Paul Newman Rolex Sells at Auction for Record $17.8 Million

In August, The New York Times described the excitement surrounding the sale of the Rolex, which had for years been shrouded in mystery and was at one point considered lost.

In the Times article, watch dealers and consultants who had been anticipating the sale estimated that the watch would go for at least $3.5 million — but noted that it could sell for $10 million or more if the right set of bidders got into a war.

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Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona sold for what officials said was a world record for a wristwatch at auction. Credit Ron Galella Collection

After about 12 minutes of what officials called “spirited bidding” on Thursday night, the timepiece sold to an anonymous bidder who had been bidding on the phone, officials said.

“We are proud of the enthusiastic response we have seen from collectors internationally, as the watch toured across the globe and then as it went under the gavel,” Mr. Boutros said.

Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” — the only “exotic”-dialed Daytona that Mr. Newman owned — was the centerpiece of a New York auction that brought in almost $29 million in total sales, according to a statement released Thursday night by the auctioneer.

Officials say the watch is the one that inspires the Paul Newman nickname for the most prestigious versions of Rolex’s Daytona.

Mr. Newman, the Oscar-winning actor and suave sex symbol who died in 2008, got his now coveted watch from Joanne Woodward, his wife of 50 years. But he eventually gave it to James Cox, his daughter Nell’s college boyfriend.

The watch’s aura built over time, especially as some began to declare it missing. And for years, Mr. Cox told The Times that he tried to “keep quiet about it.”

Finally, in June, Mr. Cox decided to auction off the watch and give what he said would be “a big portion” of the proceeds to the Nell Newman Foundation, which focuses on environmental issues.

Mr. Boutros said the company had been “delighted” to work with Mr. Cox and Ms. Newman on the “memorable sale” and confirmed that “a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.”

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