The watch was a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward and didn't leave his wrist for 15 years.
Rolex watches are pretty much the kings of timepieces, and now, Paul Newman’s famous Daytona watch is the undisputed king of kings, with major emphasis on the king. When the iconic timepiece came to Phillips auction house earlier this year, it was believed the watch could fetch as much as $1 million. It turned out that estimate was slightly off, as a 12-minute bidding war culminated in a mind-boggling final sale price of $17,752,500 and yes, that’s obviously a record for a timepiece. In fact, there aren’t many cars that have sold for that much. Why on earth would anyone shell out such coin for a watch? In short, it combines the golden age of auto racing with perhaps the greatest Hollywood love story of all time.
For starters, the watch is a vintage Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, of which the model was sold throughout most of the 1960s. This particular watch was given to Newman as a gift from his wife, legendary Hollywood actress Joanne Woodward in 1968. At the time, the two were filming the classic racing flic Winning, where Newman played the role of a race car driver aspiring to win the Indy 500. The film would be more than just another payday for Newman, however. Through the course of filming, he developed a passion for motorsports that would ultimately see him on track for real throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Woodward wasn’t thrilled with his aspiring desire for racing, but she supported him none the less. That’s why this timeless Rolex bears a simple but significant inscription from her that simply reads Drive Carefully Me. The Hollywood couple would ultimately stay married for 50 years, until Newman's death in 2008.
For the next 15 years or so, the watch almost never left Newman’s wrist. He wore it in to events, photo shoots, and as much as possible while filming. He also wore it when he raced, using it to keep track of his lap times. When Woodward gave him a new watch in 1984, he passed this one to James Cox, who had been dating his daughter Nell. The watch remained with them until this auction, when they both decided to pass the Rolex on. A portion of the auction proceeds will go to charity.
Ordinarily we’d say $17 million for a watch is insane, but this time around, we reckon the new owner got it for a bargain.