Don Nunley was the property ace on Steve McQueen’s popular Le Mans film and knew the actor.
He and I were eating one night, and he educated me regarding a watch he’d as of late sold. He said it was utilized in a McQueen film.
“That wouldn’t be the Heuer Monaco, would it?” I asked.
“As an obvious reality, it was,” Don said.
Back during the 1970s, McQueen was the lord of cool: he was a world-acclaimed celebrity and a conspicuous racecar driver. In 1970 he put second in the 12 Hours of Sebring – an expert race – driving a Porsche 908/02.
His star status came off on whatever he contacted. A valid example: the Heuer Monaco utilized in his hit film, which has become a famous watch inseparable from both McQueen and engine sports.
There are such countless shots in Le Mans of the Monaco jabbing free from the correct sleeve of McQueen’s white Nomex dashing suit with the “Chronograph Heuer” fix on the privilege shoulder.
Talk about item arrangement: Nunley was one of the first to tap this now colossally rewarding income hotspot for filmmakers.
Nunley’s item arrangement thought for combining the world’s generally tiresome and popular vehicle race with the similarly legendary Heuer brand was a stroke of genius.
Timing is fundamental to motorsports, and Heuer was known for its exactness and relationship to the game and still, at the end of the day: the game’s leading members really utilized the brand’s timepieces.
Additionally, engine sports additionally pull in a very much heeled crowd.
These were the ideal elements for a match that at last got the checkered banner. Nunley and Heuer prevailing with regards to connecting perhaps the most perceived very good quality watch brands of the time with the megastar of the time.
My companion presently concedes that he ought to have purchased all the Heuer stock he could safe house gotten his hands on.
Le Mans prop selection
“you must comprehend,” Nunley advised me, “being the property ace on a significant film with the greatest star in the business requires the tact of a represetative combined with the knowledge just a gem ball can give. The greatest mix-up a prop expert can make isn’t giving the star enough decisions in the props he utilizes all through the film.
“When we started the Le Mans project in 1970, Steve McQueen was at his outright tallness as a celebrity. He was simply coming off two hits – Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair. That box office power gave McQueen the advantage of picking his own activities and setting his own terms.”
Nunley depicted how he assembled the props inside the setting of both the film and the character McQueen played: Michael Delaney, a defective yet regarded driver with more at the forefront of his thoughts than just racing.
“During the time I worked with Steve,” Nunley proceeded, “I turned into a very decent adjudicator of what props would make him look great and be normal for him to handle on set. It was dependent upon me to select a gathering of possible decisions for every thing. In any case, it was dependent upon Steve to sell the crowd on his last selections.”
In McQueen’s case, the props and closet things he utilized in his movies frequently advanced into his own collection. For sure, in 2011 RM Sotheby’s unloaded the entertainer’s very own Porsche 911S – which was utilized in Le Mans – at a sledge cost of $1.25 million (with purchaser’s expense: $1,375,000).
At a similar closeout, one of three hustling suits (with protective cap) McQueen wore in the film pounded for $984,000.
The market for film-utilized Nomex dashing suits appears to have mollified in the resulting years. In 2017 one more of the McQueen/Le Mans racing suits pounded for just $336,000. In any case, this one has a story behind it.
After its release, German teenie magazine Bravo supported a limited time challenge for two of the film’s memorabilia: the Porsche 914 as first prize and one of the leftover white Nomex hustling suits (with cap) as second prize. I can just accept that McQueen’s creation company gave the two items.
One of the challenge contestants was a youngster at that point, wanting to win the Porsche. He got the second prize all things being equal, the hustling suit. Baffled, he collapsed it up and put it away for the following 46 years.
The widow of the suit’s proprietor at that point reached Sotheby’s in 2017, where it was incorporated at auction.
How the Heuer Monaco was chosen
Nunley disclosed to me that he reached Jack Heuer to check whether he may have an interest in giving a few pieces to the film. His shopping list included stopwatches, timing sheets, logo patches (for closet), and a few chronographs.
