You know Steve McQueen. He’s the man from that vintage film poster on your bedroom wall. He’s that fellow who keeps cropping up on style inspiration Instagram pages. He’s the one on television every Boxing Day, riding his motorbike out of Nazi Germany. That’s Steve McQueen.
Millions of men modelled themselves after the actor over the past half century. Today, auction house Phillips are offering you the chance to own a piece of history, as the Rolex Submariner 5513 bought by the star of Bullitt and Le Mans in the 60s is going up for auction.
It’s the latest vintage watch in a recent spate of celebrity timepieces to go under the hammer. Elvis’ old watch recently set a record for the most expensive Omega ever sold at auction and, late last year, Paul Newman’s Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona hammered at $17.75 million.
So where does McQueen’s watch sit among this illustrious company of watches?
We’ll get to that. Firstly, you should know the story behind this watch — because what a story it is. In the 60s, the actor bought the watch and under a decade later gifted it to his favourite stuntman, Loren Janes. He also got the Rolex engraved, to ensure Janes knew just how much he meant to McQueen. The caseback reads: “LOREN, THE BEST DAMN STUNTMAN IN THE WORLD. STEVE.”
“LOREN, THE BEST DAMN STUNTMAN IN THE WORLD. STEVE.”
It was a thank you for the countless films Loren and McQueen worked together on, from The Getaway to The Thomas Crown Affair. It was a partnership that began in 1958, and went crashing, burning and falling through some of McQueen’s most well-known and death-defying moments.
Janes, of course, kept the watch his entire life, keeping it in his home after he retired. But, when the Sand Fire wildfire devastated much of the area of Los Angeles where Janes lived with his wife, their home was completely burnt down. A few days later, Janes’ family found that the watch had miraculously survived the fire. They saved it from the ashes and found that, save for some soot left in the clasp, it was still able to be saved.
It was sent off to Rolex in Switzerland where it underwent a complete overhaul, and is now ticking perfectly.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that McQueen actually wore the watch himself — only that he bought it and, at a later date, gifted it to Janes. But there are images of McQueen wearing a very similar watch, and many are asserting that this is the same Submariner 5513.
And so we come to the estimate. Given the less-than-perfect condition and questionably provenance, the Rolex is only estimated to sell for between $300,000 and $600,000. But, with the current uptick in celebrity watch sales, who knows how much McQueen’s watch will go for?
Steve McQueen Rolex Submariner 5513
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