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The Latest (and Last?) Rolex Daytonas Owned by Paul Newman are Up for Grabs at Sotheby’s New York

Not many items in human history can lay claim to being truly iconic, but the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona is one of them. And if you’re in the New York City-area, you’ll soon be able to feast your eyes on some because Sotheby’s New York is auctioning off a pair owned by the actor during its upcoming “Important Watches” auction on Friday, June 9th.

By Josh Hendizadeh

Very few timepieces have entered watch lore like the Paul Newman Daytona. And while the Rolex Daytona transcends the world of watches as a whole, in general, the Paul Newman variant really gets people revved up, in particular.

So, what’s the big deal?

In the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, Joanne Woodward gave Paul his first Rolex Daytona – the venerable reference 6239 with a distinctive black, white, and red dial. That exact watch famously sold on October 25, 2017, for a final price of $17.75 million.

Now, Paul Newman Daytonas at auction can start at $100,000 and go up to millions of dollars, as there are six specific references with unique “exotic” dials qualifying as Paul Newman Daytonas.

Newman Mania

As an example of the power of provenance, vintage dealer Eric Wind famously flew in a Paul Newman Daytona to be worn on the set of the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians for a cool 24-hour shoot. This is the power and aura of this special timepiece; everyone from celebrities to royalty to the next guy who makes it big on Wall Street has an insatiable desire to own one.

We know that provenance trumps nearly everything in determining the value of a watch. While rare examples of Paul Newman-style Daytonas, like the “El Limoncito” (sold at Phillips’ New York Watch Auction: SIX for $2,087,000) or the “Oyster Sotto” (sold at Phillips’ Geneva Watch Auction: NINE for over $1,661,000) fetched high prices at auction.

But given that the Paul Newman’s “Woodward-Newman” Big Red Daytona sold for $5,475,000 at Phillips’ “Racing Pulse” auction in New York in December 2020, we would not be surprised if both the watches personally owned by the Newmans that will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s in June will break a record or two.

The Final Newmans?

Late last month, Sotheby’s revealed that the June 9th “Important Watches” auction in New York will feature property from the “The World of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman,” specifically, the Ref. 16520 “Zenith” Daytona and the Joanne Woodward’s Ref. 116519 white gold Daytona. Presumably, these are the final two watches in Newman’s personal Daytona collection.

It will be interesting to see how the watches will do at auction given that they are not officially “Paul Newman” style Daytona’s but still actually belonged to the actor.

White Gold Way

Given to Newman by his wife, Joanne Woodward, in 2006, Lot 30 features a white gold Ref. 116519, and we here at Watchonista think this is the more special of the pair (and the most likely to incite a bidding war). There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, it has the inscription “Drive Very Slowly Joanne” (which harkens back to the famous 6239 from the 2017 auction).

Second, it is believed to be the last of the three Daytonas Woodward gave to Newman. Third, Newman wore the watch featured in Lot 30 as he raced in Lime Rock Park in 2008 before he succumbed to lung cancer a month later.

Finally, this white gold example is fresh to market and remains the only precious metal Daytona Newman ever owned.

Steel Spectacular

Meanwhile, the stainless steel Ref. 16520 feature in Lot 27 also has an equally interesting, albeit less intimate, story.

Originally presented to him by Rolex at the 24 Hours of Daytona Race, which the brand sponsors, the caseback is engraved “Rolex at Daytona 24 Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995.” As a result, it is important to note that the Ref. 16520 will also attract interest in the world of cars and racing with its direct ties to Newman’s racing history.

It was previously auctioned for charity in 1999; however, it is believed that one of his loved ones bought it back for him because Newman was seen wearing it years later, according to Sotheby’s.

When the Hammer Drops

Sotheby’s “Important Watches” auction will begin at 10:00 am EDT on Friday, June 9th, in New York City and has more than 120 lots, including Newman memorabilia and more than a few interesting offerings from Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin. Still, for us, the obvious highlights remain the two Rolex Daytonas.

If you would like to preview the lots ahead of the auction, visit Sotheby’s New York, where they will be on display every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm EDT starting on Thursday, June 1st, and running until the day before the auction, Thursday, June 8th. For more information, visit Sotheby’s website.

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