Two of Paul Newman’s Prized Rolex Daytonas Will Be Auctioned This Summer

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Two wristwatches with ties to Hollywood are headed to auction this summer.

Back in February, Sotheby’s announced a series of sales consisting of more than 300 individual items amassed by legendary actors Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Now the auction house has shared that a pair of Newman’s historic Rolexes will go under the gavel this summer. The Daytonas in question, which were owned and worn by the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof star, will lead the Sotheby’s Important Watches auction in New York on June 9 and are expected to sell for between $500,000 and $1 million, respectively.

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The one-off “Zenith” Daytona (ref. 16520) and the classic Daytona (ref. 116519) were acquired over the course of Woodward and Newman’s 50-year-long marriage, but each comes with its own special backstory. Newman was gifted the “Zenith” in 1995 after winning in the GTS-1 class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. The stainless-steel chronograph, circa 1993, is inscribed with text that reads “Rolex at Daytona 24 Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995” to mark the very occasion.

Paul Newman after winning the Champ Car World Series Grand Premio Tecate on November 11, 2007 at Autodromo Hermonos Rodriguez in Mexico City
Newman sporting the Zenith after winning the 2007 Champ Car World Series Grand Premio Tecate.

The veteran racer went on to put the watch up for auction in Antiquorum’s 1995 “Famous Faces” sale. It sold for $39,000 to benefit Newman’s charity, The Hole in the Wall Gang, which provides medically supervised summer camps and other free programs to kids with illnesses. Sotheby’s believes one of Newman’s loved ones bought the watch back for him, though, as he was seen years later wearing it at events. Newman’s 1995 win at 24 Hours of Daytona at age 70 made him the oldest to win the race. The achievement still stands in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Reference 116519, meanwhile, holds even great sentimental value. The white-gold chronograph, circa 2006, was a gift to Newman from his wife Joanne Woodward. The piece is one of three known Daytonas gifted to the actor but is reportedly the last Daytona he received. It is distinguished by a caseback engraving that reads: “Drive Very Slowly Joanna.” Legend has it, the phrase was a reminder from his betrothed to keep his hands a 10 and 2. Fans will recall Newman sporting the piece at high-profile events from the Indy 500 to his iconic Barbara Walters interview in 2007.

The veteran racer pictured at Lime Rock Park wearing the Rolex Daytona, ref. 116519, gifted to him by his wife
The veteran racer pictured at Lime Rock Park wearing ref. 116519.

“Paul Newman is a name in the world of horology that has withstood the test of time,” Leigh Safar, head of sale, Important Watches & Specialist, Americas, said in a statement. “Newman cemented his legacy with watch collectors through his influence on Rolex’s most sought-after model, the Daytona.”

From April 1 through 7, both Daytonas will be on display at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. This actually coincides with the 50th-anniversary celebration of the auction house’s presence in Asia. This year also marks six decades years since the introduction of the Daytona.

“As Rolex celebrates 60 years of the Daytona this year, we are proud to share in that milestone and present two models worn and owned by the Hollywood legend, which narrates the everlasting love he shared with his wife, Joanne, and his deep passion for racing,” Safar adds.

After Hong Kong, the watches will then journey to Los Angeles, Geneva, and beyond. You can place your bid on the pieces at the Important Watches auction in NY on June 9.

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