Phillips Racing Pulse auction

Celebrities and new records

Phillips auction house set a new record during its racing pulse sale which brought together, among others, Steve McQueen’s Monaco Heuer, one of Paul Newman’s Daytona Rolex and several Panerai and Richard Mille watches from Sylvester Stallone’s personal collection… for an auction of stardom.

By Nicolas Yvon

For its last auction of the year (Racing Pulse) on the 12th of December 2020, the Phillips house thought big, despite the peculiar circumstances of the pandemic-related health restrictions.

In an exceptional context, exceptional measures were taken for an exceptional sale. Each watch was physically in New York in a room devoid of any audience but filled with cameras. The auction was organized by Aurel Bacs from London and livestreamed on Philips’ web platform. Buyers from all around the world could bid in direct on their computers or phones from home. Did you follow it?

Aurel Bacs a orchestré la vente record Phillips Racing Pulse le 12 décembre 2020
Aurel Bacs led the Phillips Racing Pulse record sale on the 12thDecember 2020 – credit Thomas De Cruz Media Haydon Perrior.

The last auction of 2020 concludes a record year for Phillips

The Racing Pulse sale brought in 27.6 million dollars, despite its “hybrid” format. Meaning that it obviously did not dampen the excitation of collectors who fought resolutely to acquire true objects of desire.

Steve McQueen’s Monaco Heuer

La Heuer Monaco offerte par Steve McQueen à son mécanicien Haig Alltounian
The Heuer Monaco that Steve McQueen gifted to his mechanic Haig Alltounian on the set of Le Mans (1971).

Among the stars of the auction figured an incredibly rare piece: Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco, that the actor gifted to Haig Alltounian, his personal mechanic on the set of the movie Le Mans, released in 1971.

Steve McQueen et sa Heuer Monaco sur le tournage du film Le Mans, Haig Alltounian à ses côté - Photo Bernard Cahier-Getty Images
Steve McQueen with his Heuer Monaco on the set of Le Mans, next to Haig Alltounian (second to the right of the actor) – Photo Bernard Cahier-Getty Images.

History reveals that the mechanic had first refused the watch out of modesty…However McQueen had not given him any choice since he had already had it engraved for him: “To Haig Le Mans 1970”.

Steve McQueen avait fait graver le dos de sa Monaco avant de la donner à Haig Alltounian
Steve McQueen had his Monaco engraved for Haig Alltounian before giving it to him.

Needless to say that buyers were on board since this “priceless” watch set the world record for all Heuer models auctioned so far. Sold for 2.2 million dollars, which is ten times what it was estimated at, it more than doubled the past record.

Interested in the Monaco? Find our article published for the 50th anniversary of the emblematic square chronograph or consult our detailed data sheets.

Paul Newman’s Rolex “Big Red” Daytona: record sale of the Phillips Racing Pulse auction

Racing Pulse comprised another unique instrument, a legendary watch: one of the Cosmograph Daytona belonging to Paul Newman. It was the second personal Rolex chronograph of the actor to be auctioned off.

Sold for $5.5 million, Paul Newman’s Rolex “Big Red” Daytona was one of the V.I.P of the event sale by Phillips.

The experts will remember that the first Daytona of Paul Newman – a reference 6239, which his wife Joanne Woodward gifted him in 1968 and engraved at the back “Drive Carefully Me” – made history by breaking the record for any wristwatch ever, having been won for 17.8 million dollars! It was in October of 2017… also at Phillips’ (read our article on this record).

Le chronographe Rolex Daytona Big Red de Paul Newman était gravé au dos Drive Slowly Joanne
Joanne, Paul Newman’s wife, had the case of the Rolex Big Red Daytona engraved. The actor wore it for two decades.

Nicknamed “Big Red” by the aficionados (its dial boasts a massive DAYTONA in red), the Rolex watch sold in December 2020 had also been gifted to the actor by his wife and flaunts a back engraved with “Drive slowly Joanne”.

Paul Newman, sa fille et son Daytona Rolex Big Red
Paul Newman always wore a Rolex Daytona – photo credit Geoffrey Hewitt Photograph Collection – Bonding moment between the actor and his daughter Clea in 1984.

Paul Newman wore this Rolex chronograph for about twenty years before giving it to his daughter, Clea Newman Soderlung. Bidding began at 1 million for this one-of-a-kind timepiece, eventually won by an unnamed private collector for about 5.5 million dollars, which is the third highest price ever for an auctioned Rolex.

To know everything about the iconic Rolex chronograph, read our article: From Daytona to Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: a passion for speed.

Click here to access our detailed data sheets on every Cosmograph Daytona model and Rolex Oyster Perpetual.

The Racing Pulse auction also had a Panerai Luminor and four Richard Mille models from Sylvester Stallone’s private collection

This Racing Pulse sale was decidedly “Seventh Art celebrities” oriented, since five pieces from Sylvester Stallone’s personal collection were also put up for auction, among which the Panerai Luminor he wore on the set of Daylight (1996).

Sylvester Stallone portait sa montre Panerai Luminor PAM5218-201 dans le film Daylight
Worn by the actor in Daylight, Sylvester Stallone’s Panerai Luminor revived the watchmaking brand in the 90s.

We now know the important role that Sly played in the comeback of the Italian brand. Sold for 214 200 dollars, much more than the estimates ($40 000 – $80 000), this is doubtlessly the most significant modern Panerai publicly sold. It was indeed this particular Luminor that brought about the revival of the brand in the 90s.

Follow this link to consult our detailed data sheets on Panerai watches.

La RM 52-01 Skull n'est pas la seule montre Richard Mille de Sylvester Stallone - Sylvester Stallone at the London Photocall for Expendables 3, Credit - Dave J. Hogan, Getty Images
The RM 52-01 Tourbillon Skull from Sly’s private collection – The actor in London, wearing one of his Richard Mille (a RM 032) in the photocall for the launch of The Expendables 3 – photo credit Dave J. Hogan, Getty Images.

The four Richard Mille watches selected by Stallone for this auction – each one accompanied by a handwritten note from the actor, as was the Panerai – were very sought after.

Each one superseded their estimations, most notably the surprising RM 52-01 Tourbillon Skull, which was estimated between 350 000 and 700 000 dollars but went for 998 000 dollars (consult our detailed data sheet on the RM 52-01 here).

Conceived after a discussion between Sylvester Stallone and Richard Mille, the RM 25-01 Tourbillon Chronograph Adventure also impressed. It exceeded its top estimate at 500 000 dollars and went for 937 500 dollars. (consult our detailed RM 25-01 data sheet here).

La RM 52-01 Adventurer personnelle de Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s personal RM 25-01 Tourbillon Chronograph Adventure is a true piece of survival gear.


Birth of the Monaco Heuer chronograph.