2 Rolexes Paul Newman Gave to Stuntman Stan Barrett Head to Auction

AuctionsAug 12, 2022

2 Rolexes Paul Newman Gave to Stuntman Stan Barrett Head to Auction

The sale also will include a third Rolex, with all three watches tied to Barrett’s 1979 attempt to break the world record for land speed.

Barrett’s good friend Paul Newman gave him this watch when Barrett tried to break—or broke, as some would argue—the world record for speed on land. Newman had the back engraved to mark his friend’s feat. (Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)
Newman also gave Barrett this stainless steel Ref. 6262 Rolex Daytona. Barrett was wearing both watches when he made his record attempt on Dec. 17, 1979. (Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)
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New York—Two Rolex watches Paul Newman gifted longtime friend Stan Barrett, a Hollywood stuntman who shared Newman’s passion for racing cars, are going up on the block later this year at Sotheby’s New York.

The watches, a stainless steel GMT-Master “Pepsi” and a stainless steel Ref. 6262 Daytona, are the timepieces Barrett wore on Dec. 17, 1979 when he drove the Budweiser Rocket Car in an attempt to become the first man to go faster than the speed of sound on land.

Racing across a dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, he was clocked at an estimated 739.66 mph but it did not go down as an official record because of malfunctioning radar scanners and the fact that no one heard a “sonic boom.” 

As a stuntman in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Barrett worked with a lot of the big stars of the day including John Wayne and Burt Reynolds. He was Newman’s stunt double in 1971’s “Sometimes a Great Notion.” 

The men’s friendship spanned 40 years (Newman is the godfather to both of Barrett’s sons), as they bonded over their love of cars, racing and adventure as well as, according to Sotheby’s, watches. 

Sotheby’s estimates the GMT-Master with the Pepsi dial will sell for $50,000 to $100,000 while the estimate on the Daytona, $300,000 to $500,000, is much higher because it was Newman’s personal watch that he gave to Barrett.  

Newman was known for gifting watches to family and friends, and he had the back of the Pepsi GMT he gave to Barrett engraved after his speed-record attempt. “STAN BARRETT 739 MPH MACH 1.0206 12-17-79,” it reads.

Both estimates seem conservative considering the history of Newman-connected watches at auction.

In 2017, Newman’s own 1968 Ref. 6239 Cosmograph Daytona—the very model that became known among collectors as the “Paul Newman Daytona” in the 1980s—sold for a record-setting $17.8 million at auction.

The third Rolex included in the Sotheby’s sale, a yellow gold GMT Ref. 1675 (estimate $50,000 to $100,000), was a gift from Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch. 

Busch had “Stan Barrett – Driver – Budweiser Rocket Car 739.66MPH December 17 1979” engraved on the back.  

“These three watches—personal gifts between friends and colleagues—carry more historical significance than just their benefactors,” said Jonathon Burford, Sotheby’s Watches Specialist. “Inextricably linked to a feat of human exploration, they represent a slice of American history itself and will no doubt appeal to watch connoisseurs and racing enthusiasts alike.”

 Related stories will be right here … 

The three watches will go on display for the first time from Aug. 17-20 in Monterey, California, coinciding with an auction there. 

After that, the timepieces will make stops in Dubai, Hong Kong, Geneva and Los Angeles. 

The watches will be the highlights of Sotheby’s Dec. 9 Important Watches auction in New York. 

Now 79, Barrett became a philanthropist over the years, first working with Newman’s “The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp,” a camp for seriously ill children, and in more recent years dedicating his time to other children’s charities.

He will donate an unspecified portion of the sale’s proceeds to charitable causes. 

Newman died in 2008 at age 83. More about his career as an actor, race car driver and philanthropist as well as his long marriage to fellow actor and Oscar winner Joanne Woodward can be seen in the documentary “The Last Movie Stars,” currently streaming on HBOMax. 

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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