A recent auction brought up a piece of horological history: the Heuer Monaco racing watch Steve McQueen wore in the movie Le Mans. While the auction house, called Phillips, claims this is “the most important Heuer wristwatch of all time, and one of the most celebrated timepieces of the 20th century,” I wouldn’t go that far. That said, it’s a pretty iconic piece.
The watch marks the rise of the steel sports watch and a massive departure from the traditional gold Rolexen found on the wrists of 1960s ad men. It was a “cool” watch in an era of decidedly uncool watches and marked the beginning of a new era in design and bold uses of color.
From the release:
The Heuer Monaco, positioned at Lot 20 was one of the stars of the auction, live-streamed from New York City with record online attendance. The watch, which was originally listed as ?estimate on request?, opened with a bid of $200,000. After a 7-minute bidding war, the watch eventually sold?to an online bidder for $1,800,000 before buyer?s premium, marking a new record price for a Heuer at auction, and becoming the most expensive Heuer wristwatch ever sold. Watch enthusiasts from around the world followed this historic moment online?and over the phone.
The watch was gifted to the film?s Chief Mechanic and McQueen?s personal mechanic, Haig Alltounian, by Steve McQueen at the end of filming. Consigned directly by Alltounian, the watch?s case back features the engraving ?TO HAIG Le MANS 1970?, dedicated to him by McQueen.