A watch previously owned by the late Paul Newman has sold for a record-breaking $17.8 million.

The 'Cool Hand Luke' star - who died in 2008 aged 83 - always wore an iconic Rolex Daytona timepiece until he mysteriously stopped in the 1980s, but the wristwear resurfaced on Thursday (26.10.17), when it went under the hammer in New York City.

The Rolex 'Paul Newman' Cosmograph Daytona beat the previous $11.1 million record at Phillips auction house's 'Winning Icons -- Legendary Watches of the 20th Century', with the price reportedly pushed up in the final five minutes of the 12-minute sale by a bidding war between two people, who drove it up from $15 million.

The lucky winner wishes to remain anonymous.

Paul was gifted the watch by his wife Joanne Woodward after they starred together in 1969 movie 'Winning', a film which inspired the actor's passion for professional racing and so she had it engraved with the message 'Drive Carefully Me'.

In 1984, he gave the timepiece to his daughter Elinor 'Nell' Newman's college boyfriend, James Cox, and she detailed when it was passed on in a letter accompanying the lot.

She wrote: ''Pop asked James if he knew the time. Apparently Pop forgot to wind his wristwatch that morning. James responded that he didn't know the time and didn't own a watch. Pop handed James his Rolex and said, 'if you can remember to wind this each day, it tells pretty good time.''

Nell and James are no longer together, but they are still close friends and decided to sell the watch to raise funds for the Nell Newman Foundation.