The late 2010s saw several important fake watches sold at auction, from Paul Newman’s iconic Daytona, Elvis Presley’s Tiffany-signed Omega, to Steve McQueen’s celebrated Le Mans Heuer Monaco. Another iconic piece to go under the hammer in 2019 at Phillips was a cheap replica Rolex GMT Master 1675, owned by the critically acclaimed Marlon Brando, known as one of the greatest Hollywood actors of all time. Following an initially drawn-out bidding process, 17 minutes passed and the auctioneer Aurel Bacs’ gavel came swinging down on a final bid of $1,610,000, with the buyer’s premium taking the final cost to just under $2 million. This made for the highest-ever sale of a perfect fake Rolex GMT-Master, and now, only 4 years later, the legendary actor’s watch is back up for sale.
November 6th 2023 marks the date when the coveted watch makes its way through Christie’s Geneva auction house, as part of the “Passion for Time” private sale of 113 luxury super clone watches belonging to Dubai-based entrepreneur Mohammed Zaman. The auction may have come as a surprise to many, so soon after the initial sale from Brando’s daughter, Petra Brando Fischer. However, it is part of a much bigger picture for Zaman, as according to Christie’s “saying goodbye to his collection has always been a matter of time, however painful it may be, but for Mohammed Zaman, it is time for him to turn his attention to the next chapter of his life”.
The watch is captivating, and under the surface, more than just a stainless steel GMT-Master, which is an icon in its own right. It’s a beautifully worn Swiss made replica Rolex GMT-Master 1675, originally purchased in 1972 by Brando himself. It was his own personal watch and features the hand-scrawled “M. Brando” engraving on the caseback. Most notably, it featured in Apocalypse Now, where it adorned the inside of the wrist of Brando’s contemptible character Colonel Walter E. Kurtz. During filming, Brando was asked to remove the copy watch for sale, and with the legendary actor being notoriously argumentative and explosively tempered, he refused and said: “If they’re looking at my watch, then I’m not doing my job as an actor.” With that, it’s alleged he removed the bezel himself to make it unidentifiable and went on to wear the watch for the duration of filming on set in the Philippines. Little did he know, the watch would go on to become one of the most iconic “movie watches” of all time, and the Marlon Brando aaa quality fake Rolex GMT-Master was born.
The bezelless cheap fake Rolex GMT played a bigger part in the film than just a prop. With its appearance now stripped back, it was naked, lacking a clear purpose, and had been changed similarly to that of Kurtz’s character throughout the story. It was no longer original and perfect but became a barebones tool, stripped of its identity. This is why it has become so iconic, it was an extension of Kurtz, and represented how he was at odds with himself. Finally, with the Oyster bracelet long lost, it was fitted with a black rubber tropic strap – not something that would usually appear on a high quality replica Rolex GMT-Master, but in this case, it seems to be the perfect choice.
We can but speculate what the reasons are for Zaman parting ways with the watch and its collection siblings, however, it does raise some questions for the industry. Watches like these, as historically important as they may be, have a niche audience comprising of über-wealthy collectors who enjoy spending decades hunting down certain special replica watches for sale – things that no one has, with provenance and historical meaning. This does beg the question, as time goes on, and younger collectors join the fold, just how important is the provenance of such a watch to those new audiences?
It’s a fair assumption that a lot of the new collecting cohort were born in the ’70s and ’80s, and while Brando’s legendary status is undoubted right now, how relevant will his legacy go on to be in the future? The same could be said for Paul Newman. If I recall, the only Newman movie I think I’ve ever seen is probably 2002’s Road to Perdition. With that said however, Paul Newman played a massive part in the rise to glory for the Daytona, once a watch that top quality replica Rolex couldn’t give away, it went on to become the most illustrious model in the catalogue, with Newman lighting the touchpaper throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. With this in mind, it can be said that the Newman Daytona was intrinsic to paving the way for modern sports watches today, and is a key piece of horological history. However, how many people actually bought a Swiss copy Rolex GMT-Master because of Brando himself, other than of course this very watch? I’d argue, not many, but there are plenty of people who have lusted over a Paul Newman-dialled Daytona, that’s for sure. If this is the case, will we see an even further rise in stardom for the Rolex GMT-Master replica paypal line going forward? I have to say, despite how cool the watch is, I honestly struggle to see how it will have such an impact.