It would be hard to overstate the iconic status in the watch-collecting world of actor/driver Steve McQueen and the Heuer Monaco watch he wore in the 1971 film Le Mans. There have been tributes and recreations aplenty over the years, but now TAG Heuer has announced that the actual reference 1133 watch worn on set by the actor will be auctioned by Phillips and Bacs & Russo on December 12, 2020.
This story, however, is a little more complicated — and interesting — than simply that of an actor and his watch. Apparently, there was more than one such watch worn on the Le Mans set, and they've come up for auction before. This one is "the last of two known Monaco wristwatches kept and gifted by Steve McQueen to be offered publicly," according to Phillips. Specifically, this exact watch was gifted to his personal mechanic Haig Alltounian after filming with the case back engraved "To Haig Le Mans 1970."
The Heuer Monaco was one of the first watches to feature an automatic chronograph movement, and it was also novel for being a square-shaped chronograph and offering water-resistance despite the challenges the square case and crystal posed. Aside from simply being funky-looking and memorable, it's an interesting and important watch for more than its movie-star status, but its screen time and association with the "King of Cool" was hugely important for Heuer. Anyone who's spent time poking around watches online has seen the image of McQueen zipping up his Heuer and Gulf-emblazoned racing suit with the Monaco on his wrist.
Phillips hasn't yet provided an estimate, but with recent examples of iconic watches associated with race car-driving actors selling for record-breaking numbers, it'll be worth keeping an eye on when it goes under the hammer as part of Phillips’ flagship New York watch auction, Racing Pulse, on December 12.