There are a lot of famous watches out there, and even a lot of famous Rolex watches out there. None seem to attract attention, however, quite like the Rolex with the name “Paul Newman” attached to it.
Paul Newman was a famous actor, and he also had some success as a race car driver. In watch collecting circles, however, he’s best known for the watch that has come to bear his name – the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman.
This was never an official marketing name; the official name for the watch is the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. Named for the Florida speedway, the watch was introduced in 1963 to relatively little fanfare and actually sold quite poorly in its day.
A styling change in 1967 made the watch a bit more popular, though the model was sold with perhaps 20 different dials.
As it happens, Paul Newman’s wife, actress Joanne Woodward, gave him a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in 1972 when he started racing automobiles. It also happens that Paul Newman liked this watch very much, and reportedly wore it every day between 1972 and his death in 2008.
It also happens that the dial on the watch that Newman personally owned was one of the more unusual and poor selling variations on the model. Despite this, the watch with that particular dial became the one that was associated with the actor’s name.
The differences between the dial on a “Paul Newman” Cosmograph and one that isn’t are relatively minor, and most people giving the watch a casual look would scarcely noticing anything unusual about it.
Collectors know, however, and models that match the description of the one that Newman personally owned sell for substantially more than similar, but not-quite-the-same models. That has led to a proliferation of fake “Paul Newman” dials, where people put reproduction dials on otherwise legitimate Rolex watches.
All of this is coming to a head in a few months, as the Philips auction house has announced that they have Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Cosmograph Daytona and that they will auction it off for public sale this fall.
Watches with celebrity ownership and good provenance will often sell for a lot of money, but in this case, the actor, the watch, and the combination of the two are iconic. As a result, the current estimate on the sale of the watch is that it will sell for $1 million minimum, though some are speculating that the watch may sell for as much as $5 million before the auction is over.
The funds from the sale will reportedly be donated to a charitable foundation named after Newman’s daughter, Nell.
Not a bad return for a watch that sold for roughly $200 when new.