A Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 worn by the legendary actor Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s cult classic Apocalypse Now is up for sale at New York auction slated for December this year. The themed auction hosted by Phillips is titled Game Changers and features watches owned by extraordinary people considered game changers in their field.
It’s been 40 years since Brando strutted the silver screen as the renegade Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, arguably one of the most iconic characters ever essayed in cinematic history. A quirky characteristic of this Rolex GMT is the absence of the model’s characteristic bi-color bezel. According to legend, Brando prised the bezel off after he was told to lose the watch during shooting lest it remain a jarring oversight during filing. Brando reported told his adopted daughter Petra Brando Fischer that “if they’re looking at my watch, then I’m not doing my job as an actor.” Petra was the daughter of his assistant Caroline Barrett and novelist James Clavell.
The result was that Col. Kurtz was seen sporting an unusual-looking Rolex GMT on screen. The watch’s caseback was engraved “M. Brando” by the man himself. Incidentally, a Seiko Ref. 6105-8110 worn by Col. Kurtz’s nemesis Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen) has a bit of cult following of its own. This year, Seiko introduced Ref. SLA033, a reissue of this reference during Baselworld 2019.
This watch is said to have been acquired in the 1970s and remained in Brando’s possession right up to 1995, when he gifted it to his daughter, Petra, following her graduation from Brown University and before she went to Law School at the University of Southern California. In a handwritten note to her Brando mentions, “This watch is like a tank. You can do anything you want to it and it will keep you going. I want you have it as a reminder of how proud I am of you.”
In 2003, Petra gifted the watch to her husband, Russel, on their wedding night. The watch was never worn but kept away for safekeeping. It was only after news of the $17 million sale of Paul Newman’s Daytona that the couple woke up to the idea of auctioning the watch. It is worth mentioning here that another acting legend’s watch — Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner was also offered by Phillips at an auction last year — but it was withdrawn after objections from McQueen’s estate regarding the authenticity of the watch.
The Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 is being offered as it was received by Petra, without a bezel and fitted on a rubber strap. The watch is said to be in exceptional condition, retaining all bevels, curves, and sharp edges as delivered from the Rolex factory nearly five decades ago. The luminous hour markers and hands have aged to a shade of beige, and the dial, hands, case, crystal, and crown are all original to the watch.
“Russel and I believe this watch is a piece of movie history that belongs in the hands of a collector who will give it the prominence it deserves,” said Petra. A portion of the sale proceeds will assist a charitable foundation established by Petra and Russel, which will provide financial support to children who are living through serious hardship due to abuse, neglect, poverty, or disability - causes which Petra believes would have been very important to her father.
The auction is slated for December 10 this year and will also feature a Rolex Day‐Date that belonged to legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.