This weekend, watches owned by Sylvester Stallone, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman each sold for eye-watering prices. The Phillips auction Racing Pulse featured even more celebrity watches, but these particular actors and their associations with watches make this an exceptionally notable watch event.
Even in a vacuum, without an iconic brand name or the celebrity of their former owners, these would still be cool watches. None, however, would be a multi-million-dollar watch by any stretch of the imagination. More than the movie-star status, it's the deeper stories of each watch and how it fits into watch collecting culture that's six-to-seven-figures special.
Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona "Big Red": $5,475,000
The actor and race car driver Paul Newman owned several Rolex Daytona chronograph watches. One of them auctioned for around $18m in 2017, making it the most expensive watch ever sold for a short time (until it was overtaken by this Patek Philippe). While the most famous and expensive "Paul Newman Daytona" (reference 6239) had an "exotic" white dial with black subdials, this "Big Red" (reference 6263) has the opposite color scheme (among other differences). Both were Rolex Daytonas owned by the actor, however, so why the huge delta?
The $18m Paul Newman Daytona featured in a particular, iconic photograph and single-handedly created nothing short of a scene among Rolex collectors. For around $6.5m, the Big Red's hammer price seems almost (though not quite) cheap in comparison, but the buzz around "the" Paul Newman Daytona (the other one) certainly buoyed its value. Similar to the charming case back engraving "Drive Carefully Me" of the $18m Daytona, this one says "Drive Slowly" and is signed by his wife, Joanne.
Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco: $2,208,000
Much like Newman and his Daytonas, actor and race car enthusiast Steve McQueen had several examples of the watch he made famous. It similarly featured in an iconic photograph, as well as appeared throughout the movie Le Mans. It was the Heuer Monaco chronograph, one of the first watches to feature an automatic chronograph movement and a watch with an undeniably distinctive look. The particular version auctioned here was given by the actor to his personal mechanic after the filming of the movie and includes a personalized case back message.
Sylvester Stallone's Panerai: $214,200
Considering that legend of Sylvester Stallone largely"rediscovered" Panerai and was essentially responsible for the resurrection of the brand, one might have expected this watch to sell for even more. This is the exact watch that the action hero first wore during filming of the 1996 film Daylight. A known watch collector, Sly also put up several of his own Richard Mille watches for auction, but the Panerai reference 5218-201/A has unique meaning to the watch industry and to the collector community.