SINGAPORE – Auction house Phillips (in association with Bacs & Russo) has nabbed two big ones for its annual flagship New York watch auction, Racing Pulse, which takes place on Dec 12.
Both timepieces graced the wrists of two late Hollywood legends: one is Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 and, the other, a Heuer Monaco worn by Steve McQueen in the classic 1971 racing film Le Mans.
Consigned by his daughter Clea Newman Soderlund, the Daytona Ref. 6263 was given to Newman in 1983 by his wife Joanne Woodward to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
Featuring a bold black dial with white sub dials, as well as a Big Red Daytona logo at six o’clock, the watch is inscribed with the words, “Drive slowly Joanne”, on the caseback.
The star of movies like The Sting (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974), Newman was a big racing fan and his passion for the sport often got his wife worried, hence the inscription. He died in 2008.
In a signed letter accompanying the watch, Ms Soderlund, who was given the timepiece by her father, wrote: “He wore the watch nearly every day until he gave it to me. He was photographed wearing it on numerous occasions as was I.
“It has been a treasure of mine for almost 13 years. To me, this watch shows my mother’s tolerance of his continued passion for racing and reflects the enduring love between them which remained for another 25 years until his passing.”
Mr Paul Boutros, Phillips’ Head of Watches, Americas, said: “While many know Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman as actors and philanthropists, their names signal something more to watch collectors – an extraordinary impact on the field of watch collecting.
“Throughout his lifetime, Paul Newman was photographed wearing a handful of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watches. Without any doubt, it is this association with Paul Newman that has led to the Rolex Daytona being universally regarded as possibly the world’s most sought after wristwatch.
“Of these, the watch he owned and wore the longest is the present Big Red Daytona Ref. 6263. It is among the most exclusive handful of watches with impeccable Newman-family provenance.”
Pundits are curious to see how much the watch will fetch, although the auction house coyly estimates it to be worth more than “US$1 million” (S$1.34 million).
After all, another Cosmograph Daytona – also once owned by Newman – sold in 2017 for a staggering US$17.8 million, setting the record for the most expensive watch ever sold at an auction.
To this day, it remains the priciest Rolex ever auctioned.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Ref. 6263 will go to charitable outfits, including SeriousFun Children’s Network and Safe Water Network, which were founded by Newman himself.
The Heuer Monaco, meanwhile, also has a fascinating history. It is one of six Monaco timepieces worn by McQueen – who, like Newman, was also a racing enthusiast – in the film Le Mans.
Four of the watches were kept by the prop master and the remaining two by the actor.
The watch offered next month is one of them, and given by McQueen – who died in 1980 – to Mr Haig Alltounian, chief mechanic on the film. Like Newman’s Daytona, it also has an inscription at the back: “To Haig/Le Mans 1970.”
Mr Boutros considers the timepiece “one of the most important Heuer wristwatches of all time”.
“Worn on McQueen’s wrist while driving the film’s Porsche 917 at speeds above 320kmh, its incredible provenance, wonderful state of preservation and adrenaline- fuelled history make it an ultimate trophy watch for the connoisseur.”
Introduced in 1969, the Monaco is one of the world’s first self-winding chronograph wristwatches.
McQueen gave Mr Alltounian the watch to show his appreciation for the mechanic’s role in keeping him and others on the set of Le Mans safe.
Directed by Lee H. Katzin, the cult classic is based on and featured actual footage from the 24 Hours Of Le Mans, an auto endurance race held annually since 1923.