If there were any doubts that celebritydom does wonders for watch value, Paul Newman put that to rest. Well, Newman’s own watch did, in 2017, when his own Rolex Paul Newman Daytona sold at auction in New York for just shy of $18 million. The auctioneer in that eventful night (at a Philips auction, which saw unparalleled prices for a slew of iconic vintage watches) was one Aurel Bacs. He’s the unrivaled ringmaster in a vintage collectible watch circus that has seen prices skyrocket in the past five years.
That circus is running strong, too. There are three watches that are making major news this week. That is, news outside of the watch world. That’s because their celebrity, their price, or their flash is attracting people outside of expensive-timepiece collectors. Marlon Brando’s Rolex is going up for auction; Tag Heuer dropped a new take on the Monaco Automatic; and Unimatic has a NASA-inspired (and very limited) watch.
Marlon Brando’s Apocalypse Now watch is going up for auction.
It is Philips (again, in association with Bacs and Russo) that will drop the gavel on another memorable Rolex December 10 in New York. This time, it’s a Rolex GMT, owned for some 20-odd years by Marlon Brando. It’s one of the star lots in Game Changers, an auction devoted to watches owned by a raft of maverick men.
Brando’s ownership in itself would be enough in current climes to likely garner six figures at auction. But add to this provenance the fact that Brando wore it 1979’s Apocalypse Now suggests far higher numbers come auction night.
The story goes that Brando had been told he couldn’t wear it on film, as it was too distracting. But he removed the bezel (which holds the crystal of the watch in place) and wore it anyway. The watch will be sold bezel-less. We don’t know when or how Brando decided to etch his name into the steel caseback, but he did. However it was done, it clearly adds further frisson to the feel of the watch.
Tag Heuer drops a new version of the Monaco automatic chronograph.
Tag Heuer’s iconic Monaco automatic chronograph celebrates a half century with a bold new version. For Tag Heuer, much of this year’s activity centers on the 50th anniversary of a watch, the Heuer Monaco, which was as groundbreaking as it was striking when it emerged in March 1969. The first thing that struck the watch world was its case: big, chunky, and an unmissable square.
To date, square-shaped watches had been rare and largely limited to slim dress watches. The case was developed by case supplier Piquerez, and it appealed to Jack Heuer because it was patented fully waterproof, making it perfect for a rough-and-tough tool watch. But it was the insides of the Monaco that got the nerds most excited.
Both Zenith and Heuer (as it was then known) had been locked for months in the watch world’s own space race, attempting to create the first self-wound movement powerful enough to drive a chronograph. The crown positioned out of the way at the unorthodox 9-o’clock position underlined that it wouldn’t need winding… because it was an automatic. At the time, the Monaco was just too out there for the wider market. It was a relative flop and was in production for just six years.
In 1995, however, Jack Heuer reissued the watch in a redesigned version. A new generation of watch lovers took to it immediately, and Tag Heuer has since made updated and experimental Monacos, alongside its Carreras and Autavias, a backbone of its roster.
This month, the third of a series of five special editions of the Monaco is out. The first two were inspired by earlier generations, and this one is inspired by the 1990s. It features a steely gray rhodium plated dial with blue and red touches. Like the special editions that precede and follow this, only 169 exist.
Unimatic drops a highly limited, NASA-inspired U1-SP.
Unimatic is a small-batch watchmaker out of Milan that has earned itself an underground cachet in the past year. Its USP is meaty automatic watches at decidedly unmeaty prices, which is making it a prime target for men on the lookout for pared-down but substantial beaters. To add to the desirability, Unimatic editions are usually limited to a few hundred pieces.
If resale price is a guide to the brand’s cachet, eBay occasionally has early examples for almost three to four times their original price. This U1-SP, out tomorrow, is limited to just 50 examples. It’s selling at 650 euros, plus VAT exclusively from unimatic.com.
It’s rather special, this one. It’s inspired by the space pioneers of NASA, and it carries the classic “worm” logo first created by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn in 1975, giving it a very cool ’70s-’80s vibe. The watch comes in a white Cerakote, which gives the case a patina akin to stonewashing, so the more you use it the more the surface will degrade showing the wear at the corners. You know, like a dirty space suit.