How Paul Newman’s Personal Keepsake Ended Up in a Museum

by Maria Hartfield

American actor Paul Newman memorably wore an esteemed Rolex watch to the Oscars back in 1983. The well-known piece of hardware is on display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

Indeed, Paul Newman’s legendary film career spans over 50 years with a long list of awards to go with it. The American actor, film director, and also racecar driver was famous for his compelling performances of iconic antiheroes. A ten-time Oscar nominee, Newman was also active in a number of philanthropic endeavors. Additionally, Newman was the recipient of an Academy Award and three Golden Globes.

With such a distinguished career, it makes sense that Newman’s Rolex would end up alongside other priceless items like Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and a shark mold from the iconic Jaws film on display at the Academy Museum. Overall, the museums’ stunning collection features over 13 million objects from movies dating back to the 1920s.

The ‘Paul Newman’ Rolex

In an interview with South China Morning Post, Jaqueline Stewart, curator, and programmer for the museum goes into detail about Newman’s famous watch.

In particular, the watch is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona.

“The watch most on my mind these days is a vintage Rolex Daytona Cosmograph 6239 [owned by Paul Newman], which is on view in the museum’s Academy Awards History gallery,” says Stewart. “[The watch] was a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward, who added the inscription ‘Drive Carefully, Me’, a reference to the actor’s passion for auto racing. The watch [was worn] by the actor for decades, including to the 1983 Academy Awards ceremony that he attended as a nominee for the best actor for The Verdict. As you may know, it later became known as ‘the Paul Newman’.”

With this in mind, The ‘Paul Newman’ Rolex is on public display at the Academy Museum.

New Museum Celebrating Cinema

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened to the public on September 30. It is the largest museum in the United States that pays homage to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking. The impressive attraction also hosts a number of different educational and family-friendly programs that focus on the world of cinema. Curated exhibitions tell the story of the movies through art, technology, artists, history, and more.

Stewart walks us through a typical day at the museum and what opening was like.

“We were hard at work putting the finishing touches on the Academy Museum. The objects were being installed, lighting focused, video montages completed and loaded. We mapped out how visitors will flow through the galleries. And how viewers will get tickets and be seated in our beautiful theatres,” says Stewart.

“I was working with our curatorial, education, film programming, and publications teams. [Working] on the next round of exhibitions, workshops, screenings, and books. In museum work, we are always operating in multiple times frames. [For example,] exploring the past, engaging with visitors now, laying the groundwork for future installations and collaborations.”

Timed admission tickets to the Academy Museum are now on sale.