Important Watches
Live Auction: 9 June 2023 • 10:00 AM EDT • New York

Important Watches 9 June 2023 • 10:00 AM EDT • New York

S otheby’s New York is pleased to present two Rolex Daytona watches from the storied collection of the legendary movie star, director, race car driver, philanthropist and family man, Paul Newman.

1958: American actor Joanne Woodward holds her Oscar statuette while sitting next to husband, American actor Paul Newman, during the Governor's Ball, an Academy Awards party held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California. Woodward won the Best Actress Oscar for director Nunnally Johnson's, 'The Three Faces of Eve.' (Photo by Darlene Hammond/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Darlene Hammond/Getty Images

In our modern world of interconnectedness, it’s easy to forget that our loved ones were not always a text message away. Today we have the luxury of conveying any sentiment to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

There is a sense of importance that does not need to be explained when we pass historic buildings that have their names etched into their stone. But not all engravings on a watch are meant to be admired by the public. Some, such as a simple phrase, carved into the caseback of a timepiece are meant to stand the test of time, resonate with the owner, and remain hidden from the eyes of the outside world.

In 1995, Paul Newman participated in the 24 Hours of Daytona Race, where his team won first place in their GT-1 class. At the age of 70 years old, this made Newman the oldest man to win the race. Newman was gifted an incredibly special reference 16520 ‘Zenith’ Daytona to commemorate when he won the Man of the Year award presented at the 24 Hours of Daytona Race. Rolex was officially granted the sponsorship of the 24 Hours of Daytona race in 1991, and has held that title ever since. The watch bears the inscription ‘Rolex at Daytona 24 Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995', a title that Newman held proudly. The serial number S'498'728 dates the watch to 1993, which is consistent with other watches presented that year to other winners of Rolex 24.

Paul Newman & The Roush Racing Team celebrate their GTS-1 Class Win (and Third Overall) at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 1995. Paul was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest man, at 70, to ever win the 24 Hours of Daytona and was awarded his Rolex Daytona Ref. 16520 Inscribed “Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995”

This watch still resides with the family, and is presented to us by Joanne Woodward, his wife of 50 years. Interestingly this is not the first time this timepiece will hit the auction block. Four years after Newman received this watch, it was offered at Antiquorum for the very first time in their “Famous Faces” auction in collaboration with Tourneau. The sale allowed celebrities to consign their personal watches to benefit a charity of their choice. While Newman was known to have mega celebrity status and a love for racing, nothing was more important to him than giving back. Known as one of the greatest Philanthropists in America, Paul Newman offered his watch for sale on February 24, 1999, where it made 39,000 USD to benefit his charity, Hole in the Wall Gang.

Remarkably, Newman was seen years later wearing this watch, which begs the question, how?

MEXICO CITY - NOVEMBER 11: Sebastien Bourdais driver of the #1 McDonald's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Panoz DP-01 celebrates with team owner Paul Newman after winning the Champ Car World Series Grand Premio Tecate on November 11, 2007 at Autodromo Hermonos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

After hearing some incredible stories from the family, it was noted that there were several occasions where Paul would auction something for charity that he really loved. No material object ever meant more to him than charity. It is said that his friends or loved ones would often buy back his most beloved items, just to return it to where it belonged, with Paul. This item is no different. It is either the generosity of a friend, or his incredibly loving wife who purchased this watch back for him to wear proudly throughout his later years in life. Not only is this a testament to him as a person, but also those who he chose to surround himself with.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16520 Awarded to Paul Newman in 1995 and Rolex Daytona Ref. 116519 in White Gold. The final Daytona gifted to Paul by Joanne in 2006.

For Joanne Woodward, the phrase “Drive Very Slowly Joanne” was meant to hug Paul Newman’s wrist, and trigger a reminder to keep his hands at 10 & 2 while navigating life in the fast lane - both figuratively and literally. Woodward is known for her loving inscriptions and her fear of Newman’s need for speed every time he would step onto the racetrack. The present fresh-to-the-auction-market reference 116519 is one of three watches, specifically Daytonas, given to Paul from Joanne to have an inscription directly related to driving. It also comes as no surprise that these inscriptions were on the caseback of a chronograph to time his laps at the racetrack. This white gold variant is confirmed to be the one and only precious metal Daytona ever owned by Newman. The Z-serial indicates it was produced in 2006, which also tells us that he only had a few short years to enjoy it before his passing. The watch was worn during his iconic Last Racing Laps at Lime Rock Park on August 13, 2008, and was the last Daytona ever given to him from his wife, Joanne.

Paul Newman in his 900 horsepower GT-1 Corvette at Lime Rock Park photographed after taking Barbera Walters around the track at speed for an interview on September 28, 2007. Wearing his Rolex Daytona 116519 gifted to him by Joanne with the inscription ‘Drive Very Slowly Joanne’. It would be this same watch that Newman would wear one year later as he took his final laps around his home racetrack.
Paul Newman stands in the pit lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as he watches his Newman-Haas Racing Team prepare for the Indy 500 on May 11, 2008. Paul is seen wearing his wearing his Rolex Daytona 116519 gifted to him by Joanne with the inscription ‘Drive Very Slowly Joanne’. Darron Cummings

There is a bit of noir-Hollywood magic that stirs in our minds when we picture a movie star-turned race car driver, speeding around a track with a love letter hidden from plain sight tucked behind his wrist watch.

When these stories come out to the public, it’s often long after the characters have hung up their racing gloves. All that remains are the medium that they were carved into, and the feelings that they evoke in our modern lives.

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