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Rolex Daytona Sells for Record $1.1 Million at Christie’s

Rolex Daytona
A stainless-steel Rolex Daytona chronograph sold for $1.1 million at a Christie’s International auction in Geneva. The Paul Newman-model wristwatch was made in 1969. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2013 via Bloomberg.

A Rolex Daytona chronograph sold for a record $1.1 million at a Christie’s International auction in Geneva yesterday which raised $13.2 million, four times the presale estimate.

The 1969 stainless-steel Paul Newman-model wristwatch was sold to a buyer who wants to be anonymous, the auction house said in an e-mailed release today. The price was the highest for a Daytona at public auction. Christie’s also sold a Rolex Daytona made for the Sultan of Oman for $864,285.

The top lot approached the $1.16 million record price for any Rolex wristwatch in auction that Christie’s set in May. All of the 50 lots of Rolex Daytona’s sold last night. Their previous owners included celebrities such as guitarist Eric Clapton, Apollo Seven astronaut Walt Cunningham, race-car driver Bobby Unser and actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, who played the lead role in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless.”

“With 400 people in the salesroom and plenty more outside, I rarely experienced a similar rock-concert atmosphere from the rostrum,” said Aurel Bacs, head of Christie’s watch department, in the statement.

Rolex began making the Daytona model in 1963 as its first chronograph with the tachymeter scale printed on the watch’s bezel rather than the dial. Those measurements can be used to help compute speed based on how long it takes to travel a fixed distance.

Paul Newman, who enjoyed racing, wore one version in the 1970s that now is known after him. Collectors prize Daytonas because the early models are scarce.

Muse highlights include Martin Gayford on European art, Warwick Thompson on U.K. theater, John Mariani on wine, Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater, Lance Esplund on U.S. art and Craig Seligman on books.

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