Paul Newman may have passed away in 2008, but his name is still one of great value — and not just in the world of film.
The actor’s personal Paul Newman Rolex Daytona watch went up for auction on Thursday and fetched a surprising price.
Like Newman, the watch is straightforward but attention-grabbing. Its three black dials are surrounded by a cream-colored face and then encircled by a thin steel rim. Across the bottom reads the word “daytona,” while atop the whole thing sits the signature Rolex crown symbol.
Newman wore the watch for years. He was pictured with it everywhere from movie sets to the race track, a place the actor was quite fond of over the years as a skilled driver.
The model was made famous mostly by Newman’s sporting it — and it was eventually given the nickname the “Paul Newman Daytona.”
The specific watch, which sold at the Phillips Auction House in New York on Thursday, was expected to be sold for about a million dollars.
If that sounds like a lot, consider that the watch was not just famous for sitting on Newman’s wrist for years — but also for the story behind it, which led to one of Newman’s signature quotes.
Newman was given the Rolex by his wife, Joanne Woodward, whom he married in 1958 and remained married to until his death in 2008.
With a new watch from his wife, Newman no longer used the Daytona. One day in 1984, he found himself building a treehouse with director James Cox, a man who had been dating Newman’s daughter, Nell, for a number of years.
Newman asked Cox what time it was so he could set his watch, and Cox replied that he didn’t have a watch.
As Cox — the one responsible for taking the piece to auction — tells it, the “Cool Hand Luke” star was surprised by Cox’s missing attire.
“Paul asked me what time it was, to set his watch. I replied, ‘I don’t know — I don’t have a watch.’ He was clearly surprised. So he said, ‘Here, here’s a watch. If you wind it, it tells pretty good time,'” Cox told The Wall Street Journal. “At that time, I knew Rolex was an amazing brand, but I had no idea how significant the watch was.”
Take that story and mix it with the long-lasting bond between Newman and Woodward — and it was a watch many felt would be worth one million dollars to buyers out there. Turns out it was worth far more than that.
The Rolex sold for $17.8 million, according to The Phillips House. A 12-minute bidding war was given heat when a buyer bet $10 million over the phone, raising the asking price from one million.
It is now the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.
A portion of the proceeds will go to the Nell Newman Foundation, as well as to the Newman’s Own Foundation.
The owner now has a watch that partly represents the famous love shared between two famous people — who never let the decades or the pressures and challenges of Hollywood take away from their fondness for another. Plus, we hear it tells pretty good time.