After several record breaking sales in the last three years and the sale of Paul Newman's very own Rolex 'Paul Newman' Daytona ref. 6239 for $17.7 Million USD —including buyer's premium—, the team at Phillips Watches will be selling on October 25th, 2018, Steve McQueen’s own Rolex Submariner ref. 5513. This watch is the most important Steve McQueen-owned watch to appear in the market and the only one known to bear a special engraving on its case back. Presented as a gift to his top stuntman Loren Janes, this Submariner ref. 5513 reads on the back: “TO LOREN, THE BEST DAMN STUNTMAN IN THE WORLD. STEVE”.
Historically important and previously unknown, this Rolex Submariner owned and worn by Steve McQueen was thought to have been lost in a fire. With its absolutely fascinating provenance —owned until recently by the late Loren Janes himself— and its remarkable tale of survival, the watch comes to auction as the single most important watch associated with Steve McQueen to ever appear publicly.
Revered as the silver screen’s undisputed and unrivaled 'King of Cool', Steve McQueen rose to become one of the highest paid actors. On and off the screen, McQueen was characterized as a rebel, a loner, the epitome of the American male. His coolness was never forced or affected – he just simply was cool. McQueen flew airplanes, raced cars and motorcycles, even coming in second place to Mario Andretti’s Ferrari team at the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring in a Porsche 908/02. Opposed to what many would think, Steve McQueen didn't wear a Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 with orange hand —nicknamed the McQueen Explorer— but this Rolex Submariner.
Even though other Rolex Submariners have appeared in public with established McQueen's provenance, none has ever appeared with this level of personalization. In fact, the present watch is the earliest McQueen-owned Submariner known, a reference 5513 dating to 1964 and gifted to Loren Janes likely in the mid-to-late 1970s as recollected by the surviving Janes family members.
Steve McQueen's stuntman Loren Janes was brought into test as McQueen’s stunt double on the show that propelled McQueen into the public eye. The show 'Wanted: Dead or Alive' was a Western television drama in which Steve McQueen starred in from 1958 until 1961. According to an interview with Janes, two doubles had already been fired. Janes simply sat down with McQueen and told him that he could make him “look better than he imagined possible.” McQueen requested Janes as his stunt double for every movie on which their schedules would allow them to collaborate, and consequently, of McQueen’s twenty-seven major motion pictures, Loren Janes was his stunt double in nineteen. Close friends for life, Janes and McQueen were in contact directly before McQueen’s final trip to Mexico for medical treatments.
Robust and enduring, a Rolex Submariner was a fitting gift to a man who had risked his life for McQueen on countless occasions. But this Submariner had a final and unbelievable stunt to perform, though off the wrist of its owner. In 2016, a wildfire outside of Los Angeles, now known as the Sand Fire —for California’s Sand Canyon—, burned intensely for almost two weeks, destroying over 40,000 acres of land and killing two. Of the eighteen buildings destroyed, one of them was the home of Loren Janes and his wife. To the dismay of the Janes family, nearly all of their personal belongings and Loren Janes’ personal collection of film memorabilia were believed lost.
Yet, at the urging of the current consignor, who had learned about the tragic fire and knowing the durability of Rolex Submariners, the family was encouraged to try to find the Rolex in the rubble. And find it they did, after a few days of dogged shoveling. Once the watch had been found, the family sent it to be examined and restored by Rolex U.S.A., which took particular care in documenting the restoration process and preserving the watch’s priceless case back. The soot wedged between the Rolex bracelet clasp and on the case back is indeed still present.
The watch will be sold with a letter signed by Loren Janes attesting to its provenance; a remarkable letter and photos from Rolex U.S.A. documenting its restoration while enthusiastically praising Loren Janes, Steve McQueen, and the resilience of this extraordinary Submariner; and a book titled Steve McQueen: A Life in Pictures, which includes photos of Steve McQueen wearing the watch. The watch is further accompanied with an additional Rolex Submariner glossy/gilt dial and corresponding hand set —correct for its year of manufacture, acquired at great expense by the current owner to bring the watch back to its original configuration as it would have appeared originally on the wrist of McQueen in 1964.
A portion of the proceeds from the auction of this watch will benefit The Boys Republic, The McQueen Family charity that rehabilitated McQueen when he was a youth. An additional portion of the proceeds will be gifted to the surviving family members of Loren Janes.
Phillips is thrilled to offer this watch for the first time, which can easily be considered one of the most important vintage Rolex watches to ever appear on the market.
This top highlight of the Phillips’ next New York Watch auction taking place on October 25th, 2018 will be offered with an estimate between $300,000-$600,000 USD. Considering the results of previous auctions, this watch for sure will break another record and surpass its estimate.
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