Paul Newman’s Rolex expected to bring Millions for Charity
The iconic Rolex watch that actor Paul Newman made famous is going to be auctioned off on Oct 26. With a starting bid of $1M, the timepiece is expected to break auction records for a watch.
The watch was a gift from Newman's wife, the actor Joanne Woodward. When Newman started racing cars after starring in the 1969 film "Winning," his wife was not too happy about it. But in a show of support, she gave Newman the watch, which was designed specifically for racing. On the back, the phrase "DRIVE CAREFULLY ME" was inscribed.
"A woman of exceptional taste, she chose a rare and exclusive version of the Cosmograph Daytona – a reference 6239 fitted with what the brand called an 'exotic' dial," according to a press release from Phillips, the auction house that will be handling the sale.
In the 1980s, watch collecting became big and Rolexes with the "exotic dial" became known as the "Paul Newman Daytona," named after the watch Newman was seen wearing all the time.
"In the world of collectible watches there is probably no more model that is as sought after; there is no one more coveted," Paul Boutros, the head of Phillips said. "[Newman] was seen wearing the watch in pictures all around the world...Once they assigned the name, the prices rose."
After Newman's death in 2008, the watch world and Newman fans began to wonder where the original Paul Newman Daytona was.
Newman had given the watch to his daughter's boyfriend.
James Cox spent a large part of the summer of 1984 building a tree house with Newman at Newman's Westport, Conn. home. At the time, Cox had been dating Newman's daughter Nell for about a year; they met in college.
"I remember that summer very well," said Cox. "There I am, 18 or 19 years old, living in Connecticut at my girlfriend's house – it's Paul Newman but he's also my girlfriend's dad."
One day that summer, Newman saw that Cox did not have a watch. Newman gave him his Rolex. Cox knew the watch had been a gift to Newman from his wife.
"At the time I knew this watch was symbolic of an intimate moment for them, and for him to give it to me was like 'wow you're giving me a family heirloom,'" Cox said.
What he didn't realize until years later was how famous that watch would become.
Cox and Nell Newman dated for 10 years and remained close friends after they broke up. Cox said he kept the watch under wraps for a while out of respect to the family.
About a year ago, Cox and Nell Newman met up to discuss its "iconic value," Cox said.
"If your dad was alive and I went to him, the first thing he would say would be 'this watch should be used for something good,'" Cox said he told Nell Newman in that meeting.
Interest in the watch is high, with some speculating it could sell well into the millions. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Nell Newman Foundation, which supports her father's philanthropic values as well as sustainable agriculture. Another portion of the sale proceeds will go to benefit Newman's Own Foundation.
"Paul Newman was just a super cool guy who rolled through the planet. [He showed us] we can make choices in our life to be generous and philanthropic," said Cox.
"In Westport I think a lot of people have that sense of Paul in their community...[But] most of the young people I meet don't even know who Paul Newman is, and I feel like there's reason to shake the trees and bring him back into attention."
Phillip's got a hold of the watch thanks to Aurel Bacs, head of the Phillip's watch collection. When Bacs heard that the watch had been located, he flew from Switzerland to California where Cox now lives to get the coveted watch.
"To find the Paul Newman Daytona is like a holy grail piece," said Boutros.
"It's bittersweet for me because it's a super personal gift that I would love to keep, but seems irresponsible to squirrel it away in a sock drawer," said Cox.
Boutros said he expects the watch sale at the auction to break a record and the crowd to be different from a typical watch auction.
"Because Paul Newman is such a cultural icon, famous not only in Hollywood, but in race car driving and philanthropy, we think people will come from watch collecting, art collecting, car collecting–it's going to be fascinating to see who ends up bidding," he said.
"You just don't know if some billionaire is going to say 'I gotta have it,'" said Cox. "We kind of hope so because it'll make history; and the more we make, the more we give to charity."