Watches

Marlon Brando’s Rolex from Apocalypse Now is going up for auction

The GMT-Master will be going under the hammer at Phillips in New York later this year

As Marlon Brando was going rogue as Colonel Walter E Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now, there was one prominently features prop that was never far from him: his trusty Rolex GMT-Master. The thing is, this was no mere prop for a movie – it was, in fact, his personal timepiece. Now, after disappearing for nearly four decades and being on many watch buff’s ‘most wanted’ lists, it has resurfaced and is going up for auction later this year.

Marlon Brando on set of Apocalypse Now wearing his Rolex GMT-Master. Credit: Mary Ellen Mark

The story goes that Brando was so enamoured with the watch that he kept it locked away and never wore it. But, between allegedly residing in Brando’s top drawer and turning up at . New York auction house, where did it disappear to? Back in 1995, Brando gave the timepiece to his adopted daughter, Petra Brando Fischer, as a graduation gift and she then gave it to her husband, Russel, in 2003 as a wedding present.

News of the auction has got the collective pulse of the watch world racing in much the same way as when Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona hit the market in 2017. And the similarities go far deeper than both having been owned by legendary actors. Much like Newman’s Rolex, Brando’s has been engraved on the back of the case. However, while Newman’s was professionally done, Brando opted to do his himself by etching out a simple ‘M. Brando’ on the reverse of the watch – meaning you not only get a stellar timepiece, but also an actual signature from the man himself.

However, more intriguingly than Newman’s, this Rolex is pretty unique as it’s missing the original (and model-iconic) GMT 24-hour bezel. Apparently, Brando had an argument with the producers on Apocalypse Now as they said wearing such an eye catching watch on screen would be too distracting for the audience – so Brando popped the bezel off and the model has stayed that way ever since.

This superb watch will be the star lot in Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo’s flagship auction taking place in New York later this winter called ‘Game Changers’. While there has been no estimate given yet on what it’s estimate might be, it seems fair to speculate along a similar line as the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona – and that sold less than two years ago for over $17 million, breaking all records for watch sales. We can only guess at how much collectors will be willing to pay for this piece of horological and Hollywood history, but we suggest you start moving those funds over from your off-shore account now.

Game Changers auction, Phillips in Association with bacs & Russo, 10 December, Phillips New York, to enquire about bidding remotely go to phillips.com