Forget separating the artist from his art. For a certain type of collector, it's all about separating the artist from his...watch. Diehard watch enthusiasts are as enthralled with proximity to celebrity as the rest of us. An association with a big-name star is one of the most effective ways to drum up excitement around any timepiece up for bidding on the auction block. Phillips, the auction house founded in London over two centuries ago, knows this better than almost anyone else. It's been a key player in the insular world of rare wearables from the outset, famously orchestrating the record-setting sale of Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona a few years ago.
So it's no surprise that the collection of wearable flexes up for grabs at its upcoming New York Watch event is anchored by two iconic styles sourced from two iconic names: the Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman himself (!) wore for years, and the Heuer Monaco Steve McQueen rocked throughout the 1971 film Le Mans (and helped make a highly collectible classic in the process). In other words, shit's about to get serious. And if prior selling history is any indication, this whole thing's about to get really expensive, too.
Phillips has a knack for putting together some truly show-stopping events centered around the type of watches that prompt enthusiasts to start waxing poetic on the topic for hours on end. But these particular watches aren't any old run-of-the-mill show-stoppers. Newman's “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 was the actor's everyday go-to, the distinctive style—now inextricably linked to his name—he famously wore for decades before passing it on to his daughter. Ditto McQueen's Heuer Monaco, the watch he wore while whipping a Porsche 917 at ungodly speeds up and down the Le Mans circuit, and one that's now a mainstay of the brand's collection after the actor helped put it on the map. Both are steeped in the type of rich history that tends to make collectors really freak out (and then reach for their wallets), and both have the potential to set yet another astonishing record. If you're super into Old Watches or Old Hollywood—or any combination of the two—it really doesn't get much better than this.
Phillips' New York Watch Auction will begin in December, and though the bidding for Newman's "Big Red" Daytona isn't expected to reach quite the same levels of hysteria other watches associated with the actor have, all bets are off as soon as that beauty actually hits the block. As for the style the King of Cool gifted to his personal mechanic at the end of filming? Who knows, man. Or some deep-pocketed Hodinkee reader—or, hell, classic cinema buff—could always go HAM and scoop the both of 'em in one fell swoop, in a two-for-one play no one saw coming.
Because when it comes to ultra-rare watches, it's still, somehow, very much a seller's market. And few names bring out the big spenders like the two Phillips announced today.
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