Paul Newman’s ‘Big Red’ Rolex Sells for $5.5 Million

This week, Paul Newman‘s Rolex “Big Red” Daytona sold after over a month of anticipation. Although the sale price is

Paul Newman Big Red Rolex

This week, Paul Newman‘s Rolex “Big Red” Daytona sold after over a month of anticipation. Although the sale price is impressive, it’s second to that of his first Daytona sale, which netted a history-making $17M. 

The History of Newman Watches

Paul Newman

Newman was one of the biggest names in acting for decades. Newman inspired generations of kids who looked up to him. A lifelong Democrat, Newman was also a political activist who at one point landed on a list of Richard Nixon‘s greatest enemies. His movie roles were both iconic and memorable. “Newman’s major film roles include The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Harper (1966), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), and leading roles in The Sting (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974), Slap Shot (1977), The Verdict (1982), and voice role of Doc Hudson in the first installment of Disney-Pixar’s Cars as his final acting performance, with his archival voice recordings being used again in Cars 3 (2017), nine years after his death. A ten-time Oscar nominee, Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Color of Money (1986). He also received the Academy Honorary Award, and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.”

Newman was also a successful race-car driver and philanthropist. 

It’s no surprise with an impressive record both on screen and in the world of activism, that Newman’s watches, famed for their quality and uniqueness, would sell for impressive sums after the actor’s death in 2008. Newman collaborated with Rolex to create a line of immensely successful watches, and his personal collection is coveted by collectors and enthusiasts alike. 

The Robb Report explains Newman’s history with the watches; “The word iconic is much used these days, though in the case of the Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, the adjective could not be more fitting. When Newman was filming his first racing-themed film, Winning, Rolex dealers couldn’t get the early ‘exotic dial’ Daytonas off the shelves. After this 6239 began to appear on the actor’s wrist, that challenge abated. Decades later, the now-famed Rolex Daytona is one of the most coveted chronographs ever. Initially gifted to Newman by his wife, Joanne Woodward, the actor’s personal Daytona bears the inscription, ‘Drive Carefully. Me.’ Woodward often worried for her husband’s safety when he took to the track, and her words served as a reminder to him on race days. Newman wore the beloved Daytona constantly before gifting it to his daughter Nell’s then long-term partner, James Cox. Nell recalls to this day her father’s pride in the accuracy of his watch, going so far as to place the occasional gentleman’s bet with his guests about whose timepiece was more accurate.”

Big Red Sells for $5.5M

Newman’s record-breaking first big sale was in 2017. Per Forbes, “In a lingo twist that could only happen in the watch world, this is not a ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, although it is a Daytona owned by Paul Newman. The Paul Newman style is distinguishable from other Daytona models for its ‘square lollipop’ ends on the subdial markers and its Art Deco font. The Daytona sold in 2017 was the Paul Newman ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona (Ref. 6239), the one that prompted watch collectors to nickname the style.”

That watch sold for a history-making $17.7 million dollars at the Phillips Auction, with proceeds going to Newman’s charity. 

With another of Newman’s iconic pieces soon to be sold, the last month was spent in hot anticipation by Rolex collectors and fans of the famous actor. Forbes shares of the “Big Red” watch sold this week; “[it’s] a slightly different style that is distinguishable for its big red Daytona logo at 6 o’clock, and does not have the lollipop hash marks.”

The watch sold for an impressive $5.4 million, which is nonetheless well short of the 2017 sale. 

Unique Among Watches

Paul Newman Rolex Engraving

Although it can get somewhat confusing for non-watch enthusiasts, the Newman legacy will forever leave it’s mark on the Rolex family. Whether it was another style Rolex that Newman wore or one of the models designed specifically to capitalize on the actor’s enthusiasm for Rolexes, Newman’s love for the brand helped shape a generation of watch styles.

Don Vodicka, Master Jeweler and owner of luxury jewelry store The Gem Collection in Tallahassee, Florida, spoke to CELEB fondly of the “Big Red” sale; “It’s a unique Rolex, and really an incredible sale. We all love Paul Newman; he was a hero of mine as a kid.” 

And that really touches on the heart of the sale. It’s not just that the watch is a beautiful piece, which it is. It’s also that it was so beloved by Newman, and he is still beloved to this day. Sometimes actors leave legacies that far outstrip their time on the big screen, or even on the racing track. Newman’s Rolexes – both those designed with him in mind and those worn lovingly by the actor himself – will forever be coveted, respected, and beloved parts of the watch world.