The $17 Million Rolex

Over cocktails at The Grille, I posted the question to a few of my fellow martini aficionados: How much do you think the most expensive watch sold for? And whose was it?

There were all kinds of crazy answers, mostly guessing historical figures. Abraham Lincoln. Winston Churchill.

The answers also grossly underestimated the final price. The collective wisdom of the bar started the guessing at $3 million, and kept nudging their way up to $7 million before I lost my patience and blurted out “$17 million!”

And then, when I told them the watch belonged to Paul Newman, they acted as if they should have been able to guess it.

Of course they should have. A race car driver? Rolex Daytona, anyone?

Newman’s Rolex Daytona was a gift from his wife, the actress Joanne Woodward. There was an engraved message on the back: Drive Carefully. Me. Newman gave the watch to his daughter’s college boyfriend.

Bidding for the watch opened with a $10 million offer over the phone, followed by a 12-minute bidding war at Phillips, where more than 700 people crowded the room, the auction house said in a statement. The winning bid was from an anonymous buyer who phoned in his or her offer.

It made me wonder, what other movie stars’ watches are going to be coming on the market? John Wayne? Clint Eastwood? And will they all be Rolexes?

Let’s hear some guesses in the comments.