by | Dec 14, 2020 | Style, Watches

A few weeks back, we wrote on a luxury vintage watch auction in New York City, where timepieces owned by Hollywood legends Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Sylvester Stallone would be up for bid.

Related: Top 10 men’s luxury watches for 2021

No one could predict how it would all end up. After all, we are in the midst of an epochal, history-altering world-wide pandemic. Who knows who would show up, and who knows how much money they’d make? But chalk it up to the indomitability of the human spirit, or sheer boredom and the desire to take part in something really different and interesting. The auction in the end was a grand slam.


Racing Pulse, Phillips’ Flagship New York watch auction, saw $27.6 million in sales at the event held this past Saturday. Leading the way was Newman’s Rolex “Big Red” Daytona, gifted to him by his wife Joanne, achieving $5.5 million. Then there was the Heuer Monaco that had been owned, then gifted by the late actor McQueen. It went for $2.2 million, a world record price for any Heuer watch. It sold for ten times its estimate.

Not to be undone were watches from Stallone’s collection. Four Richard Mille watches and one Panerai sold for $3.1 million total, over three times the estimate. The One Drop Foundation and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation were the beneficiaries ($2.1 million raised) from the event.

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Phillips reports selling 99 per cent by lot and 99.5 per cent by value, an industry-leading sell-through rate, they say. An anonymous private collector bought the Newman watch ($5,475,000). That was the third highest price ever for a Rolex watch at auction. The McQueen watch was one that he wore in the film Le Mans, which he had gifted to his personal mechanic, Haig Alltounian.

Stallone’s famous Panerai Luminor PAM5218-201/A (Lot 47), worn by him in the film Daylight, sold for $214,000, in less than five minutes of bidding. His selection of pieces by Richard Mille all soared past estimate, most notably the Ref. RM52-01, which realized $998,000. (The RM 25-01, which sold for $937,500, is pictured up top.)

Military watches perform well

Military watches performed especially well at the event. With several exceptional examples consigned from important private collectors, a Rolex Submariner Ref. 5517 and an Omega Seamaster SM 300 set world records for any military-issued Rolex and military-issued Omega wristwatch. Additionally, a Tornek-Rayville Ref. TR-900 set a world record for the model at $176,400.

Independent watchmakers performed very strongly. Leading the way was F.P.Journe, with an early Chronomètre a Résonance “Souscription” achieving $403,200 and an early Tourbillon Souverain in 18 karat pink gold going for $378,000.

Vintage and modern Patek Philippe wristwatches also saw exceptional results. A modern ref. 3974G minute repeater with perpetual calendar, one of only five known, achieved $1,022,200. Also, a vintage ref. 3448 perpetual calendar, nicknamed the “Pristine Padellone” and consigned by the family of the original owner, achieved $529,200.

So in pandemic times, where does that tell you the market for luxury watches sits?

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