(Bloomberg) -- Two Rolex Daytonas that once belonged to Paul Newman sold separately for about $1.1 million each in an auction held on Friday, June 9, at Sotheby’s in New York.
Newman’s former timepieces went to bidders who engaged on the phone with Leigh Safar, the vice president and specialist in Sotheby’s watches department, and the auction house confirmed the sales. It is unclear whether the same bidder got both of Newman’s Daytonas.
A Rolex “Zenith” Daytona and a white gold Daytona worn and owned by the legendary Hollywood actor were the highlights of a special 134-lot sale, “Important Watches.” Both were estimated to sell for up to $1 million, but the final bid prices reached $900,000 for the “Zenith” Daytona and $850,000 for the white gold Daytona; sales fees brought the final prices to $1.143 million and $1.08 million, respectively.
The Rolex “Zenith” Daytona was presented to Newman after he won the GTS-1 class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona Race. The remarkable achievement made Newman, at 70, the oldest driver to win the race, a record that still stands today in the Guinness World Records. In 1999, Newman, famed for his philanthropic work, decided to auction the watch—which bore the inscription “Rolex at Daytona 24 Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995”—during Antiquorum’s “Famous Faces” sale. At the time, it fetched a record sale of $39,000 to benefit Newman’s charity.
Newman, however, was spotted wearing it again in the following years, sparking speculation that a close family member or friend had repurchased it for him. The timepiece held special significance and sentimental value for Newman, being intertwined with his racing career, as well as appealing to car enthusiasts.
Featuring a black dial, the white gold automatic chronograph wristwatch was the only precious metal Daytona that Newman ever owned. It is one of only three known Daytona watches gifted to Paul from his wife, actress Joanne Woodward. An engraving on the back reads: “Drive Very Slowly, Joanne.” The couple starred together in the 1969 movie Winning, which sparked Newman’s successful motorsport career.
Newman wore this watch during his final laps at Lime Rock Park in Salisbury, Connecticut, in August 2008, a month before he passed away at 83. Friday’s auction marked the first time the watch was offered on the market.
A stainless-steel Daytona Rolex owned by Newman was sold at auction for $17.8 million at Phillips in October 2017. The wristwatch has a white dial, three black subdials, a red outer track and Woodward’s engraving on the back: ‘DRIVE CAREFULLY ME.’
The two Rolex sales just concluded are a part of the ‘The World of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman,’ an auction that has been running since May 31 and will close on June 13. The series consists of more than 300 individual items, including a one-off 1998 Volvo V90 “Volvette” and the racing suit Newman wore during his last professional race in 2007 and in his final lap in 2008.
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