Photo Credit: Ron Galella via Getty Images
I have witnessed many different history making events within the watch industry over the years. Nothing can compare to what the world witnessed this past week when Paul Newman’s Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona was auctioned in NYC for a staggering $17.8 million dollars! The auction estimates were at a million dollars plus. This auction took place in NYC by Phillips Auction House on October 26,2017.
What makes this particular Rolex Daytona so special?
Paul Newman’s Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona ref#6239
pic courtesy of Phillips
Througout his career Paul Newman had quite a few different models of the Rolex Daytona in stainless steel but this model was different. It was manufactured in 1968 ref#6239 and given to him in 1969 by his wife Joanne Woodward around the time of his legendary racing movie “Winning.” This was a fitting gift as Paul Neman was a huge racing enthusiast. In a direct quote from Paul Newman, “The only thing I found grace in was racing a car.” This watch has what collectors refer to as an “exotic” dial. This is a dial that is white with black subdials (instead of all one color) and “Daytona” was written in red above the six o’clock subdial. SInce these dials were rare and Paul Neman made it famous it has also become known as The “Paul Newman” Daytona.
closeup of Paul Newman’s Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona ref#6239
pic courtesy of Phillips
Paul Newman was so proud of the accuracy of his Rolex Daytona that he would place bets with his friends that his was more accurate than theirs. After calling Central Time, a phone service providing exact time, Newman would collect his winnings. He loved his Rolex and loved being on time!
“Drive Carefully Me” inscription on the caseback of Paul Newman’s Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona ref#6239
pic courtesy of Phillips
What makes this watch even more memorable is that it has a personalized inscription on the caseback from Jane Woodward to Paul Newman which said, “Drive Carefully Me” This sweet message reflected her fears as a result of his need for speed. It was only three years prior in 1965, Newman was injured in a serious motorcycle accident where skin grafts were required on his left hand. With those unpleasant memories still fresh in her mind, she felt great discomfort every time he went onto the racetrack for a drive.
Paul Newman with daughter Nell Newman. Photos courtesy of James Cox and Nell Newman
After Paul Newman received a NEW watch from his wife in 1984 the legnedary “Paul Newman” Daytona was nowhere to be found . There was a lot of speculation of what happened to this iconic timepiece, which became one of the greatest horological mysteries of the 20th century – until the consignor, James Cox, revealed the watch and its fascinating story to us. This Cosmograph Daytona in fact never went “missing.” It was given directly by Paul Newman to Mr. Cox, forging an incredible history and provenance linked to Mr. Newman and Mrs. Woodward’s first daughter, Elinor “Nell” Newman.
Nell was a beautiful, smart, “girl next door” type. Humble, like her father, she never boasted about her famous background. She attended The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. While at school, she kept her identity secret, using her stage name, Nell Potts. In the fall semester of 1983 she began dating a fellow student, James Cox. During a dinner with a group of students, Nell brought a bottle of “Newman’s Own” salad dressing. Upon seeing Paul Newman’s face on the bottle, James shared that he had met Paul Newman as a child at the Lime Rock motorsport racetrack. He stood behind a rope, trying to capture a picture of the drivers with their cars, and was spotted by a fully suited driver who gestured to him to come onto the track to get a better photograph. The driver, he told them, was Paul Newman.
It was after she heard the story that Nell confessed her true identity to James. Her name was not Nell Potts, but rather Nell Newman. Nell diligently hid her background under this alias to insulate herself from anyone with ill intentions seeking to become her friend for the wrong reasons. Needless to say, James was in love with her, not her famous background, and the two continued to date for nearly a decade.
As described by Nell Newman in her signed letter accompanying the present lot: “Pop would frequent the river bank to check on James’ progress. During one such encounter, Pop asked James if he knew the time. Apparently Pop forgot to wind his wristwatch that morning. James responded that he didn’t know the time and didn’t own a watch. Pop handed James his Rolex and said, ‘If you can remember to wind this each day, it tells pretty good time.'” Since that day, James treasured the watch and has preserved it in its original condition.
Paul Newman wearing his “Paul Newman” Daytona
Photo credit: Douglas Kirkland / Corbis via Getty Images
When its current owner, James Cox – the former boyfriend and now close friend of Paul Newman’s daughter, Nell Newman – entrusted its sale to us, it was fairly obvious where the best selling location should be: The Big Apple. With the East Coast being the home of the Newman family for over half a century, and the professional acting career of Paul Newman having begun on Broadway, New York had to be the platform for this treasure.
— Aurel Bacs and Paul Boutros
Aurel Bacs Senior watch consulatant at Phillips Auction House
pic courtesy of watchesbysjx.com
I am grateful that I got to watch the live stream of the auction which had me and the world sitting on the edge of our seats! The atmosphere was intense and exciting right out the gate as the bidding jumped immediately from $1 million to $10 million dollars. The final price once the gavel went down was $17.8 million dollars ( $15.5 million dollars plus buyers premium and sales tax). Not only is this the most expensive Rolex sold but it’s the most expensive watch sold in history! This extrodinary outcome trumps the $5m record set by theRolex ref. 6062 “Bao Dai” once owned by the last Emperor of Vietnam, and also the $11m achieved by the steel Patek Philippe ref. 1518 last year. It’s crazy when you think about it that the two most expensive watches sold in history are stainless steel. Not only is this an incredible and historic event but it just further solidifies Rolex place as King of the watch industry!
BELOW ARE SPECS ON THE MOST EXPENSIVE WATCH SOLD IN HISTORY
Reference No: 6239
Case No: 2’005’325, engraved ‘Drive Carefully Me’, hand engraved inventory number D61798 under side of top left lug
Model Name: Cosmograph Daytona ‘Paul Newman’
Material: Stainless steel
Calibre: Manual, cal. 722, 17 jewels
Bracelet/Strap: Crocodile ‘Bund-style’ strap
Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel, unsigned
Dimensions: 37mm diameter
Accessories: Accompanied with original copy of provenance attestation letter signed by Nell Newman, and framed photograph of the Treehouse of Paul Newman’s and Joanne Woodward’s ‘Nook House’.
Literature: This actual watch is seen on Paul Newman’s wrist in hundreds of published photographs, and for example, is prominently illustrated in Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures by Pierre-Henri Verlhac, and in Ultimate Rolex Daytona by Pucci Papaleo Editore.