “Singer” stamp that is almost identical to the one on late dials. However, on early dials, “Singer” is always followed by “Brevets AV” which probably refers to “patent pending”. The comparison below shows the “R” is slightly different on the “Neanderthal”. Can you see it?
Earliest “Paul Newman” dials have a different “Singer” stamp altogether. The letters “S”, “G” and “R” are rounded. As you can see in the comparison below, the stamp on the “Neanderthal” is identical to the one on the “Paul Newman” ROC, Mk 1.75.
Given all these perfect matches with “Paul Newman” ROC Mk 1.75 dials, it is safe to say the “Neanderthal” dial is basically the black counterpart of the Mk 1.75 and by no means an early “Paul Newman” dial prototype as often claimed. The big question is, why is there only the Rolex logo and nothing else? I have seen the “Neanderthal” in the flesh at the “Daytona Ultimatum” preview in Singapore and I inspected the dial thoroughly with a loupe to see if there were any traces of removed text. There were none, no hallow, no scratches, nothing. If there was ever any more text on that dial, it was erased masterfully.
Research is an ongoing process. What you think to know today can be completely outdated by tomorrow as new findings emerge. The purpose of this article was never to point fingers at anyone but rather to set the record straight on a grave misconception in the historical timeline of the Rolex Daytona. However, I reached out to Aurel Bacs and Pucci Papaleo with my findings and sadly, both chose to burry their head in the sand. As of today, I do not know if either party did anything to resolve this case, e.g. reaching out to the buyer who paid three million Swiss Francs for a frankenstein watch with a completely made-up story. It is no secret that for the past couple of years, I helped Phillips on different occasions with the authentication of certain pieces. Often when you work with/for someone, you cannot help but feel loyalty to them and of course, you do not want them to suffer any damage. In this case, however, I feel my integrity is more important than loyalty. If I kept quiet about this story, I would not be any better than some of the highly revered folks who keep quiet to protect the market. I cannot imagine what the buyer of the “Neanderthal”, if there was one to begin with, will go through when reading this story and I really hate to be the bearer of bad news but the truth is more important than anything in my opinion. Without all of these shenanigans, I bet watches at auction could reach much higher prices than they do today but due to all the bs that has been going on for the past 30 years, experienced collectors have developed a “Spidey-Sense” that goes off anytime a new Unicorn is presented. Anyway, more multimillion-dollar Daytonas are completely made-up so better strap in.
Thank you for your interest.
If you are interested in getting some background info on how this type of discoveries are made possible, I suggest you check out the following video podcast by Rico’s Watches Podcast:
Watch: Episode 102 – Fake busting the Daytona “Neanderthal” with Perezcope (Youtube)
Dude, I want to think that you work for some “Wikileaks” of the collectible watch world. Honestly, it’s kind of disturbing when you present these cases with such impeccable evidence. I do not feel bad for these gross auction houses that you continue to regularly defeat. If I’m honest, it may work in their favor to employ you ASAP.
Shouldn’t it be an obligation for Phillips to come forward? And where is the voice of Aurel Bacs in all of this? After all, he needs to protect his “brand” and his own reputation as well.
Silly mistake too. The dial seems pretty rare to me hence aside from it being in another watch, which granted isn’t great, it’s the misrepresentation of it being the ‘genesis’ PN that’s the killer here. It clearly isn’t!
Jose, you are one of a kind, your diligent work will help protect buyers in the future. In this day and age if anyone is interested in vintage watches, i suggest you limit your budget to £1k or less, this way it’s not the end of the world if you end up buying a franken watch! Buyer beware!!
Amazing amazing work here (as always), THANK YOU! This is such valuable work, worth millions even, buyer beware. More now than ever with all the hype and money that has come into the market, whether it’s vintage or a new RM, buyers, really need to be educated customers because no brand or auction house is looking out for buyers.
“Without all of these shenanigans, I bet watches at auction could reach much higher prices than they do today but due to all the bs that has been going on for the past 30 years, experienced collectors have developed a “Spidey-Sense” that goes off anytime a new Unicorn is presented.”
Yes, it’s odd that in these times of new collectors, high demand and sky high prices, so many “Unicorns” and “barn finds” amazingly appear out of thin air.
Love your articles. Keep ’em coming!!
José Pereztroika, you are well on your way to becoming for the world of precious watches what Elizabeth Hawley was for Himalayan mountaineering. In terms of observation, perseverance, diligence, judgement, mistrust, expertise and meticulousness, you both seem to be kindred spirits. This statement is intended solely as a compliment for your excellent research.