$1,952,000: That’s how much an anonymous bidder paid for a Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 worn by Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s cult classic Apocalypse Now at a New York auction on December 10. The sale was part of a themed auction hosted by Phillips titled Game Changers and features watches owned by extraordinary people considered game changers in their field.
According to those in the know, three bidders (two via the telephone and one from the internet) were involved in a three-way tussle than ran for nearly the length of the movie it was featured in. This is second high-profile Hollywood actor’s watch that drummed up interest at the auction after Paul Newman’s Daytona fetched a record-breaking $17.8 million in 2017.
In Apocalypse Now, Brando struts the silver screen as 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.
As a result, 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. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will assist a charitable foundation that provides 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.
Earlier in the same auction a gold Rolex Day-Date owned by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus sold for $1.22 million including buyer’s premium. Nicklaus wore that particular Day-Date for a majority of the 18 golf majors that he had triumphed at.