The original Paul Newman Daytona has long been one of the world’s most sought-after watches – a holy grail of horology, as rare and remarkable as the man who gave it its name. After years off the grid, Newman’s personal timepiece has resurfaced and will go on the block in New York on October 26. It is expected to exceed a US$1 million bid.
For as long as man has admired vintage watches, collectors have speculated over the location of Newman’s legendary Rolex Daytona Cosmograph. The timepiece was a gift from the actor’s wife, Joanne Woodward, purchased for US$300 in the late 1960s. The back is engraved with the phrase “Drive Carefully Me”, a warning and well wish for Newman as he pursued his racing career.
The watch remained with Newman until 1984, when he gave it to his daughter Nell Newman’s close friend and former boyfriend, James Cox. According to Cox, Newman once asked him for the time, to which he replied, “I don’t know—I don’t have a watch.” Newman then pulled the ultimate cool rich guy move: he handed Cox his Daytona and said, “Here, here’s a watch. If you wind it, it tells pretty good time.”
Cox claims he didn’t know how valuable the gift was until he attended a trade show and a man who spoke little English tapped him on the shoulder, saying ‘Paul Newman watch, Paul Newman watch.’
“I thought, What the heck? How does this guy know I’ve got Paul Newman’s watch?” Cox told WSJ Magazine in the June/July 2017 issue. “He obviously was a watch enthusiast and saw that I had the Daytona model. That kind of clued me in, so I did a little research.”
Now fully aware of the watch’s legendary status, Cox told WSJ Magazine he decided to sell it because “If Paul were alive, and I went to him and said, ‘Hey, you know that watch you gave me years ago? Turns out it’s super iconic and valuable,’ I think his response would be, ‘Well, what are you going to do with it, kid?’'”
His loss is the rest of the watch-loving world’s gain. We’ll have to wait until October to find out how much this piece of horological history will fetch, but we do know one thing: in keeping with Newman’s legacy of philanthropy, a significant portion of the proceeds will go toward the Nell Newman Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2010 by Nell following her father’s death from lung cancer in 2008.