Phillips auction house sold Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona for which a collector paid $17,752,500 in 2016.

Now a Rolex GMT Master worn by Marlon Brando in the 1979 Vietnam War classic Apocalypse Now is up for auction at Phillips’ flagship New York watch auction, GAME CHANGERS on December 10th this year.

The watch is described as the most important wristwatch formerly owned by Academy Award® winner Marlon Brando. It’s a Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675. With its excellent provenance, it’s the watch seen by millions on the wrist of former Green Beret Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, the character played by Brando, and long thought to have been missing.

In addition to its role on the silver screen, the GMT-Master being offered at Phillips is made even more exclusive by the never-before-seen engraving on the case back, “M. Brando,” hand-engraved by Marlon Brando himself.

The watch was bought by Brando in 1972 and remained in his possession until 1995 when he gifted it to his daughter, Petra Brando Fischer. The auction, which will be held this December, which will mark the first-ever public showing of the piece.

According to the watch’s story, told by Phillips, Ms. Brando Fischer recalled him telling her at the time: “This watch is like a tank. You can do anything you want to it and it will keep ongoing. I want you to have it as a reminder of how proud I am of you.”

In 2003, she gave the watch to her husband Russel Fischer, as a wedding present. He has kept it for the past 16 years without fully realizing its value to the wider movie memorabilia and watch collector world.

The sale of the Paul Newman Daytona in 2016 got the family thinking about the watch and they started discussions with auctioneers about putting it up for sale. Phillips has landed the plum piece and a portion of its sale price will go towards funding a new charitable foundation for children suffering abuse, hardship, and neglect.

The watch is a stainless-steel GMT-Master, reference 1675, manufactured in 1972 and said to be in excellent condition but its original strap has been replaced with a rubber strap.

During the problematic production of Apocalypse Now, where filming was held up for months due to a tropical storm in the fishing village of Baler in the Philippines, which destroyed the set, Brando reported for work overweight and unprepared for his role.

Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now. Credit: Mary Ellen Mark

Brando was said to have been told to remove his Rolex, but refused, saying, “If they’re looking at my watch, then I’m not doing my job as an actor,” though he did remove the watch’s bezel.

Tampering with any Rolex is normally a disaster for its resale value, but Mr. Brando’s Rolex is likely to attract even more interest because its bezel has been removed.

Paul Boutros, the head of watches for Phillips’ American division says that the watch would be worth around $20,000 without its link to Mr. Brando, but it is likely to be auctioned with a six-figure reserve price. Could it reach the Apocalypse Now production budget of US$31.5 million? Apocalypse probably no.


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