Marlon Brando's Rolex Goes to Auction

The Rolex GMT-Master worn by the famous actor in Apocalypse Now will be offered by Phillips on December 10 alongside a gold Rolex Day-Date owned by Jack Nicklaus.

Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now. Credits: Mary Ellen Mark, photo via Phillips
Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now. Credits: Mary Ellen Mark, photo via Phillips

How many remember Colonel Kurtz played by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's famous film released in 1979? Perhaps, some will also remember the iconic Rolex GMT-Master on the wrist of the colonel, worn throughout the film. That very Rolex will be auctioned at Phillips in New York, on the occasion of the GAME CHANGERS sale, on December 10th. 

The Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 belonged to Marlon Brando in auction by Phillips. Photo: Phillips
The Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 belonged to Marlon Brando in auction by Phillips. Photo: Phillips

"Widely considered the greatest actor of all time, Marlon Brando’s storied career has come to define the 20th century – his seminal films serving as cornerstones of American culture over the course of six decades," said Paul Boutros, Head of Watches at Phillips USA. "This Rolex GMT-Master is the holy grail of watches owned by Marlon Brando and one of the greatest ‘long lost’ watches to finally surface after years of speculation. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of Apocalypse Now, the film that brought this watch into the spotlight, we are thrilled to work with Marlon Brando’s daughter, Petra Brando Fischer, and her husband, Russel Fischer, in offering collectors an incredible opportunity to acquire this historic watch.”

"M. Brando" engraving on the back of the watch, made by the same actor. Photo: Phillips
"M. Brando" engraving on the back of the watch, made by the same actor. Photo: Phillips

Initially, Coppola was opposed to the fact that Brando wanted to wear the watch on his wrist during shooting. In fact, he was asked to remove it during the shoot because it was too recognizable.

"If they look at my watch," protested Brando, "then I'm not doing my job as an actor." He got the chance to wear the Rolex on his wrist but removed the bezel so that the accessory would be closely associated with the character.

Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now. Credits: Mary Ellen Mark, photo via Phillips
Marlon Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now. Credits: Mary Ellen Mark, photo via Phillips

The Rolex, purchased by Brando in the early seventies, has a hidden characteristic that makes it even more special: it is engraved with the name M. Brando engraving on the back. In 1995, 20 years after the filming of Apocalypse Now, Brando gave the Rolex to his daughter Petra, on the occasion of her graduation from Brown University, with a note saying “This watch is like a tank. You can do anything you want to it and it will keep on going. I want you to have it as a reminder of how proud I am of you.” Petra gave it as a gift to her husband Russel on their wedding night in 2003, but Russel never wore it, respecting its history.

Petra and Russell, who are offering the watch for sale, would like the public to remember the great contribution of Marlon Brando, who died in 2004, to the history of cinema.

"Russel and I believe that this watch is a piece of film history and we hope it will go into hands of a collector who will give it the importance it deserves," said Petra. Part of the proceeds will go to the couple's foundation that helps children in need.

Jack Nicklaus' Rolex Day‐Date Reference 1803 in yellow gold. Image: Phillips
Jack Nicklaus' Rolex Day‐Date Reference 1803 in yellow gold. Image: Phillips

In addition to Brando's Rolex, the Phillips sale will also feature the Jack Nicklaus Rolex Day-Date in yellow gold, which was gifted to the legendary golfer in 1967 and worn when he won 12 of his professional major championship titles.

Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 British Open wearing the Rolex Day-Date. Courtesy of the Nicklaus Companies via Phillips
Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 British Open wearing the Rolex Day-Date. Courtesy of the Nicklaus Companies via Phillips

“This is the very first watch I ever owned, and the only watch I wore for every professional tournament I’ve won throughout my career,” Jack Nicklaus said. “It has accompanied me at U.S. Opens, Masters Tournaments, PGA Championships, Open Championships and countless other events for over five decades, and has served me well at every step along the way. Parting ways with this watch is certainly bittersweet. While I will certainly miss the opportunity of wearing the watch and having it serve as a constant reminder of some of my life’s most memorable moments I know that parting with it will help countless children and families impacted through the work of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. I have said many times that the work being done by our Foundation and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is far more rewarding than any 4-foot putt I made to win a golf tournament. So to know that 100% of the money raised from the sale of something on my wrist that I have treasured for over a half-century will directly benefit pediatric care is a treasure of the heart. I also want to thank Phillips for contributing its profits to this great cause.”

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