An iconic Rolex motorsports wristwatch made famous by appearing on the wrist of Paul Newman in the 1969 auto-racing film “Winning” and in countless subsequent photographs of the Hollywood star and race car driver has sold at a Phillips auction in New York for a whopping $17,752,500. It sold after 12 minutes of bidding to a buyer on the phone, setting a new record for the highest price ever fetched for a wristwatch.
The 37-millimeter, stainless steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, reference No. 6239, features a crocodile “Bund-style” strap with an off-white dial and tachymeter bezel. It dates from 1968 and was fitted with an “exotic” dial design and inscribed with the phrase “Drive Carefully Me.” The watch was a gift from Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, as his passion for motorsports was growing, and the inscription may stem from Newman’s injury in a motorcycle accident in 1965. The auction sale also included the original copy of a provenance attestation letter signed by (Elinor) Nell Newman, the actor’s daughter, and a framed photograph of a treehouse on Newman and Woodward’s “Nook House” property in Westport, Conn., which factors into the story of how the timepiece arrived at auction.
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