After the historic sale of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona last year, Phillips Watches will auction off a previously unknown Rolex Submariner owned by US actor Steve McQueen that he gifted to his personal stuntman, Loren Janes. The Submariner, a Ref. 5513 has a caseback with the inscription, “TO LOREN, THE BEST DAMN STUNTMAN IN THE WORLD. STEVE” and the only known McQueen watch to include his name engraved on the caseback.
The “King of Cool” - often associated with the Heuer Monaco model that he wore in the 1971 film Le Mans – has been known to own a few Rolex watches. Loren Janes was brought into test as McQueen’s stunt double on the TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive but remained McQueen’s stunt double in classic movies like Bullitt, The Towering Inferno and The Hunter. The two remained close friends for till McQueen’s untimely death in 1980. Janes passed away in 2017 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
The watch in question is Ref. 5513 from 1964 and gifted to Janes likely in the mid-to-late 1970s as recollected by the surviving Janes family members. The watch survived the Sand Fire wildfire that gutted many Los Angeles homes in 2016. It was sent to Rolex for service and restored. While details of the refurbishment have not been detailed yet, the case has reportedly been refurbished and the watch has been consigned with a period-correct dial. The soot wedged between the Rolex bracelet clasp and on the caseback is still present.
The Submariner was bought from the Janes family by memorabilia collector Michael Eisenberg who consigned it to Phillips. The watch will be sold with a letter signed by Janes attesting to its provenance; a letter and photos from Rolex U.S.A. documenting its restoration while enthusiastically praising Janes, McQueen, and the resilience of this Submariner. The winning bidder will also receive 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 period-correct Rolex Submariner glossy/gilt dial and corresponding hand set – acquired by Eisenberg to bring the watch back to its original configuration as it would have appeared originally.
While it is not clear whether McQueen changed the original dial or Janes did or whether McQueen wore the watch at all (he owned a Ref. 5512 that was sold by Antiquorum in 2009), we do know that this watch – like The Unicorn sold in May this year – has a charity angle. 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. A portion of the proceeds will be also go to surviving members of the Janes family. The watch has a pre-sale estimate of $300,000-$600,000 and the auction will take place on October 25 this year in New York City.
UPDATE: Phillips was forced to withdraw the watch from the October sale after the McQueen Estate disputed the provenance of the watch.