Mark your calendars for 12 December, as Phillips, in association with Bacs & Russo, presents one of the most important watch auctions of the year. At Racing Pulse, its flagship New York event, all eyes will be on two pieces in particular, Paul Newman’s Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona and a TAG Heuer Monaco that accompanied Steve McQueen on the big screen.
The former is the wristwatch Newman was most often photographed wearing for more than two decades before he gifted it to his daughter. The actor is, of course, the celebrity most associated with Rolex, and the Daytona in particular. In 2017, an example from his personal collection sold for $17.74 million, making it one of the most expensive watches ever sold.
This model, estimated in excess of $1 million, is remarkably well preserved, featuring a bold panda dial with the distinctive ‘Big Red’ Daytona logo at 6 o’clock. The watch was presented to him by his wife Joanne Woodward in 1983 to mark their 25th wedding anniversary. Two decades earlier, in 1965, Newman had been in a serious motorcycle accident, before he found a passion for car racing. The caseback bears the inscription ‘Drive slowly Joanne’ as a loving reminder to take care of himself.
Steve McQueen’s Monaco has a similarly storied history. Worn by the actor while filming the iconic racing movie Le Mans, the star later gifted it to the film’s chief mechanic Haig Alltounian. Marking this moment, the caseback of the watch features the words, ‘To Haig Le Mans 1970’. When interviewed for the documentary Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, Alltounian described how, as McQueen handed it over, he said, ‘Thank you for keeping me alive all these months’. He initially refused it, but McQueen insisted as it already had his name on it. A testament to the actor’s generosity, he also gave Alltounian a Norton Commando motorcycle used during the filming of Le Mans, which he still owns today.