Tom Landry’s 18038 Rolex Day-Date
Tom Landry is one of the most important and influential figures there has ever been in American football. And this is his Day-Date. No, not just the same reference. This is Landry’s actual Rolex, the precise one that’s been immortalized and carved on his statue’s wrist outside Texas Stadium. Head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1988, Landry saw the team through two Super Bowl titles, 5 NFC titles, 13 Divisional titles, and a 270-178-6 record. That’s still the third most wins of all time for an NFL coach. Widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative coaches ever, Landry and his Cowboys were invulnerable. Landry was the first NFL coach to wear a Day-Date, but he set a precedent followed by Lamar Hunt, Jimmy Johnson, Don Shula, Bill Walsh (Oysterquartz, but still), Mike Ditka, John Madden, Tom Brady, and a list in the modern era too long to enumerate. That all started here. There may be no sole watch more historically significant to football’s history than this very Rolex. Think of it as the Paul Newman’s Paul Newman of throwing laser spirals.
Tom Landry’s towering arc is an embodiment of the American spirit. From humble beginnings, he first sought to be an industrial engineer at UT Austin. His education was interrupted when he left to serve in the US Army Air Corps during WWII. A B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ pilot, he received orders to the RAF’s 8th Air Force 493rd Squadron in Ipswitch. 30 missions later including a crash landing, he returned to Texas and played fullback for the Longhorns. He was later selected by the NY Giants in the ’47 NFL Draft. But Landry’s calling came later when in 1960, instead of playing, he took up the role as head coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Landry made the Cowboys ‘America’s Team’, nicknamed by some ‘The Great Innovator’ in defense. His signature fedora was a nod to the Cowboys name and today that silhouette is lore in the NFL. As if the Day-Date weren’t enough, the auction includes his actual fedora and blue suit jacket worn for Super Bowl XII, all consigned by Landry’s son.
This—and I can use this word unabashedly here—iconic Day-Date became part of Landry’s uniform, alongside the suit and fedora, after the Cowboy’s second Super Bowl win in ’77. Alicia Landry wanted to mark the special moment for her husband, and did so by gifting Tom this 18038. According to Tom and Alicia’s Son, Tom Landry Jr, ‘She didn’t want to just put it on his charge card, so she worked part-time for her father and bought dad the watch herself.’ The accompanying papers are made out to ‘Mrs. Tom Landry’. That kind of persevering, determined spirit is all Landry, husband and wife.
Watches tangent with culture in ways we often do not expect. The President’s image and Rolex’s ad campaign were perfectly suited to Landry’s commanding, collected presence on the sidelines. Alicia chose her husband’s watch with immense wisdom, almost frighteningly well-paired to the man himself; I couldn’t have chosen a better watch. And today the Rolex Day-Date is the watch of top-tier NFL coaching. No single story better encapsulates what vintage Rolex represents: perseverance, sweat, innovation, success, power, and celebration, all suffused in one Day-Date. It’s a Rolex of the greatest generation, it’s a Rolex of American optimism, but it’s the Rolex of the NFL.
Landry’s 18038 will be sold as part of Sotheby’s Important Watches auction on 7 December in New York. The lot includes Tom’s Day-Date, blue suit jacket, tie, and fedora worn during Super Bowl XII. The items will be exhibited ahead of sale from 1-6 December, for the first time since Landry’s passing. The lot is estimated 30K-60K USD, however as a friend let me say I would expect the actual result to be between multiples or an order of magnitude higher than that. Quite the man, quite the Rolex. A special thank you to Vincent, Amanda, and the whole team at Sotheby’s watch department for trusting Hairspring to debut the news of Landry’s historic Day-Date in this feature.