Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Sold For $17.8 Million

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A letter telling the story of the watch's disappearance by Paul Newman's daughter © Phillips

On the 26th of October 2017, Aurel Bacs creates history by putting down the hammer and selling Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona.  At $17.8 Million this instantly made it the most expensive wristwatch in the world.  The auction was carried out in New York City by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo.  The latter, namely Aurel Bacs and Livia Russo are watch consultants to auction house Phillips; famous for the sales of great contemporary art work, jewellery and watches.

Aurel Bacs selling Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona
Aurel Bacs putting the hammer down and creating history © Hondinkee

Actor, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist And Racer  

Paul Newman Racing
Iconic picture of Paul Newman wearing his Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 © Ron Gallela via Getty Images

Paul Newman was an American actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist.  He was also very much passionate about motor racing.  This led to Paul Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward offering him his 1968 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239.  A stainless steel case watch with a tachymetre bezel specifically designed for motorsport.  The watch also features a chronograph function with an off white ‘exotic dial’ and black sub-dials.

Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona nicknamed the Paul Newman Daytona © Phillips


The uniqueness of Paul Newman’s watch lies at the back of its case.  Joanne had a fear towards Paul’s passion for racing and his thirst for speed.  Before offering him the watch, she had the words: “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME” inscribed onto the Rolex’s caseback.  A simple gesture of love that probably makes this specific watch even more desirable and ‘priceless’.

Drive Carefully Me on Paul Newman's Rolex
The loving inscriptions Joanne Woodward had inscribed on her husband’s watch © Phillips

The Disappearance Of  The ‘Paul Newman’ 

Paul Newman wore this specific watch until 1984 when it was last seen.  The whereabouts of the watch remained a mystery since then.  No one knew where the watch had gone.  Who possibly bought it? Or who may have inherited it? – that is until James Cox recently brought it forward along with its beautiful legacy.

James Cox Paul Newman
A letter telling the story of the watch’s disappearance by Paul Newman’s daughter, Nell © Phillips

James Cox was dating Paul Newman’s daughter Nell back in the days.  James was helping in re-building the Newman’s family tree house and Paul kept checking on him.  It so occurred that Paul forgot to wind his watch one day and asked James for the time when he came to check on him.  The latter did not own any wristwatches unfortunately and it was then that Paul handed over his Rolex to James Cox.  He has been its guardian ever since and kept it in its original condition.

The Joanne Woodward – Paul Newman ‘Paul Newman’

Had Joanne not gifted Paul this particular Rolex Daytona, it probably would not have not gained so much hype.  This story gave the Daytona so much success that the watch is more commonly nicknamed and recognised as the ‘Paul Newman’ instead of the Cosmograph Daytona.  But as Aurel Bacs rightly pointed out, it should more likely be called the Joanne Woodward – Paul Newman ‘Paul Newman’.

Pranav Dussaye

Pranav started conceiving ISL AVENUE in late 2012. He has travelled the world from a very early age and hence developped an affinity for travel, hotels and food at different levels and from different cultures. He admires architecture and design but is deeply passionate about horology and cars. He carries a business background and is an aircraft pilot.