As it was easy to predict with all the hype around it, yesterday evening at the New York auction “Winning Icons: Milestone Watches of the 20th Century” organized by Phillips, the Rolex Daytona "Paul Newman" owned and worn by the actor himself established a record as the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at an auction selling to an anonymous bidder on the phone for the incredible amount of US$ 17,752,500 / CHF 17,709,894 / Euro 15,228,095.
It is here important to remark "wristwatch" as the record for the highest price paid for any watch sold at an auction remains the one that was established at the end of 2014 for the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch which was assigned by Sotheby's Geneva for the amount of Swiss Francs 23.2 million (about US$ 24 million).
Of course; there is a clear difference between the two pieces: the Henry Graves Supercomplication is a technical masterpiece, a true work art and it is a one-of-a-kind example while the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman sold in New York is certainly an exceptional watch for collectors for its fascinating provenance - this is the watch that inspired the "Paul Newman" nickname used for the Daytonas with exotic dials - but it is the same model that is generally sold at auctions at amounts that range between US$ 100,000 and US$ 1,500,000 depending on conditions and rarity. And, although most of these Daytonas are generally offered in better conditions than the watch sold yesterday, the story and the provenance of a watch can make a huge difference. You can read more about the special story of this record-breaking timepiece here.
Photo of Paul Newman courtesy of Douglas Kirkland/ Corbis Via Getty Images
In addition to the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona, the sale in New York saw strong results across all brands realizing a total of US$ 28,875,750 / CHF 28,806,448 / Euro 57,682,198, the highest for a watch auction in US history.
A Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph reference 1518 in pink gold sold for US$ 975,000 / CHF 972,660 / Euro 836,355. Reference 1518 was the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph produced in series, only 281 examples were made – the vast majority in yellow gold, rarely ever seen in pink gold, and only four known in stainless steel.
Philippe Dufour’s Duality, crafted in 1996, soared past its estimate of US$ 200,000 – 400,000 to US$ 915,000 / CHF 912,804 / Euro 784,887. This iconic watch is the world’s first wristwatch incorporating a double escapement. Only nine were made including the present watch with the extraordinary number ‘00’ - the very first Duality made by the master himself.
Remarkable was also an Audemars Piguet perpetual calendar wristwatch reference 5516 in yellow gold made in 1957. One of just nine examples manufactured by Audemars Piguet for what was the first serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatch model to display a leap year indication, this lot was assigned for the amount of US$ 675,000 / / against an estimate of US$ 300,000 - 600,000.
The Monte Carlo references 7031 and 7032 were the first chronographs ever made by Tudor, launched in 1970. The earliest models, produced for approximately two years only, were fitted with dials named by collectors as the “Home Plate” due to the shape of their luminous hour markers that resemble a home plate in baseball. The model sold yesterday by Phillips was a hardly ever seen Black Dial Tudor Monte Carlo Home Plate and realized US$ 118,750.
For their very first dive watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre focused not on a rotating bezel to determine dive time, but incorporated the “Memovox” – the brand’s famous alarm – to notify the diver when it was time to return to the surface. For its unique set of features, rarity, and superb aesthetics, the Deep Sea Alarm Automatic reference E857 is one of the most iconic of these early dive watches. Launched in 1959, the Deep Sea Alarm Automatic was produced in two versions, one with only the LeCoultre name on the dial for the American market; the other with the full Jaeger-LeCoultre name, sold in the European market. Both were made in a total of less than 1000 examples. The example on sales at Phillips was made in 1960 and still in virtually unworn condition. It sold for US$ 100,000.
Introduced in the 1950s, the Breguet Type XX chronograph was commissioned by the French government seeking a more accurate timekeeper for both their Navy and Air Force. The model and specifications evolved over time, and when the timepieces became too expensive for the French Government, Breguet opted to sell them as commercial watches (you can read the detailed history of this model here). The civilian “Type XX” presented at the auction by Phillips Watches was manufactured in 1967. It sold for US$ 60,000 from an initial estimate of US$ 12,000 - 24,000.
For the full lists of the lots that were sold at these auctions, just follow the links below:
Phillips: WINNING ICONS – Legendary Watches of the 20th Century, New York, 26 October 2017