08.03.2024 - Rolex

Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona: The World’s Most Expensive Watch Ever Sold At Auction

The Paul Newman Daytona Rolex sets itself apart from other watches in the Daytona range and is a holy grail for watch collectors. With its unique design and close ties to the actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, it’s no surprise that it has now been sold as the most expensive watch to ever be sold at auction in the world.

The Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo Auction made history last night by overseeing the sale of the most expensive wristwatch to have ever been sold at auction: The Paul Newman Daytona Rolex. The original Paul Newman Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239 was sold at the prestigious New York auction house for a record price of $17,752,500. The sale outperformed the previously highest grossing Rolex at auction Ref. 6062 by an astounding $12,000,000, and the previously highest grossing timepiece at auction, a stainless steel Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 by an incredible $6,000,000.

Who Was Paul Newman?

Paul Newman was a renowned American actor, film director, and philanthropist. Born on January 26, 1925, Newman gained fame for his versatile acting career, starring in classic films like “Cool Hand Luke,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Hustler” and so on. Apart from his contributions to the entertainment industry, Newman was a successful race car driver and entrepreneur, founding ‘Newman’s Own’. A food company that donates all its profits to charitable causes. His talent, charisma, and humanitarian efforts have left a lasting legacy. Paul Newman sadly passed away on September 26, 2008.

What is a “Paul Newman Daytona”?

The Daytona was originally created in 1963 with the intention of merging a stylish design with a reliable chronograph and tachometer metric scale. This was to suit the needs of drivers, who could then accurately measure average speeds up to 400 kilometres or miles per hour.

The Cosmograph Daytona rose to fame in the 1980s when the famous American actor, Paul Newman, made the timepiece his trademark. The appropriately named ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona is unique and instantly recognisable. The black and off-white dial and contrasting red-coloured seconds scale guarantees the wristwatches’ distinguishability amongst timepiece collectables.

Characteristics And Features Of Paul Newman’s Daytona Rolex

The Paul Newman Daytona Rolex comes with some impressive features which make it unique even amongst other Rolex watches, especially since it has been sold at auction for an astounding amount. There are some similarities between the Paul Newman version and other Daytona watches. For example, the bracelet, cases, and movements are exactly the same.

What sets it apart from the traditional version, are multiple small features that enhance the style of the watch. One way that Newman’s version is different is in the dial. The smaller dials on the Paul Newman watch might have block markers instead of lines. They also include crosshairs that intersect at the centre of each smaller dial. The sub-dial is also distinct. It is positioned at the 9 o’clock mark and uses 15,30,45 and 60. The standard Daytona displays 20, 40 and instead. Furthermore, the dial also features an Art-Deco-style font for the letters and numbers.

Some other noticeable differences include:

  • Some versions have tricolour dials.
  • The Daytona subdials have a contrasting colour to the main dial. 
  • This version of the watch has a trio of sundials, which feature the Art Deco-style font.
  • The trio of subdials also features hash marks at the end.
  • There is a small step between the centre of the watch and the outer minute track.

Why his watch sold for so much

The vintage wristwatch was purchased by an anonymous telephone bidder, who overwhelmed the auction room by succeeding the opening bid of $1 million with an impressive $10 million. The total spend of $17.8 million proves that the original Paul Newman Daytona holds a vast amount of value. However, the extortionate worth of the timepiece has very little to do with the Daytona’s casing material and mechanical complexity, but more to do with its history. 

Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward, who engraved the item with the inscription “Drive Carefully, Me”, gifted the wristwatch to the American actor in 1963. After many years of being fastened to Newman’s wrist, the Daytona was then re-gifted to his daughter’s former partner, James Cox. The timepiece then presumably remained in Cox’s possession until he presented the iconic wristwatch to Phillips Auctioneers this year, stating that he intended to divide all proceeds and donate shares to the Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

Paul Newman’s Daytona Rolex Final Thoughts

Although the name of the fortunate buyer is unknown, we can imagine that they will be popping open the champagne and celebrating the iconic purchase in style. The Paul Newman Daytona will subsequently become known as a unique and priceless wristwatch that will always be at the top of every timepiece collector’s dream list.

In honour of this record-breaking sale, why not browse our Rolex watches.