No matter how you slice it, October 26, 2017, was a historic day in the watch world. After as much hype and excitement as has ever been generated by a wrist-worn mechanism, the Rolex Daytona owned and worn by Paul Newman, the watch that in many ways spawned the modern vintage Rolex market at large, sold at Phillips in New York City for $17.75 million, setting the all-time world record for the price of any wristwatch in the process. There were celebrity attendees. There was a $10 million opening bid. There were gasps, applause, and cheering. It was unlike any watch auction before or since. And this past Friday marked its one-year anniversary.
One question that we get a lot at HODINKEE HQ is some formulation of “What did the Paul Newman auction teach us?” or “How did this change the vintage watch market?” And with a year of perspective to help us, the answers still aren’t all terribly clear, and those that are have less to do with the sale Mr. Newman’s watch and more to do with the build up to that night. Sure, Daytonas continue to go for big money at nearly every auction, but that can’t really be attributed to this sale or its sky-high result. What is clear is that this sale got the idea of cool, important, and, yes, expensive, vintage watches in front of an audience that otherwise might not have paid them any attention. The cultural impact seems to outweigh the financial impact, at least so far.
But, rather than muse over all the possibilities here, we recommend you watch our in-depth video and full report from last year’s historic sale, published just hours after the hammer fell. And, of course, let us know what you think down in the comments below!