With so many false monikers attached to Rolex watches, it’s refreshing to finally talk about a watch one of those namesake personalities actually wore.
Steve McQueen acted throughout the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, virtually up until his death from cancer in 1980. Indeed, he starred in The Great Escape, which we wrote about here. And he’s known for his iconic roles in the likes of Bullitt (famous for one of the great car chases ever caught on film), LeMans (from which emerged another iconic watch, the Heuer Monaco), and The Towering Inferno.
But it was on the set of the movie Papillon in 1972 where well-known photos of McQueen wearing his personal watch were taken.
The watch? A Rolex Submariner 5512. And in fact, many photos of McQueen show him wearing the Sub. The exceptions are the publicity shots for the movie Le Mans.
And what about this watch? The reference that truly deserves to be called the “Steve McQueen?”
The chronometer-rated 5512 was released by Rolex in 1959, along with its non-chronometer brother, the 5513. Both were rated to 200meters/660 feet or water resistance. Their new little brother, the 5508, was rated to 100M/330ft. This new trio of Submariners replaced the 6536 and 6538 and featured crown guards now, along with a silver triangle on the bezel at 12, and silver replaced the gilt printing on the dial in later versions.
The 5512 was produced for about fifteen years, wrapping up in the mid 1970s. However, the 5513 continued for nearly fifteen more years before giving way to the 14060. And the MilSub military variant of the 5513 was also being issued to Her Majesty’s underwater teams during the late 1960s and 1970s.
And that wraps up this three-part series of Rollies known, for better or worse, for the stars who did or didn't wear them. Tomorrow, check in here for the watches of COMEX, the French company specializing in underwater engineering and deep diving operations.
- Ed Estlow