The Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Cosmograph Daytona was bought by his wife, Joanne Woodward, around the time he filmed Winning, a 1969 film where he played the racing-car driver Frank Capua. The role sparked Newman’s interest in racing, much to Woodward’s dismay, and this watch is engraved DRIVE CAREFULLY ME.
Newman gave the watch to a James Cox, a former boyfriend of his daughter Nell in the 1980s. Cox has now sold the watch and a portion of proceeds from the sale will go to the Nell Newman Foundation.
Daytonas are much sought-after even without such provenance. The current record for a comparable example was set at Phillips in May when an 18ct yellow gold ‘Paul Newman’ reference 6263 took $3.72m including buyer’s premium.
The Newman Rolex sold at a hammer price of $15.5m, and the premium-inclusive $17.8m (£13.6m) is an auction record for a wristwatch.
The Newman watch sold at Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo's inaugural New York auction. The sale, called Winning Icons, attracted 700 bidders from 43 countries for the 49 lots which sold for a premium-inclusive total of $28.8m.
Aurel Bacs, senior consultant for the Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo joint venture, said the auction made the highest total ever achieved for a watch auction in the US.