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Paul Newman’s Rare Daytona Rolex Sells for a World Record $17.8 Million

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was synonymous with the revered actor's all-American appeal

More than by just his incredibly blue eyes, Paul Newman was often remembered for a particularly remarkable wristwatch that he wore everyday for 15 years. The rare Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, which was only on sale between 1963 and 1970, became synonymous with Newman’s classic Ivy League, all-American style, so much so that it eventually became known as the ‘Paul Newman Daytona’.

The watch was a gift from his second wife, the Oscar-winning actress Joanne Woodward, in 1968. The Rolex was bought from Tiffany’s in New York and engraved with the inscription ‘DRIVE CAREFULLY ME’, in reference to Newman’s racing career which began in the 1960s. The Cosmograph Daytona is highly regarded amongst collectors and its association with Newman, which only strengthened its appeal, propelled the wristwatch to further cult status.

The auction house, Phillips, were entrusted with its sale, with experts predicting that the watch would fetch $1 million. The Daytona ended up selling for $17,752,500 to an anonymous bidder after an intense 12-minute bidding war – a world record for a watch at auction. A portion of the proceeds went to the Nell Newman Foundation and the Newman’s Own Foundation.

“More than just being an integral part of American and cinematic history and culture, the watch represented the strong bond that Newman and Woodward shared until the actor’s death in 2008.”

After many years in obscurity, the watch came to auction via James Cox, who dated Newman’s daughter, Nell, for a number of years. He received the watch from Newman himself in 1984 whilst helping him build a treehouse. Cox didn’t own a watch at the time and was given the famed Daytona by Newman because his wife had just given him another new watch recently. “At that time, I knew Rolex was an amazing brand,” Cox told the Wall Street Journal, “But I had no idea how significant the watch was.”

After James Cox and Nell Newman split up they remained friends and jointly put the Daytona up for auction. More than just being an integral part of American and cinematic history and culture, the watch represented the strong bond that Newman and Woodward shared until the actor’s death in 2008. The watch’s staggering monetary value may stem mostly from its connections to one of the world’s most beloved and respected actors, but it takes on a new, fascinating meaning when the watch’s part in one of Hollywood’s most enduring relationships is revealed.

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