Almost 40 years since his untimely death in 1980, Steve McQueen remains an icon of pop culture.
Aptly nicknamed “The King of Cool”, the 1960’s movie star was known for his anti-hero, bad boy movie persona. His off-camera personality was no less important – he had a rugged and self-assured style that to this day is considered the essence of vintage-cool.
As he shuffled from sharply suited to sporty cool, the motorsports and horology enthusiast was accompanied by his favorite accessories – a handsome car, motorbike or plane, and a fine watch on his wrist.
While he was not seen wearing the watch after production, the Monaco will always be synonymous to Steve McQueen. Launched in the Basel of 1969, the Monaco was disruptive for its time, being the first world’s first waterproof automatic chronograph with a square case — but the watch was not met with much enthusiasm from the start.
When McQueen requested for an authentic racer’s wardrobe for the filming of Le Mans, his friend racecar driver and then Heuer ambassador Jo Siffert suggested he wear a Heuer – and the rest was film history.
There are many monikers given to Rolex watches, but this is one watch that the namesake personality actually wore. McQueen has a lot of photos showing him with a personal Rolex watch, identified as the Rolex Submariner ref. 5512.
Released by Rolex in 1959, the 5512 is a chronometer-rated Submariner with 200 meters or 660 feet water resistance. It was part of the trio of Submariners launched by Rolex that began to feature crown guards, a silver triangle on the bezel at 12, and silver instead of gilt printing on the dial. It was famously worn by McQueen on his right or dominant hand, thus giving paparazzi more opportunities to photograph him with it.
Also known as the Orange Hand Explorer II, the watch colloquially known as “the Steve McQueen” was only rumored to be worn by the movie star, but that rumor was enough to earn it a spot in collections everywhere.
Launched in 1971, the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 was made specifically for mountain climbers. It featured a highly-visible orange 24-hour hand, designed to be seen in the dark, to help speleologists and explorers help work out “day” and “night”. Given its niche, it sold relatively few models in its 14-year run, but its association with McQueen has given it consistent demand to this day.
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