Back in 1970, the blue-dialed Monaco with its two subdials and date window retailed for $400. Surely it wasn’t close to however famous as it seems to be today with its massive 39 x 39 mm square case.
That is until McQueen lashed it to his wrist, move into his Porsche 917, and thundered into history. The present retail cost for another Monaco is $5,900.
Nunley’s story goes that he accumulated watches from fivepossible brands for use on the film that he thought would work and that McQueen might want: Tissot, Omega, Bulova, Rolex, and Heuer. Each brand had three or four distinct models addressed in this excellence contest.
Nunley writes in his book, Le Mans in the Rearview Mirror : “Steve investigated all the watches on the table. He didn’t utter a word from the outset. He was attracted to the Omega. He got it and said, ‘I’d prefer to wear this’.”
Then Nunley brought up the Heuer fix on the white Nomex driver’s suit McQueen had just picked and told the entertainer that Michael Delaney likely wouldn’t wear an Omega watch when his suit said Heuer.
This practically dispensed with any remaining watches yet the Heuers.
Jack Heuer had submitted four chronograph models, three of which seemed to be like different watches. McQueen investigated all the Heuers, picking the Monaco much over the Autavia that was more the racer’s watch with its exceptionally legible dial and external turning tachymeter scale on the bezel.
What an amazement, since McQueen needed his character’s ensemble to be just about as uninspiring as could be expected. Rather he picked the most unordinary piece in the whole collection with its larger than usual, strangely molded case and bright dial.
How numerous Heuer Monacos were used?
Movie props experience the ill effects of hard use; this is an industry where time is money.
Often the props –, for example, closet and individual things like watches – are given by the maker complimentary in return for the chance of a nearby or two in the film.
Today, obviously, there are considerable expenses paid by makers for the privilege of having their items show up in a film. Also the promoting connections, supports, and all the rest that make Hollywood a particularly rewarding business separated from dramatic ticket sales.
The accurate number of Monacos utilized in Le Mans is significant in view of the enormous worth joined to not many pieces. It’s a matter of supply and demand.
Nunley required six watches. One promptly disappeared, its whereabouts unknown.
Of the five leftover Monacos, one was assigned for McQueen to wear on set. Nunley saved the last four as reinforcement holds if the primaries were harmed or some way or another likewise vanished. Of these four, Nunley kept one as immaculate and unblemished, for go through just in close photography and PR stills.
In the prop expert’s lexicon this is called the legend piece.
Where did the Heuer Monacos follow filming?
My companion is really an expert regarding the matter of movies and the entertainment world, and Le Mans is no exemption. So I asked him where the excess Monacos pursued the film was released.
“Knowing Steve’s standing for having tacky fingers,” Nunley said, “I detailed one of my prop collaborators to shadow him on the set and recover the watch at whatever point McQueen completed a scene. All things considered, by one way or another one of the five excess Monacos actually figured out how to disappear – presumably to Steve.”
And then there were four.
Nunley purchased all the circumstance gear and the watches from Heuer for somewhere close to $400 and $1,000 so they were his to do with as he chose.
Of the leftover four Monacos Nunley offered one to a dear companion. After the companion’s demise, his child (Nunley’s godson) needed to sell the Monaco, so Nunley associated him with collector and land financial backer Michael Isenberg in Beverly Hills.
The sale cost for the number four Monaco was somewhere close to $40,000 and $50,000.
Nunley sold Monaco numbers two and three on eBay. This is what he told me.
“The Heuer company reached me and made a proposal to get one of the excess Monacos for $5,000. I didn’t know what the honest evaluation really was, however I envisioned it to be a little more than that. So I offered two of the watches on eBay.
There was incredible offering, moving into the $9,000 territory. Heuer called again and inquired as to whether they could purchase the watch for their unique proposal of $5,000. I disclosed to them that they’d need to outbid the high-water mark on eBay of $9,000, however they would be wise to rush since offering would be shutting soon.”
