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The Academy Award winner's Rolex GMT Master Reference 1675, the timepiece he wore in Francis Ford Coppola's epic 1979 war film "Apocalypse Now," will be one of the top watches to be sold at auction house Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo Game Changers New York Watch Auction on Dec. 10. Another Rolex worn by golf pro Jack Nicklaus will be one of the other lots at the auction.
The Rolex GMT Master also features a never-before-seen engraving on the back that reads "M. Brando," which was hand-engraved by Brando himself. It's fitted on a black strap with its bezel — the top ring on the watch that surrounds the crystal — missing. That's because Brando was told to remove the watch while filming because it appeared to look too polished for his character, Col. Walter E. Kurtz, but he kept it on anyway, removing the bezel from its face instead to better suit the role.
The watch would ordinarily be worth between $15,000 and $20,000 on the resale market, Benjamin Clymer, the founder of Hodinkee, a high-end watch publication, told FOX Business.
Clymer says the Rolex GMT Master would be far less valuable on the resale market without its original Bezel, but because of its significance in the movie, it will likely command $1 million or more at the auction.
"It's iconic because it's how he wore it in the film," Clymer said. "But under the circumstances, it would dramatically bring the value down."
Brando owned the watch until 1995 when he gave the timepiece to his daughter, Petra Brando Fischer, according to Phillips. A portion of the proceeds will go to charity.
The theme of this year's auction is "Game Changers," dedicated to watches owned by legendary individuals from brands such as Patek Philippe, Piguet, Omega and Breitling.
Also up for auction is the Rolex Day-Date Reference 1803 in yellow gold worn by Nicklaus, also known as the Golden Bear, who received it as a gift in 1967. Nicklaus won 12 of his 18 professional major championship titles while wearing the 18-karat yellow gold watch, according to Phillips. It was the only watch he's ever worn.
"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," Nicklaus, 79, said in a statement. "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."
The watch has also become a success symbol for businessmen, former U.S. presidents and athletes like Nicklaus.
"It's become a status symbol of a man who made it in business."
Clymer said the watch would normally fetch around $12,000 on the resale market, but since Nicklaus wore it to win major championships it's become a piece of history and could command at least seven figures.
"Whether you're a golf fan or not, the fact that he's had this watch with him for the majority of his wins is very compelling," Clymer said.
Proceeds for the sale of Nicklaus' watch will go to his namesake Children’s Health Care Foundation.
Other highlights up for auction include an Urwerk UR-105 CT watch worn by actor Robert Downey Jr.'s "Iron Man" character in the 2019 "Avengers: Endgame" film, with a starting estimate between $30,000 and $60,000 with proceeds also benefiting charity.
Then there's Breitling's Navitimer Cosmonaute Reference 809 with a starting estimate between $40,000 and $80,000. The watch, which features an all-black dial, was the first watch ever worn in space by the Mercury Seven astronaut Scott Carpenter and made in 1962.
Another standout is the Vacheron Constantin made for the American climber and photographer Cory Richards with a starting estimate between $20,000 and $40,000.