In the world of the famous and very rich, there are certain things that men of influence and abundant wealth love to collect. Things like classic cars, beautiful yachts, stately mansion, plush penthouses, and then there is the multi-faceted world of vintage watches. In the realm of luxury watches, names like Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer, Cartier, Panerai and of course Rolex are some of the most respected. Also, the older and more obscure a watch is, the higher its asking price. Another factor that also drives up the price of a vintage watch is if it was ever owned by a respected celebrity – or perhaps a certain iconic personality had a hand in developing or propelling the status of the watch. Below are some of the most well-known watches associated with popular Hollywood stars and well-known personalities.
The Paul Newman Rolex Daytona:
Rolex is one of those luxury names that is respected and revered the world over. It’s one of those rites of passage for the wealthy. Once you are able to buy a Rolex, there is a symbolic understanding that “you’ve arrived.” There are several different types and editions of Rolex watches, but the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona is definitely at the top of the heap. The Rolex Daytona is a stainless steel chronograph watch that was officially introduced by the Swiss-based company in 1965. Paul Newman, the leading man behind classic movies like Cool Hand Luke and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starting wearing this already popular watch in 1972. The association of his name and cool Hollywood image with the watch catapulted the value of this watch to insane levels. Mr. Newman stayed loyal to this watch all through his life, and currently, authentic versions of the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona sell anywhere from $15,000 to $200,000. Actually, last year at a record-setting Christie’s auction, a rare Paul Newman Rolex Daytona with steel casing and mechanical chronograph sold for a whopping $1.1 million. Wow!
Steve McQueen’s Monaco Heuer
Another watch brand that holds a lot of clout and admiration in the world of vintage watches is Tag Heuer. The company started in 1896 and it was the first watch brand to introduce an automatic square-shaped chronograph in 1969. The watch was dubbed the “Monaco” after the popular Formula One race. However the popularity of the watch really took off when Hollywood icon of that era, Steve McQueen wore the watch in the 1971 racing movie Le Mans. McQueen was the perfect conduit for propelling the image of the watch – he was dashing, debonair, fashionable, rebellious and had a presence like no other. As a marketing persona, you couldn’t pick a better vehicle for your promotions. Even after the seminal actor died in 1980, Heuer continued using stills from the movie to promote the Monaco watch. Just to give you an of how coveted this watch is, a McQueen Heuer Monaco that McQueen actually wore on the set of Le Mans recently sold for $799,500 at auction.
Eric Clapton’s Patek Philippe
Yet another Swiss watch company that is constantly sought after by lovers of luxury is Patek Philippe. This watch company was started in Geneva in 1850 by Polish immigrants and over the years, the company has brought some important evolutions to the wrist watch. For example, Patek Philippe pioneered features like a perpetual calendar, a split-seconds hand and a minute-repeater. Most watch connoisseurs are also in love with Patek Philippe tagline which states; “You never really own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” One celebrity inextricably linked to this watch is the blues guitar god, Eric Clapton. Mr. Clapton famously owned a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph with a beautiful moon phase display. In 2012, this particular watch sold for a mind-numbing $3.6 million at a Christie’s auction. No matter how jaded you might be about material possessions, you must admit that it’s quite impressive that a wristwatch can sell for so much.
James Dean’s Elgin Pocket Watch
After already speaking about great American Hollywood icons like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, it’s only right that we included the name of the handsome heartthrob and Hollywood icon, James Dean. Dean made his mark in Hollywood with classic movies like East of Eden, Giant and Rebel Without a Cause. During the early 50s, until his untimely demise, he was one of the most recognizable faces in Tinsel town. The watch most associated with Dean is a gold-plated Elgin pocket watch. His particular watch dated back to 1889, an era that was considered a truly remarkable period in American watch making. He loved this pocket watch so much that he even used it as a personal accessory in his movie, East of Eden. Unfortunately James Dean died in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24, but just last summer, his beloved Elgin pocket watch sold for a very respectable $42,000 at an Antiquorum watch auction.
Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner
It’s hard to imagine a time in film without James Bond movies. We have certainly scene a rotating door of actors being chosen to play the role of the dapper British spy over the years; Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, to name a few. But there is really no substitute for the original. Sean Connery was the first ever actor to be cast for the first Bond movie Dr. No. The story goes like this: When it was time to choose the watch that Connery would wear in the film, there was not enough money to buy a Rolex watch for the actor to wear. It ended up happening that the film’s producer, Cubby Brocoli took his own Rolex Submariner off his wrist and handed it to Sean Connery to wear. Just like that, the Submariner watch became part of James Bond folklore. The present James Bond, Daniel Craig actually wore a vintage Rolex Submariner in the Quantum of Solace movie. At current auctions, this unique Rolex Submariner can go for close to $100,000.
Jacques Cousteau’s Omega Seamaster 600 Ploprof
Throughout this piece, we’ve talked about watches associated with Hollywood, racing, music and movies – all activities that take place above sea level. Now we’re going to travel several leagues beneath the sea and talk about a watch made famous by internationally renowned deep sea explorer, Jacques Cousteau. The skinny-framed Frenchman is nothing short of a legend, and he dedicated his life to exploring the depths of the sea for the enlightenment of all humanity. Actually the movie The Life Aquatic starring Bill Murray was based on Cousteau, down to the red beanie hat he wore all the time.
During the 1960s and 70s, Swiss watch company Omega approached Cousteau and his team to help them design a functional watch that would operate and thrive under the pressures of deep sea diving. The result was the Omega Seamaster 600 Ploprof. This watch could travel to 600m, but because it was quite clunky and really expensive to make, it wasn’t a huge commercial success. However, nowadays, this watch has taken on quite a mythical reputation and is a favorite for serious watch collectors. Rare versions of this watch can go for $7,000-$10,000.