A Rolex Submariner wristwatch once owned by actor Steve McQueen, which he gave to one of his former stuntmen and which was later nearly destroyed in a California wildfire, will be auctioned later this year.
The watch, made in 1964, is the earliest known Rolex owned by McQueen, Phillips auctioneers said in a news release. The actor is seen in period photos wearing the watch.
McQueen gave the watch to his favorite stuntman, Loren Janes, sometime during the 1970s, according to his family. There is an inscription on the back that reads, “Loren, the best damn stuntman in the world. Steve.”
Phillips expects the watch to sell for somewhere between $300,000 to $600,000 during the company’s watch auction held Oct. 25 in New York City. But as with anything once owned by the legendary actor and motorsports enthusiast, the “McQueen Effect” and the potential for astronomical bidding is always there.
For example, a 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera that was McQueen’s last special-order car prior to his death in 1980 sold for $1.95 million, and a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 formerly owned by McQueen went for $9,250,000, each of them multiple times the value for a non-McQueen example.
McQueen’s Porsche 911S that he drove in the opening sequences of his racing movie Le Mans sold in 2011 for about $1.38 million, and the racing suit that he wore in Le Mans as fictional character Michael Delaney sold for nearly $1 million at a Hollywood memorabilia auction. Other cars, motorcycles and memorabilia from the life of the actor also have gone for surprising amounts.
And to put the sale of the Steve McQueen watch further in perspective, a Rolex owned by actor Paul Newman sold for an astounding $17.7 million – a world record for any wristwatch – at auction in October. The estimated sales price for the Newman watch prior to that auction was $1 million.
McQueen and Janes began working together on the set of Wanted: Dead or Alive, the show that would propel McQueen to early fame.
According to a 2011 interview, Janes was the third stuntman to work on the project after the first two had been fired. Janes said he told McQueen when the pair first met, “I’m going to make you look better than you can make yourself look.”
Janes said McQueen wanted him fired as well, until he saw him pull off a stunt that involved diving through a window and vaulting over two horses. McQueen was impressed and, when Janes brought him a coffee after, the duo became fast friends.
Janes would work as McQueen’s primary stuntman — in addition to a slew of other big-name actors and actresses — for the next couple decades. McQueen gave Janes the Rolex during that time. He and McQueen remained in contact until the actor’s death in 1980.
In 2016, Janes home in Canyon County, California, burned down during a wildfire. Janes’ family believed the watch was lost, but they were urged to dig through the rubble and they found it.
The watch was restored by Rolex to look as it did when McQueen owned it, although it will be sold with some of the soot remaining between the bracelet clasp and the case back.
Some of the proceeds from the sale will be given to The Boys Republic, a foundation from which McQueen benefited as a child. Other money will go to the family of Loren Janes family, who died last year.