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Toward the end of the 2010s, watch auction announcements were so full of celebrity names that they often read like Variety articles. Over the course of a single night in December 2019, for instance, Phillips auctioned off watches that once belonged to golfer Jack Nicklaus, Robert Downey Jr., and Marlon Brando.
At the time, many speculators assumed that the Brando watch, a 1972 Rolex GMT, would be the diamond of the season. After years of speculation regarding its whereabouts, the timepiece—which Brando famously wore in Apocalypse Now and had customized himself by popping off the bezel—was fished out of a drawer by the actor’s daughter, Petra Brando-Corval, and crossed off of Hodinkee’s list of hallowed missing pieces.
I was there that night at Phillips when the watch came up for sale. The mood was slightly muted—especially compared to the pandemonium of two years earlier, when Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona sold for $17.8 million and broke the record for the most expensive watch ever sold.
On that December night in 2019, Brando’s GMT sold for $1,952,000. Now, just four years later, the watch is already cycling back into the market. Christie’s will present the watch as part of a special auction coming entirely from a single owner, collector Mohammed Zaman. “[Zaman] told us, ‘it’s the end of a chapter,'” Remi Guillemin, head of watches for Christie’s in Europe, told Hodinkee.
Something felt odd to me about such a highly-coveted watch returning to the market so soon. But when I expressed this skepticism to those in the know, I was largely rebuffed. “Stuff gets rotated back and forth in the marketplace all the time,” said Jacek Kozubek of Tropical Watches.
Others I spoke with, however, mentioned that many collectors feel now is the time to cash out. “There are a lot of collectors of more modern watches and independent watches who feel the market has peaked,” Eric Wind, the owner of Wind Vintage, told me. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the Brando GMT does, but my guess is that it will be lower than what the owner paid… I think it was more exciting to bid when it first came to market. It seems too soon to come back to auction.”