It turns out that a couple who didn’t have the foggiest idea about the different was in any event, offering bought the two looks for a little more than the $9,000 offers each.
What about the last Monaco?
Nunley gave the last Monaco to his father, who wore it until he passed on certain years after the fact. “This was the real watch that McQueen wore in the film. It was very much utilized, both by McQueen and my father.” So the last Monaco returned to Nunley.
“I got a call from a very rich person, one of the Forbes 400,” he said. “He realized I had the watch and he needed to get it. We chose to meet at his domain. We hadn’t talked cost at this point. He needed to know whether I had some other watches – of notable importance or not – that I may sell. I did: the last Monaco, a gold Rolex Submariner, a Heuer Carrera, another Heuer chronograph, and three stopwatches utilized in the film.
“Over espresso we discussed Hollywood, entertainers, Le Mans, and Steve McQueen. I had a number at the top of the priority list for all the pieces I had brought. He probably read my psyche since he gave me a clerk’s check for that careful sum. In any case, subsequent to seeing the Monaco and different watches, he revealed to me that he didn’t think it was sufficient. So he had his bookkeeper, who was working in the following room, get his own checkbook while I contended that the principal check was more than reasonable. I disclosed to him that on the off chance that I took any more cash I’d recently placed it into my grandchild’s schooling fund.
“‘How numerous grandchildren you got?’ he asked.
“He continued to compose a check for an exceptionally liberal sum expected for every one of my seven grandchildren. What a gentleman. Who knows, he could actually still have the Monaco.”
One of the Monacos surfaced in 2012 at Profiles In History’s “Hollywood Auction , pounding for $650,000 with a 23 percent purchaser’s top notch, bringing the sale cost up to $799,500.
Here’s the way the sale house portrayed the watch in its catalog:
This is the real wristwatch worn by Steve McQueen during Le Mans creation and in related pictures. In 1970, Jack Heuer himself conveyed an assortment of his chronograph watches to Donald Nunley, prop ace on the arrangement of Le Mans in France. From this selection, Steve McQueen himself picked this particular watch to wear as his character “Michael Delaney” during creation and in exposure photographs. In an early example of item arrangement, this watch is visible on the arm of McQueen in countless photographs and a definitive film. Truth be told, his sleeve is frequently prominently pushed up to uncover the watch for the cameras.
In 1969 Heuer released the principal programmed chronograph and broke with custom by making a square waterproof case to house it. A buckled, dark leather vented tie completes the attractive piece. Housed in a red, spring-pivoted case brandishing the Heuer logo and a checkered banner theme. The watch is situated in a red felt base. The watch is in remarkable condition and comes with its unique manual of activity containing an industrial facility composed documentation that the watch was offered to “24 h at Le Mans 1970.” An orange sticker on the rear of the watch bears the reference number 1133b (the sticker is scoured from wear, as McQueen wore the watch broadly underway) and an authenticated letter of legitimacy from Le Mans prop ace Donald Nunley.
While investigating this article I ran over a single reference that McQueen gave his Monaco to his monetary counsel. This watch could be the one auctioned.
However, prop pieces utilized in movies are by and large treated generally, yet this watch was depicted as being in “uncommon condition.” There’s the conundrum.
Earlier I portrayed the saint watch, which was kept for possible later use and in mint condition for close-ups and exposure photographs. Nunley thinks the watch that was the subject of this closeout presumably was the legend watch of Le Mans. It appears to be that way.
So if my bookkeeping is correct, I’ve distinguished where five of the six Monacos went.
Where’s the 6th? It might have been secretly offered to a collector and additionally have been the subject of at least one private sales from that point forward. We’ll most likely never know until it surfaces publicly.
Wasn’t there a McQueen Rolex Submariner?
