Take a look at just about any photo of Jack Nicklaus and you’ll see him wearing a gold wristwatch. It’s the same one he’s worn for more than 50 years. Inspired by the recent $17 million sale of a similar Rolex worn by the late actor Paul Newman, Nicklaus decided to put his up for auction later this year to raise money for the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation.
The Rolex Day‐Date Reference 1803 in yellow gold was present when he won 12 of his record 18 professional major championship titles — often photographed when he hoisted the championship trophy following his victories. Nicklaus says he regularly put the watch in his bag before each round and immediately put it back on his wrist afterward.
The Day‐Date is Rolex’s most prestigious model and one of the world’s most famous watches, although it’s not believed to be as valuable as one once owned by Newman. Originally launched in 1956, the Day‐Date, with its famous “President” bracelet, was the first wristwatch to feature a date and fully spelled‐out day of the week indication on its dial.
“This is the very first watch I ever owned, and the only watch I wore for every professional tournament I’ve won throughout my career,” Nicklaus said. “It has accompanied me at U.S. Opens, Masters Tournaments, PGA Championships, Open Championships and countless other events for over five decades.”
It’ll be sold through Phillips, an international auction house, according to Paul Boutros, the company’s head of watches in the U.S.
“We look forward to seeing an enthusiastic response from collectors, golf fans, and charitable supporters, who, in addition to vying for one of the greatest timepieces associated with an iconic sports legend, will have the opportunity to raise funds to positively impact the lives of children. We are truly honored to help Jack and his wife Barbara in these efforts.”
While attending the Canada Cup in Tokyo in 1966, Nicklaus was offered a watch of his choice during a Rolex cocktail event that he attended with golf icons Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. Player, who was sponsored by Rolex at the time, recommended that Nicklaus choose the gold Day‐Date on display. Having never previously owned a watch, Nicklaus decided to take his friend’s advice. Nicklaus received his golden Rolex Reference 1803 — aptly matching his famous moniker, Golden Bear — the following year in 1967, the same year he won his second U.S. Open and set the U.S. Open scoring record at 275.
“Anytime I won a tournament, or finished any round, I’d take the watch out of my bag, put my wallet in my pocket, put my watch on, and we’d take pictures,” Nicklaus said.
While he’s received several watches throughout his career, he’s been partial to the first one he ever owned.
“Parting ways with this watch is certainly bittersweet,” he said. “While I will certainly miss the opportunity of wearing the watch and having it serve as a constant reminder of some of my life’s most memorable moments I know that parting with it will help countless children and families impacted through the work of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. I have said many times that the work being done by our Foundation and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is far more rewarding than any four-foot putt I made to win a golf tournament.”
In 2004, Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, established the foundation to provide families access to world‐class pediatric health care. Collaborating with hospitals across the United States, the Foundation supports innovative programs focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of childhood illnesses.
The watch will be sold at auction in New York on December 10. Between now and then, it’ll be presented on an international tour, which will include viewings in London, Geneva, Hong Kong, and throughout the United States. The tour will begin at the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday.