$18 Million for One Watch?

paul newman rolexI know that both coins and watches can sell for a lot of money.  Lots more money than most of have to spend.  You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or on rare occasions, millions, on either but sometimes, rare items sell for so much money that you can’t help but be astonished at the selling price.

That’s the case with the sale of a particularly special Rolex watch earlier this week.  Among Rolex fans, there’s a particularly interesting watch known as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Daytona.  Well, it’s interesting to them now, but for about a decade after the introduction of the watch in 1962, no one particularly cared about it.

In fact, the watch was still unremarkable and quite affordable in 1970 or so when actress Joanne Woodward purchased one for her husband, actor and race car driver Paul Newman.  Woodward reportedly paid about $230 for it in 1970 dollars.  That’s about $1500 in 2017 dollars, and most people would be delighted to buy any Rolex today for that sum of money.

Newman wore the watch every day for more than a decade and there are many photographs of him wearing it.  It turns out that the particular color of dial and type of indices on the face were a bit unusual, as that model was available in a number of configurations.  Over time, a Rolex configured in that particular way became known as the “Paul Newman Daytona.”

Over the years, the Paul Newman Daytona has become a sought-after watch, and prices for that model have moved into the six figure range.  The demand has also inspired some less-than-reputable people to start modifying existing Rolex watches by replacing the dial so that the watch will resemble the sought-after Paul Newman version.

All of this became temporarily irrelevant this week when the actual Paul Newman Daytona Rolex that belonged to Paul Newman himself came up for auction.  Apparently, in 1984, Paul Newman gave the watch to a young man who was then dating Newman’s daughter Nell.  The man said that he did not own a watch, and Newman took the Rolex off of his wrist and gave it to him, telling him that it would keep good time if he were to remember to wind it.

The man wore the watch for a few years and then decided to stop wearing it when he became aware of the potential value of the timepiece.  This year, he decided to sell the watch, and agreed to give a portion of the proceeds to the Nell Newman Foundation, a charitable group run by his former girlfriend.

The watch was sold by the Phillips auction house, and anticipation was high.  This is partly due to the fact that the particular model of watch is highly regarded in watch circles but it also represented a fascinating piece of Hollywood memorabilia.  As both groups tend to include well-heeled collectors, no one was quite sure how much the final selling price might be, though speculation suggested that it might turn out to be the most expensive wristwatch ever sold.

That was accurate, and an anonymous buyer paid $17.8 million for the watch, including the buyer’s premium, making it the most expensive wristwatch ever, though a rare, one-of-a-kind pocket watch by Patek Philippe once sold for $24 million.

No word on whether the buyer will wear it on a regular basis.