The New York Times has published a story about the upcoming auction of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona and revealed new facts about the whereabouts of the watch. Until recently it was considered one of the world’s great “lost watches”. But all that time its owner, James Cox, knew exactly where it was. On his wrist. Soon, it will be auctioned for a sum that may exceed $US10 million. These quotes sum up the incredible story. And lastly, write a note for yourself: help someone fix a treehouse this weekend.
Despite the fact that it was a gift from his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman regifted it to his daughter Nell’s boyfriend at the time, James Cox. Mr Cox said he was helping repair a treehouse on the Newman property when the blue-eyed actor approached and asked the time. “I said, you know, ‘a hair past a freckle,’ or some comment meaning ‘I don’t have a watch’.” Mr Cox, now 52, said. “To which he (Newman) replied: ‘Well, here, here’s this watch. If you remember to wind it, it tells pretty good time’.”
Mr Cox wore the watch for nearly a decade on construction jobs and gardening – my heart just stopped – before learning of its value in 1993. His first inkling that his watch was valuable to others came at a trade show in 1993, when a Japanese man who spoke very little English approached Mr Cox and excitedly blurted out, “Paul Newman watch!”. “I looked at him like, ‘Oh, my God, how does this guy know that this is Paul Newman’s watch?’,” Mr Cox recalled.
Mr Cox later learnt that there was some ‘hubbub’ about the watch, but decided to keep it classy and stay quiet. “At some point about eight or nine years ago, I realised that my watch had its own Wikipedia page, and that there was this whole long ‘where did it go’ question and all this stuff,” he said. “I kept thinking, ‘I know the answers to these questions’. I’ve always erred on the side of trying to keep the family as private as possible, and that was just the classy thing to do, keep quiet about it.”
Mr Cox will keep some of the proceeds of the auction, but he has no doubt what the original owner of the watch would want him to do. “If Paul was alive,” Mr Cox said, “and I went to him and said, ‘Hey, Paul, that watch you gave me, it turns out that it’s super-valuable, super-iconic’, I think the first thing he would say would be, ‘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’.”
Paul Newman’s Daytona will be auctioned by Phillips in New York on October 26. We will publish the hammer price as soon as we’re able.