A Rolex Daytona owned by Paul Newman sold today for $5,475,000 at “Racing Pulse,” a New York auction by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo. It was a gift from his wife, Joanne Woodward, and bears the inscription “Drive slowly, Joanne” on the caseback. Although it didn’t come close to Newman’s Daytona sold in 2017 for $17.8 million, it was still a notable hammer price, especially given the current climate.
The sale also included a Heuer Monaco ref. 1133, owned by Steve McQueen, which sold for $2,208,000—more than 10 times its estimate, setting a world record for any Heuer. McQueen, who wore it in the famed ’70s flick Le Mans, gifted it to his trusted mechanic, Haig Alltounian, after filming ended. It’s inscribed to him on the caseback along with the message “Thank you for keeping me alive all these months.” Paul Boutros, Phillips senior vice-president and head of the New York watch department, says he first heard about it in 2018, and met several times with Alltounian in the hope of bringing it to auction. “People love watches with stories to tell,” he says. “They want to own watches worn by their heroes.”
There were plenty of other hero trophies in the provenance-heavy auction. Aside from the Newman and McQueen relics, it included pieces owned by Sylvester Stallone, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, HRH Prince Albert of Monaco, Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, Bono, HRH Prince Albert of Monaco and Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque du Soleil.
Not one to be shown up, Stallone sold five of his tough-guy timepieces, which went for a combined $3,117,400 (more than three times the estimate). Most famous was the Panerai Luminor he wore in the film Daylight. The model is widely credited with launching the modern Panerai brand in the 1990s and sold for $214,200. The other four were all by Richard Mille, including the RM 032 Stallone wore in the film The Expendables III ($816,500); an RM 52-01 with a tourbillon bridge shaped like a skull, ($998,000); number 11 of the 50-piece edition RM 59-01 Yohan Blake “Beast” tourbillon, named for the Olympic sprinter ($816,500); and the ultra-complicated RM 25-01 Adventure Tourbillon Chronograph designed to answer the question, “What watch would Rambo wear?” ($937,500).
But in keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, eleven watches, grouped under the banner “Time Counts,” raised $2,107,350 for the One Drop Foundation, a charity that provides clean water in disadvantaged communities. A Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500LN owned by O’Leary, known as “Mr. Wonderful” of Shark Tank fame, sold for $56,700, while a Jaeger-LeCoultre owned by Bono, which he had gifted to his father and then inherited, hammered in at $60,480. Several Audemars Piguets were also on offer including one from Prince Albert of Monaco ($163,800) and four Grand Complication models, all of the same reference but in different case metals, owned by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. The four spectacular skeletonized pieces sold for a combined total of $1,745,100, including a pink gold version that was one of only four made and a rare stainless steel version that was one of only five made. Both sold for $504,000.
A sentimental favorite lot in the sale was a pair of white-gold pocket watches, both made by American companies, one owned by John Lennon and the other by Andy Warhol, who, you might be surprised to learn, had an impressive timepiece collection. Both sold for $50,400. The Lennon piece, made by Howard, was originally sold at an estate auction by his wife, Yoko Ono, in 1984, and it’s the only timepiece ever sold publicly with a direct link to John Lennon. Warhol’s Elgin was originally sold at an estate auction of the artist’s belongings in 1988. “Lennon and Warhol were good friends throughout the ’70s, and the consignor spent years tracking these pieces down, as a kind of token of their friendship,” says Boutros. “He was inspired by a photo of the pair taken by Bob Gruen, a photographer known for his documentation of rock ‘n’ roll history.” The photo, which was part of the package for the buyer, shows the two together at a meeting on April 13, 1972 at the Record Plant, a recording studio in New York City. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the charity Give Peace a Chance, an organization that raises awareness about human rights.
Boutros, always on the lookout for the next showpiece, says the hunt continues for another important Lennon acquisition—a Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 perpetual calendar chronograph rumored to have been given to him on his 40th birthday by his wife Yoko Ono just months before his death. “That would be my Grail find,” he says.
The spotlight on provenance overshadowed the other lots in the sale, but a few stand out as noteworthy: A Rolex ref. 5517 military issued Submariner made in 1977 sold for $567,000; a Patek Philippe ref. 3448 perpetual calendar Padellone made in 1967 in unusually good condition (the favorite lot of Paul Boutros) sold for $529,200; and an F.P. Journe ref. R Chronomètre a Rèsonance “Souscription” number 4 of 20 sold for $403,200. Finally, in what might be considered the bargain of the sale, a Patek Philippe ref. 1518 sold for $504,000. It’s a rare example of Patek’s first perpetual calendar chronograph, of which only 218 were made. According to Phillips, 90 percent of 1518s are either damaged or have been obviously touched up over time. The other 10 percent, including this one, are in near pristine, original condition.
The Phillips “Racing Pulse” sale grossed a total of $27.6 million.