An aerial view of the College of the Atlantic campus, where James Cox, whose watch recently sold at auction for $17.8 million, met Nell Newman when they were students. PHOTO COURTESY OF COA

Record-breaking watch tied to COA

BAR HARBOR — In late October, a watch once owned by actor Paul Newman sold at the Phillips Auction House in New York City for a whopping $17.8 million. The watch, a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, was given to Newman by his wife Joanne Woodward.

One chapter in the story of how the watch got to auction was set in Bar Harbor.

Newman’s daughter Nell, going by Nell Potts at the time, was enrolled at College of the Atlantic (COA). There, she met James Cox, who graduated from the school in 1987, according to COA officials. The two dated for a time. Almost 30 years later, some old friends from Bar Harbor recalled that they “were deeply in love.”

Millard Dority, the director of campus planning at COA, remembered teaching Cox jazz guitar. Dority said that he spent a lot of time with Nell Newman and Cox.

He recalled a memorable evening at Galyn’s where he met Paul Newman.

“[The Newmans] closed down the whole second floor of Galyn’s, and I was playing there that evening,” Dority said. “I got to play with all of them.”

“It was one of those things where you look back and say ‘did that really happen?” he said.

Cox received the watch as a gift while building a tree house at the Newman residence, according to reports. Paul Newman asked him the time, but he didn’t have a watch. Newman rectified that by gifting him the Rolex.

Cox will donate some of the auction proceeds to the Nell Newman Foundation, where he serves as treasurer.

Lilea Simis, co-owner of Town Hill Market, was close to Nell Newman while attending COA and became close to Cox because “he came with Nell.”

“We used to do a lot of cooking and hiking together,” Simis said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he donated the money.”



Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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