The Rolex GMT-Master that Marlon Brando wore in Apocalypse Now will be up for auction this December

celebrity watches

Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT-Master is ready to break some records when it goes under the hammer in New York this December

Provenance is always an important determining factor when it comes to the value of collectibles. Royal heritage is often associated with high-value antique jewellery pieces that surface at auction. However, with a much briefer history than gems, wristwatches that fetch high prices are often linked to more contemporary names, and often those of celebrities.

Ahead of the sale of Marlon Brando’s Rolex this December, we take a closer look at the timepiece and its significance. We also look at some celebrity-linked timepieces that have shattered records in the past.

Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT-Master, set to go under the hammer in New York this 10 December at Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, has his signature scrawled on the back of the case. The words, ‘M. Brando’, engraved rather imperfectly, mark the provenance of this timepiece, which was worn by the actor in Apocalypse Now.

The Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 dates back to the early 1970s, and was passed down to Brando’s daughter Petra Brando Fischer in 1995. In 2003, Petra later gifted the watch to her husband, Russel Fischer, who is said to never have worn it.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale will go to supporting children of abuse, neglect and poverty through the work of a charity established by the Fischers. But there has been no word yet from Phillips as to what the estimated price of the watch is.

Paul Newman’s Daytona

This isn’t the first time that Phillips has been in the spotlight for one of its celebrity-linked timepiece lots. In 2017, the auction house sold Paul Newman’s Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona ref. 6239 in New York for US$17,752,500 (S$24,288,436), the highest price ever achieved by any wristwatch at an auction.

The surge in interest in the Paul Newman Daytona coupled with the timepiece’s connection to the actor himself were contributing factors to the hammer price of this piece. As the story goes, Newman received the piece as a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward, who engraved the words, ‘Drive Carefully Me’ on the caseback.

marlon brando's rolex
The Universal Genève Polerouter was a gift from Bruce Lee to his longtime student, Herb Jackson

Bruce Lee’s Polerouter

More recently at the Phillips & Blackbird: Sports Hong Kong Auction this May, a Universal Genève Polerouter previously owned by Bruce Lee sold for US$28,700 (S$39,271), exceeding the US$19,111 (S$26,150) high estimate.

The watch dates back to the 1950s and comes with a letter of provenance from the seller, Herb Jackson, an American martial arts student of Lee’s.

marlon brando's rolex
This diamond-set and Tiffany-dial Omega was the most important wristwatch in Elvis Presley’s collection. It comes with the manually wound Omega Calibre 510

Elvis Presley’s Omega

This US$1.8 million (S$2.46 million) Tiffany-dial Omega, the highest price ever paid for a watch by the brand, once belonged to Elvis Presley. The 18-carat white gold piece with a diamond bezel, sold at Tiffany & Co., was a gift to the King of Rock from his record label in 1961.

What for? The engraving tells the story – the words, ‘To Elvis, 75 Million Records, RCA Victor, 12-25-60’ are etched onto the caseback.

The piece was presented to Presley at a charity concert in February 1961, and was sold at the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: Seven, on 12 May 2018. It remains the most expensive Omega watch ever sold.