As described in our first posting covering the McQueen-worn Monacos, I am aware of four Heuer Monacos said to have been “worn by McQueen” during the production of the movie Le Mans, as follows:
- worn by McQueen during the filming of the movie, Le Mans; sold by the property master in the early 2000s; now in the TAG Heuer Museum, in Switzerland.
- worn by McQueen during the still photography / promotional shots for Le Mans; sold by the property master in the early 2000s; has been in the hands of four different collectors since then; to be auctioned July 31, 2012.
- worn by McQueen while at Le Mans and then given by McQueen to his management consultant, Bill Maher, as a gift; sold at an Antiqourum auction in June 2009, and now in private hands.
- worn by McQueen . . . further details not known, at least for the moment.
We started this series of postings by covering the sale of the “Maher Monnaco”, the third Monaco listed above. This watch was given as a gift by Steve McQueen to his business consultant, Bill Maher, and sold at auction in June 2009. Today, we publish a posting covering the second Monaco listed above, the one worn by McQueen during the still photography / promotional shots for the movie Le Mans. Because it was handled carefully and used only for still photography, rather then during the filming of the driving scenes, we call this watch the “Beauty” Monaco.
This watch is to be auctioned as part of a “Profiles in History” auction of Hollywood memorabilia, on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.
BREAKING NEWS — Tuesday, July 31, 2012: This Heuer Monaco was sold today at the “Profiles in Hollywood” auction for $799,500, representing a hammer price of $650,000 plus a 23 percent premium ($149,500). We believe that this is the highest price paid for a Hollywood timepiece, as well as highest price paid for a Heuer timepiece.
Summary. The story told in the auction catalog — copied at the very bottom of this posting — is that this watch was worn by Steve McQueen “during Le Mans production and in related images”. The catalog listing does not address the question of how many watches McQueen wore during the production of Le Mans, neither claiming that this was the only one worn by McQueen [which was the claim made by Antiquorum when the Maher watch was auctioned], nor mentioning that another Monaco seems to have been worn by McQueen for the actual filming of Le Mans.
What I Believe. I believe that this was the “beauty watch” worn by Steve McQueen for still photographs and other promotional purposes during the production of the movie Le Mans. I believe that another Monaco was worn by McQueen during the actual filming of Le Mans, with this worn-while-filming Monaco getting fairly well beaten up in the process (and now resting in the TAG Heuer Museum). The property master from Le Mans has provided letters describing the roles of these two Monacos, and I believe his version of the story. This is what property masters do — they keep track of the props — and track “which was which” during and after the filming.
Doubts and Uncertainties. I don’t have any doubts or uncertainties about the the authenticity of this watch. I have spoken with the property master and subsequent owners of this watch, and have no reason to doubt any aspect of the provenance.
An Omission from the Catalog Listing. Perhaps we deduct a few “style points” from the auction catalog description for failing to mention that this watch was worn only for the promotional shots, and not during the actual filming / racing scenes. Still, history has proven that there is only so much we can expect from these catalog descriptions.
The Watch Itself. With or without the Steve McQueen / Le Mans connection, this is an amazing “time capsule” Heuer Monaco. The dial appears to be perfect; the lume on the dial and hands is aged beautifully and matches perfectly; the case looks almost perfect; the Corfam (artificial leather) strap looks brand new. In short, this is exactly how we would hope a Heuer Monaco would look, if it had been safely stored in its box for just over 40 years.
The case-back appears to be in mint condition. The sticker on the case-back is interesting . . . can we imagine that the wear and tear on the sticker has been caused by Steve? The Reference Number on the top line of the sticker is “1133B” (which is correct for this version of the Monaco); the bottom line appears to show the price for the watch, $220.00 (which would seem to be correct for 1970). Some may wonder why the sticker would have a price stated in US dollars, but we have confirmed that Heuer’s United States subsidiary supplied Monacos to the production company / property manager, so the US dollar price on the sticker would be correct.
So What’s It Worth? The racing suit worn by Steve McQueen in Le Mans was sold by this same auction house (Profiles in History), in December 2011 for $984,000 (including the buyers commission). No doubt, it is this staggering price that accounts for several McQueen / Le Mans items now being offered in the July 31 Profiles in History auction, including his fire-resistant racing underwear and a couple of jackets.
With the auction of McQueen’s Monaco only two days away, there is little reason to speculate about the price that will be achieved in the auction. If someone has recently paid $984,000 for the racing suit — which can only sit in a display case — how much is the Monaco worth, which might even be worn and enjoyed?
But people have asked me the question, so let me offer my guess (and it is nothing more than a guess): I believe that this Monaco will go well above the $200,000 opening bid, perhaps even above the $300,000 listed as the top of the estimated range. I believe that this one has better provenance than the Maher Monaco, which sold three years ago for $87,600 (at an auction house that deals exclusively in watches, and may not have attracted the Hollywood crowd). Things can get kind of crazy in these Hollywood auctions, and it seems that the trend is very favorable for the “Worn-by-McQueen-in-Le-Mans” category of Hollywood collectibles.
As a wise man once advised a watch collector: “It’s not knowing where to buy, it’s knowing where to sell”, and Hollywood seems to be the place to sell the McQueen memorabilia right now!!
Seeking Additional Information / Corrections. If you have any additional information about this watch, or would like to correct any of the information in this posting, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 29, 2012
Auction Catalog Description from Profiles in History
STEVE MCQUEEN HERO “MICHAEL DELANEY” HEUER MONACO WRISTWATCH SCREEN-WORN IN LE MANS – (Solar Productions/Cinema Center Films, 1971)
A beautiful Heuer “Monaco” production 1133b (matt blue dial) now universally known as “The McQueen”.
This is the actual wristwatch worn by Steve McQueen during Le Mans production and in related images.
In 1970, Jack Heuer himself delivered a variety of his chronograph timepieces to Donald Nunley, prop master on the set of Le Mans in France. From this selection, Steve McQueen himself chose this specific watch to wear as his character “Michael Delaney” during production and in publicity photos.
In an early example of product placement, this watch is visible on the arm of McQueen in countless photos and the ultimate film. In fact, his sleeve is often conspicuously pushed up to reveal the watch for the cameras.
In 1969 Heuer released the first automatic chronograph and broke with tradition by creating a square waterproof case to house it. A buckled, black leather vented strap completes the handsome piece.
Housed in a red, spring-hinged case sporting the Heuer logo and a checkered flag motif. The watch is seated in a red felt base.
The watch is in Exceptional condition and comes with its original manual of operation containing a factory typed notation that the watch was sold to “24 h at Le Mans 1970”.
An orange sticker on the back of the watch bears the reference number 1133b (the sticker is rubbed from wear, as McQueen wore the watch extensively in production) and a notarized letter of authenticity from Le Mans prop master Donald Nunley.
In 2009 McQueen’s personal Rolex Submariner watch sold at auction for an astounding $234,000.
A remarkable piece of racecar lore and movie history worn by Steve McQueen, the iconic star that embodied the thrill of the sport and glamour of Hollywood.