For the two weeks since Phillips announced that it would be selling a Rolex Submariner reference 5513 given by Steve McQueen to his stunt man Loren Janes, the watch world has been buzzing. It’s not uncommon for watches with rich provenance to come up at auction, to cause lots of excitement, and to hammer for big money. Last year we saw Paul Newman’s Paul Newman sell for $17.8 million at Phillips, breaking nearly every watch-related world record in its wake. Before that there was the Bao Dai, and long before that there was Steve McQueen’s other Rolex Submariner that sold for $234,000 in 2009.
But with those watches the stories were pretty straightforward. For provenance to matter, it needs to be reliable and everyone needs to be on the same page. With the Loren James Submariner though, a number of people have called the official Phillips story into question, most notably questioning the lineage of the watch on the block and whether or not Steve McQueen actually wore the watch himself for years before giving it to Janes. When there started to be smoke, we went looking for the fire. After lots of phone calls, emails, and text messages, it was looking like most of the commotion was nothing more than speculation.
However, after reaching out to Steve McQueen’s son Chad McQueen, our call was returned by a lawyer for the McQueen Estate who, in an official statement, said that the family disputes the provenance as stated. While not quite fire, that’s pretty darn close.
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