A Heuer Monaco Worn By Steve McQueen During ‘Le Mans’ Is Going To Auction On December 12
On Saturday, December 12th, one of the Heuer Monacos worn by Steve McQueen during the filming of Le Mans will be auctioned. Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo—the timepiece arm of Phillips, which also managed the auction of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona in 2017— will offer the iconic cuboid chronograph as the headlining piece in its “Racing Pulse” auction in New York this winter, which will result in the Monaco finding a new owner for the first time since 1970.
McQueen gifted the watch to the chief mechanic of Le Mans, Haig Alltounian, after filming was completed, thanking him “for keeping me alive all these months,” and inscribing the back with “To Haig Le Mans 1970”. The Monaco Reference 1133B has been with Alltounian ever since.
It’s been a very long time since the demand for high-end Swiss watches was predicated on their ability to tick more accurately than the competition. This isn’t knocking the beautifully complex movements inside their cases—before it became inextricably tied to McQueen and Le Mans, the Monaco was notable for being one of the first automatic chronographs—but it could very easily be argued that the oftentimes one-in-the-same elements of status and fashion are the primary motivations behind people paying thousands of dollars for something with less functionality than a $10 knockoff digital at the front of the drugstore checkout line. Of course, that’s not the point.
What you don’t get with that cheap-rubber-strapped CVS special is a connection to the past. We can’t speak for everyone, but a significant slice of the appeal for watches like Monacos and Speedmasters and the like is rooted in their provenance and history. Who wore it? For what purpose? Did it go to the moon? Was it strapped to McQueen’s wrist as he made filmic history?
New Monacos carry the cachet of the brand (Swiss watches are the timepiece equivalent of Italian supercars—it’s not the only source, but typically the most sought after) but more importantly, they represent the watch that Steve McQueen made immortally cool in his immortally cool movie. Tapping into that lineage doesn’t come cheap, and we’ll find out just how much the source is worth in a few weeks’ time.