Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Just Became the Most Expensive Watch Ever Sold at Auction
The $17.8 million winning bid is a world record.
In fact, the general feeling seemed to be that this watch was poised to set a new world record. In this instance, that feeling was bang on the money—to the tune of $17,752,500. Following a 12-minute bidding war, the reference 6239 Daytona—with its black-and-creme exotic dial, which became known among collectors as the Paul Newman Daytona—just became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction. It sold to a buyer on the phone. I bet at least a few folks want to know the identity of that buyer. And I bet it’ll be a while (if ever) before they do.
On the heels of the Jackie Kennedy Cartier Tank watch auction announcementcomes a second blockbuster iconic watch reveal, Paul Newman’s actual “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona. Watch historian and writer Michael Clerizo got all the scoop on the iconic watch and its recent whereabouts and reported it all in this morning’s WSJ Magazine.
A charming story of an encounter with Paul Newman as a child, and a second chance meeting with a woman going by the name Nell Potts at college in Maine some years later, is how current watch owner James Cox finds himself entwined in this story. Nell was actually Nell Newman, daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. James spent time vacationing with her family in Connecticut, and Paul gave him the watch as a gift for repairing a beloved treehouse on the property.
It is well known that Joanne Woodward had purchased the watch for her husband at Tiffany. A Rolex Chronograph perfect for timing laps was, after all, the perfect timepiece to complement her husband’s love of auto racing. Adding to the Rolex’s astounding appeal, the watch’s caseback comes engraved with the phrase “Drive Carefully Me,” as any worried wife might lovingly and thoughtfully add.
This particular model is from 1963, Reference 6239, which was only produced for a very short period of time. Contributing to the celebrity factor is the perfect storm of scarcity and contemporary style that was way ahead of its time. Only 2,000-3,000 were made with the unmistakeable white dial, along with black subdials with a red “Daytona” and counters on the outer ring. The watch now falls into the hands of Phillips Auction House, holder of many world-record watch sales, now with the duty of selling one of the most famous Rolexes of them all.
Going on sale October 26 at the first Phillips watch auction to be held in New York, the Geneva-based auction house expects bidding to exceed $1 million, with the Nell Newman Foundation to receive a percentage of the sale. A rare yellow gold Oyster Paul Newman Daytona recently came under the hammer at Phillips for a record-breaking $3,717,906 USD. And that one pales in comparison to the history and provenance of this particular model.
The most famous Rolex of them all, worn by the actual Paul Newman. The mind reels at the possible results.