The Rolex Cosmograph ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona (reference 6239), a watch made famous by the late Hollywood icon has long been a sought-after item by collectors. The first watch of its kind, worn by the film legend himself, sold for a record price yesterday.

The timepiece , which went under the hammer yesterday at Phillips New York sale, sold for a whopping US$15.5 million. Adding the buyer’s premium, the final price rounds up to more than US$17.75 million, a record for any wristwatch at auction.

The previous record for a Rolex at auction was set in May when the Bao Dai Rolex sold for more than US$5 million, also by Phillips, and the previous record for a wristwatch at auction was US$11 million for a Patek Philippe ref. 1518 timepiece, also by Phillips.

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The auction, by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, attracted more than 700 people to the sale room, bidding online and over the phone. After a 12-minute bidding war, the Paul Newman Daytona sold to a bidder on the phone.

The caseback carries the inscription “Drive Carefully Me”, which was engraved by Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward, when she bought him the watch as a gift.

In 1984, Newman gave the watch to James Cox, his daughter Nell’s college boyfriend, who had no inkling that it would later become so valuable.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Nell Newman Foundation as well as Newman’s Own Foundation.