In the world of coveted vintage Rolex models, a ‘Paul Newman Daytona’ belongs to the highest rung of the ladder and rarer still are Daytonas that have been owned and worn by the Hollywood legend and veteran race car driver. Only two other such models have previously been sold at auctions. The two present examples — to be offered on June 9 at Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction in New York — hold even greater significance. Their value, both sentimental and historical, is augmented by the fact that they graced Newman’s wrist at iconic moments from his celebrated racing career.
The Important Watches auction is one of three auctions that make up The World of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, a catalogue of 300 on-sale items across various departments that the legendary actors owned and enjoyed throughout their 50-year marriage. The two Daytonas will be accompanied by a white gold Patek Philippe Reference 4459, belonging to Joanne, engraved with her initials on the caseback.
Rolex Reference 16520 ‘Zenith’ Daytona
In 1995, at the age of 70, Newman claimed victory in the GTS-1 class at the 24 Hours of Daytona, an endurance race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. He became the oldest driver ever to win the race, an accomplishment that still holds good today in The Guinness Book of World Records.
On winning the race, Newman was named ‘Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year’ and was presented with a reference 16520 ‘Zenith’ Daytona. It bore the inscription, ‘Rolex at Daytona 24 Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995’. The one-of-a-kind timepiece actually appeared at an auction during Antiquorum’s ‘Famous Faces’ sale in 1999. The star highlight of the night, it fetched $39,000, with all proceeds benefiting charity. Despite the sale, Newman was spotted wearing the watch again years later, fuelling the belief that one of his loved ones had purchased the watch back for him. There’s no doubt that a watch of such tremendous historical value will have all eyes on it at the forthcoming auction.
Rolex Reference 116519 Daytona
This white gold automatic chronograph wristwatch with a distinct black dial dates back to 2006, and was the only precious metal Daytona ever owned by Paul Newman. It’s one of the only three known Daytonas gifted by Joanne to Paul and the very last one she ever gave him. This auction marks the very first time the watch will be offered in the market. Woodward was known for her loving inscriptions and her fear of Newman’s need for speed every time he stepped on to the racetrack. This timepiece comes engraved with the inscription, ‘Drive Very Slowly Joanne’.
This Daytona formed an integral part of Newman’s most important moments of his final years. He wore it as he took his famous final laps at Lime Rock Park in August, 2008. The track was closed to the public, granting Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s loved ones complete privacy, as they got to observe the Hollywood-star turned racing mogul on the race track. He passed away just over one month later at the age of 83.
While these watches will naturally be in the spotlight at the Sotheby’s Important Watches auction because of their indelible connection with Newman and Woodward, there will be other stunning timepieces on offer as well. These include a Patek Philippe Reference 5531R-010 World Time Minute Repeater, a rare pink gold minute repeating world time wristwatch with miniature cloisonné enamel dial, depicting the Manhattan skyline (estimated to sell for US$ 1,000,000 – 2,000,00), and a Patek Philippe Reference 1518, a pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases that dates back to 1946. The estimated auction price for this stands at US$ 2,500,000 – 4,500,000.