Paul Newman’s $10 Million Watch

Paul Newman’s legacy lives on in many ways.

Locally, our longtime neighbor’s dedication to theater can be seen in the handsome Westport Country Playhouse, which he and his wife Joanne Woodward lovingly helped restore.

The 39-acre Newman-Poses Nature Preserve — accessible off Bayberry Lane, near his Coleytown Road property — is one of our town’s hidden gems.

Nationally, his Hole in the Wall Gang Camp offers joy to youngsters with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.

And the Newman’s Own Foundation — based right here in town — has given half a billion dollars to charitable organizations around the globe.

The man. The legend. The US postage stamp.

But now you can have a very personal piece of Paul Newman’s legacy.

His watch.

A Rolex Daytona owned by the actor/race car driver/philanthropist/popcorn and salad dressing king is “the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous timepiece in the world.”

At least, that’s what the New York Times says. And that’s not fake news.

The reason it’s so valuable, the paper says, is that “for decades, no one outside the Newman family seemed to know where it was.”

Now they do.

Next month, the “lost masterpiece” is “the centerpiece of a watch auction at Phillips in New York.”

It could fetch $10 million.

According to the TimesNewman’s first watches were as low-key as his “quiet life … in leafy Westport, Conn. (He drove) a Volkswagen Beetle (albeit with a Porsche engine), and (wore) a three-piece patchwork denim ensemble when circumstances forced him to dress up.”

In 1968, Woodward gave him a 6239 model. It was “distinctive and relatively rare, featuring an exotic dial containing a number of stylish design tweaks including, most notably, the Art Deco-style numerals on the subdials that any true watch connoisseur can spot from 10 paces.”

Paul Newman’s Rolex. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Apparently, Newman thought little of the gift. He “casually handed over the watch to James Cox, (his daughter) Nell’s college boyfriend at the time, one muggy summer afternoon in 1984.”

Cox was helping repair a treehouse on Newman’s property. The actor asked the time; Cox had no watch. Newman handed his over.

Cox wore it for nearly a decade, without thinking. In 1993, a Japanese man spotted it on his wrist. “Paul Newman watch!” the man said. He’d seen it on Newman’s wrist, in European fashion magazines.

The Times explains that “Newman, with his rugged good looks, no-nonsense air and, yes, really cool watch, (had become) a staple of style blogs and Pinterest boards, where the actor was hailed an all-American king of cool to rival Steve McQueen.”

But no one knew that for years the watch belonged to Newman’s daughter’s ex-boyfriend. In fact, 3 years ago, the watch site Hodinkee listed it as one of the 12 “Greatest Missing Watches” (alongside Pablo Picasso’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Triple Calendar, John Lennon’s Patek Philippe 2499 and Fidel Castro’s Rolex GMT-Master.)

Nell Newman and then-boyfriend James Cox. (Photo courtesy of New York Times)

Much later, Cox learned that his — that is, Newman’s — watch had its own Wikipedia page.

Now he’s decided to auction off the watch. He’ll give “a big portion” of the proceeds to the Nell Newman Foundation, which focuses on environmental issues.

Absentee bids have already come in.

Watch this space.

(To read the entire New York Times story, click here.)


12 responses to “Paul Newman’s $10 Million Watch

  1. Thanks for the interesting story, Dan.

  2. Charles Halper


    Actually my question is not about Newman’s watch , but wondered if you had posted the information about clothing and household items that someone in Westport was sending down to Texas. Do you know where and what time on Sat. the items should be brought to and when?


    Roe Halper

  3. That is a really interesting story. I can’t wait to see what happens! I will be “watching.”

  4. Mr. Cox’s take ‘Well, kid, what are you going to do with it? You know, you’re not going to keep it, are you? You’re going to do something important.’” is certainly a continuation of Paul Newman’s great philanthropy. Nice story…

  5. Great story about our local treasure (Paul Newman, not the watch!) which includes a wonderful example of his benevolent humanity. But the car guy in me must point out that Paul Newman’s Beetle famously had a 351 Ford V8 in it, not a “Porsche engine”

    • And he had a pretty smokin Sleeper Volvo also!

      • Saw that Volvo on Chasing Classic Cars – talk about a sleeper!

        • I remember once pulling up next to him at the corner of the Post Road and Parker Harding Plaza on a summer night. He and his daughter Nell were in the Volvo and I remember the sweet rumble and vibration of the V8 packed under the hood. Truly cooler than cool!!
          As you know Jack…I am almost as big a fan of the American V8 as you are!!! Your car is really cool also!

    • Bill Boyd (Staples 1966)

      Newman owned more than a couple of VW Beetles…..The first one I know of was the Porsche engined one.The Ford equipped car was a different vehicle he didn’t keep for long.

  6. Bill Boyd (Staples 1966)

    I once walked around the Greenwich car show with a friend who remarked at the end of the day “I’ve never seen so many Rolexes….”
    “Like mine?”
    “oh no…yours is no Rolex.” (It was just a fifty dollar dive watch but resembled a Rolex).
    It shocked me that anyone ,especially my friend, would waste so much time and energy scrutinizing watch brands when surrounded by beautiful vintage cars…
    I’m guessing Paul Newman cared little about status brands (he just handed it off) and to him watches just helped him keep a schedule. Now…The back story about getting together years later and splitting the proceeds….that was probably a delicate conversation. But good for all involved!