The timeless Rolex worn by Hollywood icon Marlon Brando will soon be up for sale.
The Academy Award winner’s Rolex GMT Master Reference 1675, the timepiece he wore in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic 1979 war film “Apocalypse Now,” will be one of the top watches to be sold at auction house Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo Game Changers New York Watch Auction on Dec. 10.
Another Rolex worn by golf pro Jack Nicklaus will be one of the other lots at the auction.
The Rolex GMT Master also features a never-before-seen engraving on the back that reads “M. Brando,” which was hand-engraved by Brando himself.
It’s fitted on a black strap with its bezel — the top ring on the watch that surrounds the crystal — missing. That’s because Brando was told to remove the watch while filming because it appeared to look too polished for his character, Col. Walter E. Kurtz, but he kept it on anyway, removing the bezel from its face instead to better suit the role.
The watch would ordinarily be worth between $15,000 and $20,000 on the resale market, Benjamin Clymer, the founder of Hodinkee, a high-end watch publication, told FOX Business.
Clymer says the Rolex GMT Master would be far less valuable on the resale market without its original Bezel, but because of its significance in the movie, it will likely command US$1 million or more at the auction.
“It’s iconic because it’s how he wore it in the film,” Clymer said. “But under the circumstances, it would dramatically bring the value down.”
Forbes reported, Brando told his daughter, Petra Brando Fischer, that he told the filmmakers “If they’re looking at my watch, them I’m not doing my job as an actor.”
Little did Brando know that there is an entire watch-following cult that was checking out the timepiece. He gifted the watch to his daughter in 1995 and this is the first time the watch is being offered for sale.
“Widely considered the greatest actor of all time, Marlon Brando’s storied career has come to define the 20th century, his seminal films serving as cornerstones of American culture over the course of six decades,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ Head of Watches, Americas.
“This Rolex GMT-Master is the holy grail of watches owned by Marlon Brando and one of the greatest ‘long lost’ watches to finally surface after years of speculation.”
The sale of the watch is fitting, as this year is the 40th anniversary of Apocalypse Now. In a letter that Brando wrote to his daughter following her graduation from Brown University in 1994 and before she headed to law school, he said, “The watch is like a tank. You can do anything you want to it and it will keep on going. I want you to have it as a reminder of how proud I am of you.”
The watch is being sold as it was worn – without a bezel and on a rubber strap. It is said to be in an exceptionally “well preserved” state, with the luminous hour markers and hands aged to a nice shade of beige.
A portion of the sale proceeds will be donated to a charitable foundation established by Petra and her husband Russel to assist children living through hardship due to neglect, poverty of disability.
The theme of this year’s auction is “Game Changers,” dedicated to watches owned by legendary individuals from brands such as Patek Philippe, Piguet, Omega and Breitling.
Also up for auction is the Rolex Day-Date Reference 1803 in yellow gold worn by Nicklaus, also known as the Golden Bear, who received it as a gift in 1967.
Nicklaus won 12 of his 18 professional major championship titles while wearing the 18-karat yellow gold watch, according to Phillips. It was the only watch he’s ever worn.
“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, 79, said in a statement.
“It has accompanied me at US Opens, Masters Tournaments, PGA Championships, Open Championships and countless other events for over five decades, and has served me well at every step along the way.”
The watch has also become a success symbol for businessmen, former US presidents and athletes like Nicklaus.
Clymer said the watch would normally fetch around US$12,000 on the resale market, but since Nicklaus wore it to win major championships it’s become a piece of history and could command at least seven figures.