Marlon Brando’s Customized Rolex Just Sold for $5 Million

In addition to the defrosting of Mariah Carey, lowering temperatures also means it’s watch auction season again. Fall is when institutions named after fellows such as Christie, Phillip, and Sotheby fill catalogs with all manner of precious Pateks, reliable Rollies, and incredible independents. The season’s first big stretch kicked off this past weekend in Geneva, pulling in some jaw-dropping results.

You may recall that in late 2019, Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT-Master that he wore as former Special Forces Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now hammered for $1.95 million. Brando had removed the watch’s iconic bezel (making it more reflective of Kurtz’s insanity and proclivity for jungle-bound theatrics—and to ameliorate director Francis Ford Coppolla’s concerns that it was out of place) and hand-scratched his name onto the caseback. The provenance and Brando’s modifications make this a very special version of the GMT-Master ref. 1675 from 1972.

This weekend, Brando’s Rolex sold for the shocking price of $5,124,783—more than double its price just four years ago. (The watch hammered for $4,528,500 but eclipsed $5 million after buyer’s fees—and you thought Ticketmaster was bad.) After coming up for auction only a few years ago, experts were skeptical that the watch would be able to beat out the original result. The Brando GMT was part of a single-owner sale from mega-collector Mohammed Zaman, who originally bought the watch back in 2019. The Brando piece constituted one of the star lots from a collection that brought in close to $38 million.

While the new winning phone bidder remains a mystery—and a last-minute, third-party guarantee raised every lot’s estimate significantly—the results speak to a bullish market, and this despite a marked softening relative to the pre-pandemic heyday of, say, five or six years ago. (Technically, the Brando GMT’s revised estimate was 3.75–6.5 million Swiss francs, meaning it just covered said estimate when accounting for fees.)

George Daniels x Roger Smith Millenium

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – NOVEMBER 2: Millennium A Unique and Historically Important White Gold Automatic Wristwatch with Date, Double Signed by George Daniels and Roger W Smith (Estimate in excess of CHF 1,000,000) is displayed during the Sotheby’s Geneva Luxury Week press call on November 2, 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland. Today 2nd of November 2023 Sotheby’s officially launched its seventh Luxury Week in Geneva, with a special preview of extraordinary top lots from its forthcoming auction series which includes the live Important Watches Part I sale on Sunday 5 November, followed by two live evening sales dedicated to ‘Vienna 1900: An Imperial and Royal collection’, a history-making noble collection on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 November, concluding with the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sales on Wednesday 8 November. Luxury Week is a twice-yearly, industry-wide seasonal series which Sotheby’s stages in Hong Kong, New York and Geneva – adding a unique mix of luxury sales including handbags and accessories to its flagship high jewellery, noble jewels and fine watches sales.This season top lots include two masterpieces of horology from the greatest watchmaker of the 20th century, George Daniels and Roger W Smith, his successor. Together they form the most historically important pairing of wristwatches ever to come to auction. There is also ‘Vienna 1900: An Imperial and Royal Collection’ featuring dazzling jewellery of historical importance and museum quality pieces from the most important Viennese Imperial and Royal jewellery collection ever to come to auction. Meanwhile, the Magnificent Jewels sale is headlined by important pieces, both vintage and contemporary, by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron and Bulgari. Outstanding gemstones also feature such as ‘The Blue Lagoon’, a 93.94-carat Paraíba tourmaline in a bespoke necklace by Adler or the 103.62-carat Fancy Intense Yellow diamond. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)Robert Hradil/Getty Images

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