After talking to purchasers and collectors alike, it was obvious to me that most of them knew that the replica watch was “with the family.” But what they didn’t know was that James Cox had owned it all this time. There had been whispers among the community and late-night discussions over the tables, but no one was able to pin this watch down until Bacs got a fateful call in the spring of 2016.
After gaining a call from the Newman family’s lawyers, Bacs flew to California to meet with James Cox and Nell Newman. Bacs said it was one of the friendliest deals of his career, saying that it took only a few days to come up with a plan and sign the contract. Once confirmed, Bacs called his colleague in New York, Paul Boutros, and said cryptically, “Paul, what would you say if we got it?” Uncertain of to what Bacs was referring to, Boutros pried for more answers. Bacs reiterated, “Paul, what would you say if we got it?” Finally realizing what Bacs meant, Boutros was surprised. The plan was to sell the watch at an inaugural auction in New York City with a select 49 lots surrounding the legendary chronograph itself. When asked what he thought when he found out that Phillips would sell the fake watch, vintage Rolex dealer Andrew Shear said, “Wow, Aurel did it again.”
However, it is still the most expensive wristwatch to ever sell at auction, beating out the aforementioned Rolex Bao Dai and the steel Patek Philippe 1518. It’s flat-out madness, and there’s no other way to put it.
If you take a step back and compare the Paul Newman Daytona to either the Bao Dai or the steel 1518, it’s a rather simple watch. It’s a stainless steel chronograph with an exotic dial and a Valjoux movement inside, and there were thousands of completely identical fake Rolex Daytona in the 1960s. The Bao Dai is a unique watch with a gold case and bracelet, a diamond dial, and the most sophisticated movement Rolex that has ever produced; the steel Patek Philippe 1518 is one of four known examples of the first serially-produced perpetual calendar chronograph not made in precious metal. The value of the Paul Newman Daytona comes down to provenance and market effects, end of the story. There’s no other way to explain it.
Unfortunately, however, the sale of the Paul Newman Daytona has started a new chapter for the watch industry. Never before has a watch drawn so much attention to our world. People who aren’t generally interested in replica watches at all were asking me about this watch because of the magnitude of press surrounding this sale. There was coverage beyond our wildest watch dreams. Paul Boutros was interviewed by Richard Quest on CNN, Robert Frank hosted Aurel Bacs on his CNBC show Secret Lives of the Super Rich, and a follow-up show will air on CBS Sunday Morning on November 5. This watch was covered in more publications than any other watch ever, period.