A Rolex Daytona, actually the Rolex Daytona, that belonged to acting legend Paul Newman was sold for $17.7 million at the Phillips Winning Icons Auction in New York earlier today. Hammered for $17,752,5000 (including buyer’s premium), this is the world’s most expensive wristwatch. It has to be said, the most anticipated auction result of the year, some would say decades, lived up to all the pre-event hype.
This timepiece, a Ref 6239 Daytona, apart from the celebrity provenance, is historically important because this is the mythical chronograph that spawned the vintage ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona craze.
The Paul Newman Daytona are the Rolex models with the reference numbers 6239, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6364 or 6265. These references had either a ‘panda’ dial or a ‘reverse panda’ dial layout with red-scale lettering on the perimeter.
But the most distinguishable feature in these chronographs was the art deco font and the matchstick markers used in the chronograph counters. The Swiss company Singer who hade these dials for Rolex also made similar styled sub-dials for brands like Lip and Nivada.
The Paul Newman Daytona is undoubtedly among the most coveted vintage watches in the market today and typically fetches around $80,000-100,000. The craze has spawned enough fakes for experts to now suggest that there are actually more fake Paul Newman Daytona out there than authentic examples. Industry observers believe that this result is going to push the price of these chronographs further upwards.
Newman’s chronograph, a Ref. 6239, was a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward in 1972 with the inscription “Drive Carefully Me” – a reference to the fact that the American actor wore this watch in the professional races that he participated in starting at the Thompson International Speedway in 1972.
The watch belonged to James Cox, who once dated Newman’s daughter Nell. It is believed that Newman himself gifted the watch to Cox. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the Nell Newman Foundation, a charity that was established in 2010.
Until today, the title of the world’s most expensive wristwatch ever sold belonged to a rare Patek Philippe ref. 1518 perpetual calendar with chronograph that was sold for $11.1 million (CHF 11 002,000) at a Phillips Auction in Geneva last November.
The most expensive Rolex sold at any auction this far has been a Ref. 6062 Triple Calendar Moonphase once owned by Bao Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam. This rare wristwatch was sold for $5 million (including buyer’s premium) in May this year. Newman’s Daytona has a pre-sale estimate in excess of $1 million.