The Steve McQueen Rolex Submariner 5513 goes to auction
Phillips to sell a Submariner the American actor gave to his stuntman Loren Janes
Once again it is still "The King of Cool" to steal the scene of watches auction - a man worshiped by world-famous sportsmen like Valentino Rossi, who is also famous for his daring movie scenes on board cars and motorcycles (actions that he used to perform himself). A few days ago a piece of news broke off that next October 25th the auction house Phillips will auction a Rolex Submariner 5513 that used to belong to the American actor/pilot - a timepiece that is expected to fetch a dizzying figure, since it is the most important watch directly linked to the American actor.
Where was this watch hiding until now?
There is an interesting story lying behind this watch - Steve McQueen in person donated it to his stuntman Loren Janes, who worked as a double in many movies (The Great Escape, The 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nevada Smith, Cincinnati Kid, The Bounty Hunter, Dixie Dynamite and so on).
On the back of the watch the writing "Loren the best damn stuntman in the world, Steve" was engraved. During the July 2016 so-called Sand Fire that burnt down the Angels National Forest located on the east side of the Santa Clara Valley in LA, every single item that Loren owned was lost, but thanks to the stubborness of his daughter and wife this Rolex 5513 was eventually found in the ashes.
This fascinating story struck a chord with Rolex USA that decide to restore the watch at their expenses. It is not clear which operations were performed during the restoration process, but it is nevertheless certain that the case was restored, while the dial was "repaired".
The documentation released by Loren Janes himself in February 2017 - a few months before he passed away - and by Rolex too confirm the truth of what was told. Michael Eisenberg - a collector of Hollywood memorabilia and a broker for the "Beverly Hills Real Estate" - subsequently purchased the watch to eventually give it to Phillips for their New York auction.
What about the dial?
Our more experienced readers will have already noticed that the dial of this watch is not coeval with a 5513, but it rather belongs to a Submariner 5512.
It is not clear when it was replaced, whether it happened before the Rolex restoration or later, but it already appeared on the watch, when Michael Eisenberg bought it from the Janes family. For vintage lovers the dial of a watch is probably the first feature to consider before a purchase and, in this case, given the historical value of the object, it might be pushed into the background.
How much is it worth?
Establishing the upper price limit for similar items is extremely difficult - truth is that it is worth as much as a person is willing to spend to get their hands on a Rolex that used to belong to a famous character like Steve McQueen. It might sound obvious, but it is 100% correct in this specific case.
The recent sale of the Rolex Daytona 6239 that used to belong to Paul Newman fetched a price of 15 million dollars plus auction rights and it is the very proof of what I have just said - it was definitely overpriced. The combination of the interest towards vintage Rolex watches (today, for a 5512 or for a 5513 in mint conditions you are expected to pay much more than for a new 6-digit-Sub, not to mention for a 4-digit Daytona), a curious story and a movie star is certainly very interesting and could lead to a major sale. If it were to be confirmed that Steve McQueen actually wore this watch while he was alive, I would not be surprised to see it sell for a 6-zero-figure. According to Forbes, the auction base lies between USD 300,000 and USD 600,000 - we'll only find out at the end of October what the final price is.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Phillips)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®