Committed to the craft of timeless design, and ever inspired by men recognised as icons of style, recent news that rightfully grabbed our attention was the record-breaking $17.8 million sale of Paul Newman’s ‘Paul Newman’ Rolex Daytona – one of the most mythical, most important, and most recognisable watches of the 20th century. The sale was executed in New York by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo.
Arguably the holy grail of vintage watches, the Paul Newman Daytona has been a hot topic amongst watch enthusiasts for decades. Since vanishing from Newman’s wrist in the 80’s, numerous legends and theories regarding the watch’s mysterious disappearance have been told. Now, finally, the timepiece’s true history has been uncovered.
Enjoy the story and photos below:
In 1963, Rolex introduced its sporty Daytona model – the first Rolex chronograph to feature contrasting subsidiary registers. A ‘Paul Newman Daytona’ is a Daytona that has been fitted with an ‘exotic’ dial. It is this very watch that single-handedly positioned the entire category of vintage Rolex chronographs as the apex of watch collecting.
Until recently, it was believed by most that Paul Newman had bought himself his revered watch. We now know that it was in fact purchased by his wife Joanne Woodward and gifted to Newman in 1968. With Paul being an avid fan of racing and a regular racer himself, Woodward had inscribed a message on the back of the watch case and intended for the timepiece to be a reminder for her husband to stay safe behind the wheel.
Photo credit: Ron Galella via Getty Images
From that point on almost every photo of Newman showed him proudly sporting his Daytona. He seemed to live in it, right until 1984 when photos – showing Newman wearing a different, much less unique wristwatch – suggested that the famed Daytona must have gone missing. What we know now is that the watch wasn’t lost nor didn’t get stolen – Newman in fact had bestowed his beloved timepiece to his daughter’s then boyfriend, James Cox.
Cox had been dating Nell Newman, Paul Newman’s daughter, and one summer he’d been invited to spend a few months with the family in their Connecticut home. James spent his days repairing the family’s tree house, and from time to time Paul Newman would check on Cox’s progress. Gradually, a friendship formed between the two men, and upon realizing that Cox didn’t own a watch, Newman simply removed the one on his wrist. “If you can remember to wind this each day, it tells pretty good time,” Newman told Cox as he handed him the watch.
Fortunately, since that day, Cox treasured the watch and preserved it in its original condition. Put up for auction, the watch was accompanied with a signed letter written by Paul Newman’s daughter, documenting its provenance and her support of its sale. Additionally, James Cox and Nell Newman agreed that a portion of the proceeds from the sale would go to The Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation, in support of Paul Newman’s philanthropic values – a fantastic decision and one that only makes the watch’s story even sweeter.
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