2018 was another banner year for the Rolex Paul Newman Daytona market. Pop culture awareness of the watch reached a fever pitch, with Pusha-T naming his critically-acclaimed album after his favorite watch, the Daytona, and Ellen DeGeneres wearing a stunning Ref. 6241 Paul Newman on her Netflix special “Relatable.” This all comes a year after Paul Newman’s Paul Newman sold for a record-breaking $17.8 million in October 2017. It’s the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction, and it’s a record that likely won’t be broken any time soon. Paul Newman’s Paul Newman is a Ref. 6239 panda dial with pump pushers. The movie star wore it for years and it became so synonymous with him that collectors started referring to the exotic dial of the watch — the slightly stepped-down outer track, red markers, and art deco numerals — as the “Paul Newman.” Newman eventually gifted the watch to James Cox in 1984, a young man who dated Newman’s daughter. Cox said he wore it proudly for years and then, as prices for vintage watches began skyrocketing, put it away in a safe box. Smart move, James.
With so much action over the past year plus, we thought it time to summarize what happened with Paul Newman Daytonas in the fall of 2018, and what’s next for the vintage watch that seems to have no ceiling to its value.
Paul Newman Auctions in Fall 2018
The biggest auctions of the fall 2018 season, from both Sotheby’s and Phillips, featured a number of superlative Paul Newman examples. First, let’s take a look at the history of the Rolex Paul Newman Daytona’s auction prices. Bob’s Watches has a great infographic detailing auction sales from 2007-2017. We updated this graphic to include sales from 2018 (focusing on the November auctions at Sotheby’s and Phillips which featured a number of Paul Newmans).
One thing immediately sticks out: despite the hype about sky-high prices and record-breaking auctions, prices have been pretty consistent over the last five years. It’s difficult to compare apples to apples as each watch on the auction block has its own character, scuffs and patina, but with 77 data points in the graph above, a trend line starts to appear, and it’s barely at an incline. The outliers — for example, the Ref. 6264 that sold for 871,500 in 2017 — may be attributed more to superb examples of the reference (and slightly irrational bidders with way too much money) than to any clear upward trend.
Let’s take a look at some of the Rolex Paul Newman Daytonas that sold at auction in the fall of 2018.
Paul Newman Ref. 6239
Sale of CHF 540,500 at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction, November 2018, at the high end of the CHF 300,000-600,000 estimate. This one had a rare “Tiffany & Co.” stamped below the “Rolex cosmograph” at 12 o’clock, making it that much more desired by collectors (by the way, a Rolex Ref. 6236 “Jean Claude Killy” went for an astonishing CHF 702,000 in this same auction. It’s a triple calendar with a three-register chronograph, essentially a more complicated Ref. 6238 pre-Daytona chronograph).
Sale of $218,750 at Phillips New York Auction, December 2018.
Sale of CHF 187,500 at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction, November 2018. This watch had a panda dial and belonged to the Hon. Daphne Guinness, who donated the proceeds to charity.
Sale of $187,500 at Phillips New York Auction, December 2018. This reverse-panda example was awarded to LeeRoy Yarbrough, winner of the 1969 Daytona 500.
Sale of CHF 150,000 at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction, November 2018.
Paul Newman Ref. 6241
Paul Newman Ref. 6263
Sale of CHF 444,500 at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction, November 2018. This was within the estimated range of CHF 350,000-550,000.
Paul Newman Ref. 6264
Sale of HKD 5.7 million of a yellow gold “lemon dial” Paul Newman at Sotheby’s Important Watches Hong Kong in April 2018.
Sale of $281,250 at Phillips New York Auction, December 2018. The watch sports a panda dial and the pump pushers native to the Ref. 6264 and 6262.
Sale of CHF 275,000 at Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction, November 2018. This watch sold at the high end of its CHF 200,000-300,000 estimate.
Paul Newman Ref. 6265
Sale of CHF 444,500 at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction, November 2018, within the CHF 300,000-500,000 estimate.
With the economy slowing across the world and economy uncertainty settling in, it remains to be seen whether prices will fly as high in 2019 as they did throughout 2017-2018. But, the Rolex Paul Newman Daytona market is driven by the ultra wealthy who are often immune from financial crises affecting the rest of the plebeians.