Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo in its inaugural New York sale realized $28,875,750 including the highest total for a watch auction in US history. This historic and record-breaking evening saw global participation from collectors across 43 countries, and a packed saleroom of nearly 700 people enthusiastically vying for some of the finest watches in the world.
“The timepiece sold to an anonymous bidder on the phone after 12 minutes of spirited bidding”
The auction was led by its star lot – Paul Newman’s legendary Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona, which sold for $17,752,500, a world record for a wristwatch at auction. The timepiece sold to an anonymous bidder on the phone after 12 minutes of spirited bidding. One of the world’s most legendary and sought-after of all mechanical wristwatches, this timepiece is the only “exotic”-dialed Daytona that Mr. Newman owned, inspiring the legendary nickname for the most prestigious versions of Rolex’s Daytona.
Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, states, “Kicking off our fall season, WINNING ICONS was a groundbreaking event for the international collecting community, realizing $28.8 million and establishing the highest total ever achieved for a watch auction in the United States. This historic sale was led by the one and only, original “Paul Newman” Daytona, the true ‘Adam and Eve ‘ of the watch-collecting world. Since joining forces with Phillips three years ago, we have cemented our reputation as market leaders and this sale underscores the continued growth of the field. With an increasingly strong demand from American clients, we are confident that our auctions will continue to achieve great heights in our upcoming sales in Geneva and Hong Kong and into 2018.”
The singular, one and only Rolex “Paul Newman” Cosmograph Daytona – owned and worn by none other than Paul Newman. With an absolutely superb provenance, it is the watch that inspired the legendary nickname for the most prestigious versions of Rolex’s Daytona. For enthusiasts and scholars, it is this association with Paul Newman that has led to the Rolex Daytona being universally regarded as one of the world’s most sought-after and collectable of all mechanical wristwatches.
A Hollywood legend in every sense, a mere mention of the name Paul Newman conjures up images of his distinguished life and careers as an actor, director, race car driver, entrepreneur, family man, and philanthropist. He was a multi-faceted virtuoso, and his incredible performances on screen and stage not only made audiences laugh and cry for decades, but won him two Academy Awards, including that of Best Actor – Hollywood’s ultimate endorsement of his immense talents.
Outside of his artistic endeavors, Newman had long been passionate about speed. It was his role in the 1969 film, Winning, playing racecar driver Frank Capua, where his passion for racing would form. His wife and fellow actress, Joanne Woodward, fittingly played the role of Capua’s wife – a role she had already been perfecting for a decade in their personal lives. Taking place at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway, the movie launched his hugely successful auto-racing career. Applying the same methodical discipline that honed his acting skills, he trained relentlessly and would go on to win many races throughout his lifetime – even placing second at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
But even in the earliest days on the set of Winning, Joanne was uncomfortable about her husband’s motor racing, fearing he would hurt himself in an accident. Either during or following the filming of Winning, Joanne purchased the perfect gift for her husband, likely at Tiffany & Co. – a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona – a watch designed specifically for motorsport. On its caseback, “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME” is the heartfelt and loving inscription she chose to engrave for him.
Fearful of his need for speed, Joanne would worry for his life every time Newman would step onto the racetrack for a drive. A woman of exceptional taste, she chose a rare and exclusive version of the Cosmograph Daytona – a reference 6239 fitted with what the brand called an “exotic” dial. The reference 6239 was the very first model of Rolex’s iconic Cosmograph “Daytona” series – produced from approximately 1963 until 1970. It was the firm’s first chronograph with a tachymeter scale engraved on the bezel, designed to instantly and clearly measure speed.
During the 1980s, as wristwatch collecting began to grow in earnest, Daytonas fitted with the “exotic” dial became known as the “Paul Newman” Daytona after the famous actor, who was seen wearing this very watch for many years. Along with the red “Daytona” designation at 6 o’clock and the red outer second’s track found on Paul Newman’s watch, the signature trait of exotic, “Paul Newman” dials is their subsidiary dials. The beautiful, art-deco flare of the font used, and the hash marks with small squares used for the counters set these exotic dials apart from the standard dials more commonly seen on Daytonas.
“The significance of this watch cannot be overstated and we are proud of the enthusiastic response we have seen from collectors internationally, as the watch toured across the globe and then as it went under the gavel in tonight’s auction, selling for an incredible $17,752,500”
Paul Boutros, Head of Watches, Americas, and Senior Vice President, Phillips added, “It was a tremendous honor to have been entrusted with the sale of the watch that started it all – Paul Newman’s very own Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona. The significance of this watch cannot be overstated and we are proud of the enthusiastic response we have seen from collectors internationally, as the watch toured across the globe and then as it went under the gavel in tonight’s auction, selling for an incredible $17,752,500. We were delighted to work so closely with James Cox and Nell Newman on this memorable sale, of which a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation, helping to ensure they can both continue working toward their important missions.”