A One-of-a-Kind Handmade Pocket Watch Added $4.9 Million to Phillips’s Timepieces Sale, While Sotheby’s Sold a Rolex Daytona Owned by Paul Newman

Phillips set multiple records, thanks to a legendary piece of horology by Roger Smith.

Left: Roger Smith, Pocket Watch Number Two, 1998. Right: Roger Smith in his workshop in the Isle of Man, 1990s. Courtesy of Phillips.

Phillips New York staged a white-glove, $26.4 million watch auction over the weekend, setting a record for watchmaker Roger Smith with a unique pocket watch that also set the record for any British timepiece. Estimated in excess of $1 million, it pulled in $4.9 million.

The Roger Smith pocket watch was the product of five years of labor to build a timepiece entirely by hand in order to impress watchmaker George Daniels enough to win an apprenticeship at his famed workshop on the Isle of Man. In 1998, after his second try, he finally secured the position with this watch, after perfecting the 32 skills required to create a watch in “The Daniels Method.” The price is the fourth-highest ever achieved for a pocket watch at auction. 

“The auction was masterfully curated by Phillips and the price the watch achieved is beyond all expectations,” said Smith after the sale. “It really is a profound moment for me. Pocket Watch No. 2 is the most important watch I have made and, for the watch to have received such interest, has also been very humbling.”

At the same auction, a Patek Philippe yellow gold Reference 2481 wristwatch set a record for the reference series at $1.1 million, as did an Audemars Piguet Reference 25701PT that sold for $635,000. The Audemars Piguet soared past its $120,000 high estimate, as did two F.P. Journe timepieces, both estimated at up to $280,000—one sold for $558,800, the other for $469,900. Watches by Rolex, Zenith, Cartier, and some independent makers also set records. 

Patek Philippe Reference 1518. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s New York, meanwhile, totaled $16.4 million at its watch sale that concluded on Friday, where 94% of lots found buyers. The sale was led by a 1946 Patek Philippe “Pink-on-Pink” gold wristwatch, a Reference 1518, that fetched $3.9 million from a private Asian buyer. It had remained in the seller’s hands since its purchase in 1947. Only 281 of the reference series were created, and this is the 15th one ever known. 

Two Rolexes once owned by Paul Newman each fetched $1.1 million. One of them, a stainless steel Rolex Reference 16520 ‘Zenith’ Daytona, was given to the actor and car racing champion to mark his team’s victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona Race in 1995. At 70, he was the oldest driver to win the contest, an accomplishment still held today. In all, six Newman watches were featured in the sale.

MEXICO CITY - NOVEMBER 11:  Paul Newman congratulating driver Sebastien Bourdais of the  #1 McDonald's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Panoz DP-01   after winning the Champ Car World Series Grand Premio Tecate on November 11, 2007 at Autodromo Hermonos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Paul Newman, wearing his Rolex Reference 16520 ‘Zenith’ Daytona watch, congratulates driver Sebastien Bourdais after winning the Champ Car World Series Grand Premio Tecate in 2007 in Mexico City. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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