In 2017, under the hammer of star auctioneer Aurel Bacs (from Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo), Paul Newman’s very own Paul Newman Rolex Daytona reference 6239 became the most expensive wristwatch ever – the world record holder is now a unique steel Patek Philippe Grand Master Chime for Only Watch. It is hard to pin down exactly what will make a watch a star at auctions. The brand’s name, the scarcity of the model or its specificities are essential. The fact that a watch was once owned by a celebrity or has a story related to an icon of cool can ramp up the sales price significantly… People need something they can connect to. And what better way to impress by presenting a watch that was worn by the “King of Cool” himself, Steve McQueen.
On Saturday, 12 December 2020, at the New York RACING PULSE auction, Phillips will offer one of the Heuer Monaco 1133B worn by Steve McQueen while filming his iconic racing film, Le Mans. The watch was later gifted to Haig Alltounian, who served as the Chief Mechanic for the film as well as Steve McQueen’s personal mechanic. It is engraved with the caption “TO HAIG LE MANS 1970” on the caseback.
The press release states that when McQueen handed Haig the watch, he said: “thank you for keeping me alive all these months“. While Haig refused to accept it and suggested McQueen give it to his wife or son, McQueen told him he couldn’t as it already had Haig’s name on it, referencing the caseback inscription.
Introduced in 1969, the Heuer Monaco is one of the most iconic chronographs on the market. Its fame owes much to its cameo role on the wrist of Steve McQueen in the 1971 movie Le Mans. McQueen’s performance as racer Michael Delaney is, without doubt, one of his most cult roles. Although the Monaco shot to fame on his wrist, the genesis of this unconventional square chronograph coincided with a genuine technological revolution and a frantic race to launch the world’s first automatic chronograph. Powered by the legendary Calibre 11, housed in an unconventional and innovative water-resistant square case, the Monaco reference 1133B is an icon amongst chronograph and Heuer collectors. For more information, you can watch our video about the Monaco released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the model here. And if you are interested, the last time one of the six Heuer Monaco watches used on the set of Le Mans was offered at auction, it sold for about USD 800,000 (back in 2012).
The other highlight of the Phillips RACING PULSE auction will be another unicorn, Paul Newman’s own Rolex Daytona “Big Red” Reference 6263, again a watch with fantastic pedigree and provenance that may sell for a pretty impressive amount…