Yes there was. McQueen frequently wore his own Rolex Submariner on the Le Mans set. Nunley says the entertainer showed up on days he wasn’t scheduled to work. He loved spending time with the drivers. Regularly he’d embed himself as simply one more driver during the filming.
On those days he’d wear whatever white driver’s dashing suit was hanging in closet and his Submariner. Since there were no nearby ups nobody could tell who the driver was anyway.
McQueen’s Submariner was unloaded by Antiquorum in 2009 , where it pounded at a cost of $234,000 – which appears to be low today, yet set the precedent for this reference in 2009. The watch was a steel Reference 5512 from around 1967 with three hands and no date, yet in fair condition.
It actually appears to be a deal given that it had a place with Steve McQueen. In all, the entertainer’s assets – including different watches and a motorcycle – got an aggregate of $5.7 million at this New York City auction.
Put an item – any item – in the possession of a celebrity and you have a triumphant combination that is ensured to increase in value throughout the long term. Examples of the celeb premium are rampant.
Daniel Craig’s Omega Planet Ocean utilized in Casino Royale brought $255,565, the greatest cost at any point paid for a James Bond watch. Notwithstanding, it is valuable to realize that this watch was sold at the primary at any point themed sell off, Antiquorum’s OmegaMania , which was an occasion in itself.
The second most elevated was Craig’s Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean utilized in Skyfall , which pounded at Christie’s in 2012 for $254,273. Continues went to Orbis, a non-benefit giving eye care in creating nations.
By contrast, Roger Moore’s Rolex utilized in Live and Let Die most as of late pounded for $365,000, however its past turn on the platform just brought $196,056. This could be clarified by the proceeding, broadened public interest in both Rolex and auctions.
During its prime, Antiquorum was in the main part of celebrity watch barters with maybe its best outcome coming at a 2012 sale in which it sold Olympic ski champion J ean-Claude Killy’s Rolex Dato-Compax Chronograph (around 1951) at a mallet cost of $614,500 .
Just six years prior in 2012 C hristie’s sold Eric Clapton’s 1987 Patek Philippe Reference 2499/100 in platinum for a dumbfounding $3.6 million . Without the popular guitarist’s provenance a similar reference in yellow gold sold for $539,000 at Bonham’s 2015 Geneva auction.
Before Major League Baseball started passing out World Series rings, players were granted watches. Angel Ruth’s Gruen Verithin pocket watch commemorating the Yankees’ 1923 World Series title pounded for $717,000 at the Heritage 2014 New York City closeout . The watch was particularly imperative since it was Ruth’s first piece of MLB title hardware.
The Monaco watch was not alone
Nunley collected various different things from the film, too.
Two stand apart to me as being of most prominent interest: hand-cut little model vehicles by somebody on the set. “These were so complicatedly detailed thus very much done, they were genuinely show-stoppers. One was of the Porsche 922; another was of a Ferrari.” Nunley offered them to Mike Isenberg in Beverly Hills.
Lastly, Nunley kept the first Le Mans script.
However, there were such countless changes – frequently consistently and now and again around the same time – that he quit monitoring them. The progressions went ahead various shaded pages to distinguish which rendition they were.
Nunley started simply pushing the shaded pages into the rear of his content, which he had pleasantly bound. What’s more, he offered it to Isenberg for $3,000. Later Isenberg disclosed to him that was the most cash at any point paid for a content not endorsed by the entertainer or director.
So that is my account of Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco.
What started as supper with a long-standing companion took me on a secret visit through what really befell one of the entertainment world’s most acclaimed props – as advised to me by the Le Mans property ace himself.
Don Nunley is the writer of a book about Le Mans entitled Steve McQueen: Le Mans in the Rearview Mirror .
Chris Malburg is additionally a creator, his most recent novel is Man of Honor .
* This article was first distributed on June 26, 2018 at The Real Story Behind Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco: Exclusive Interview With ‘Le Mans’ Property Master Don Nunley .
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