The vintage market bubble is certain to burst one day, but the hype has been palpable in the lead up to tonight’s Phillips auction in New York as we all feel a new record coming.
The star of the show at the auction (Winning Icons – Legendary watches of the 20th Century) was obviously always going to be the Paul Newman Daytona 6239. This was after all Paul Newman’s very own reference 6239 with amazing provenance and good condition. All in perfect place; the red seconds, the cream or “tropical” dial and the white-tipped chronograph hand pointing towards the bezel tachymeter.
Paul Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward bought the watch for him in 1968 as he was developing his infamous childlike obsession with racecar driving. She had it inscribed on the back with a simple note of precaution – “Drive Carefully Me”. He seemingly took this advice, and having been photographed numerous times wearing the piece it shows almost no signs of wear of the bezel markings.
The condition alone, this was actually Paul Newman’s Paul Newman. It’s never been up for sale before and probably never will be again. It doesn’t get much rarer.
The opening estimates were $70,000 USD. There was an opening bid of $1m USD which was immediately stumped, to the shock of everyone watching in the room and I’m sure online too, of a staggering $10m USD over the phone. This set the ball rolling and during a relatively stunted and slow auction proceeding, the final bidding arrived at $15. 5m USD and was met with a well deserved, loud, round of applause.
This Rolex sale breaks the auction world records for most expensive Daytona ever sold, most expensive Rolex ever sold and even most expensive wristwatch ever sold as it beats the Patek Philippe 1518 sold at Phillips last year for $11m USD.