McQueen and His Monaco — A Bibliography

Whether you’re the veteran watch collector or the shopper browsing in the mall to purchase your first chronograph, you know the image of Steve McQueen wearing a Heuer Monaco chronograph in the movie Le Mans.  Heuer offered the Monaco chronograph from 1969 into the mid-1970s, and TAG Heuer has re-issued modern versions of the Monaco since 1998, so the images have been on billboards, in magazines and on store displays for most of the last 50 years.

Despite our familiarity with these images, there are many mysteries hidden within the “back story”.  How did Steve McQueen select this watch for Le Mans?  How many watches were used in the filming and where did they come from?  Where did the watches end up, when the filming was completed?  As prices for McQueen memorabilia have risen dramatically in recent years, values of particular items rise and fall with the discovery of additional information.

In this posting, we present a bibliography of what has been written about the Monaco chronographs worn by Steve McQueen at Le Mans.

Postings About Specific Monaco Chronographs Associated with Steve McQueen

Extensive research conducted by Michael Clerizo (linked below) suggests that there are six Monaco chronographs that were either used in the filming of Le Mans, or at least present on the set during the filming.  Here is a list of these watches:

1. The “Maher” Monaco — Gifted by Steve McQueen to his business manager, Bill Maher; Maher gifted the watch to his nephew, J. R. Borngesser (whose name and date of birth are engraved on the case-back; sold at auction in June 2009 (Antiquorum), for $87,600; discussed in detail in this posting.

2. The “Alltounian” Monaco — When they had completed the filming of Le Mans, Steve McQueen gave his friend and personal mechanic, Haig Alltounian, a Monaco chronograph.  The case-back is engraved, “To Haig / Le Mans 1970”.  This watch will be sold by Phillips, in a December 2020 auction, as described in this Wall Street Journal article.

[Photos above, of the Altounian Monaco, are courtesy of Hodinkee; used with permission.]

Here is an interesting posting about Altounian.

Haig Altounian is shown with Steve McQueen (above, right), at the filming of Le Mans; he is shown below, in a recent photo, from Bike-urious.

3. Monaco Number Three — Sold by property master, Don Nunley, in a private sale.

4. Monaco Number Four — Given by property master, Don Nunley, to a friend; the friend gave the watch to his son, who was Nunley’s godson.  The watch was subsequently sold in a private sale; purchaser in that sale subsequently sold the watch in a private sale.

5. The “Worn” Monaco (Used for Filming) — Sold by Le Mans property manager, Don Nunley, circa 2010; currently on display in the TAG Heuer Museum.

6. The “Beauty” Monaco (Used for Photography / Stills) — sold by Don Nunley to private collector; resold three times in private sales; sold by “Profiles in Hollywood” in auction, on July 31, 2012, for $799,500 (representing a hammer price of $650,000 plus a 23 percent premium ($149,500)); discussed in detail in this posting.

Postings about Heuer Chronographs Used in the Filming of Le Mans

Michael Clerizo conducted extensive research into the Monaco chronographs used in the filming of Le Mans, and reported his findings in The Wall Street Journal — The Hunt for McQueen’s Heuers. A colorful PDF of that article is available HERE.

Chris Malburg, writing for Quill and Pad, interviewed Don Nunley, the property master of Le Mans, and reports his findings in The Real Story Behind Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco.

OnTheDash posting, Anatomy of an Invoice — McQueen’s Monacos — covers the chronographs and other Heuer timepieces that Heuer sent to Le Mans.

Postings about Other McQueen / Le Mans Topics

One of the racing suits that Steve McQueen wore in the filming of Le Mans was sold for $984,000, in December 2011.  Here is our posting covering this sale.

In 2018, Phillips planned to sell a Rolex Submariner, which was a gift from Steve McQueen to his favorite stuntman, Loren James.  Things got complicated when the Estate of Steve McQueen challenged the provenance of the watch.  Forbes covers the story of the watch and the aborted auction in the posting, Phillips Withdraws Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner From Auction Amid Conflict With The McQueen Estate

Jeff Stein
October 28, 2020