On October 25, 2018, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo will offer a Rolex Submariner, reference 5513, in New York, which they estimate will fetch between US $ 300,000 to 600,000.
On the caseback of the submariner is inscribed “To Loren, the best damn stuntman in the world. Steve.”
The “Steve” in the inscription refers to Steve McQueen who has long been revered as the silver screen’s undisputed “King of Cool.” In his twenty-six year career in Hollywood, he rose to become one of the most sought- after and highest paid actors, starring in the largest grossing films of his era.
The “Loren” in the inscription refers to Loren Janes, McQueen’s personal stunt double and close friend. McQueen had requested that Janes be his stunt double for every movie on which their schedules would allow them to collaborate, and consequently, of McQueen’s twenty-seven major motion pictures, Loren Janes was his stunt double in nineteen of them. Close friends for life, Janes and McQueen were in contact directly before McQueen’s final trip to Mexico for medical treatments.
Loren Janes was brought in to test as McQueen’s stunt double on the show that propelled McQueen into the public eye – Wanted: Dead or Alive, a Western television drama McQueen starred in from 1958 until 1961. According to an interview with Janes, two doubles had already been fired. Janes simply sat down with McQueen and told him that he could make him “look better than he imagined possible.”
A remarkable stuntman in his own right, Janes performed as a stunt double and served as a stunt coordinator in many notable films and television series of the twentieth century until his retirement in 2002. In 1961, he co-founded the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures, which lives on to this day, and though officially retired, spent much of his time outside the entertainment industry improving safety procedures in the film industry. He is widely considered one of the seminal forces in creating the modern stuntman, and incredibly, was never seriously injured or even broke a bone during a stunt. Loren Janes sadly passed away in 2017 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Ingenious and indefatigable, it’s no wonder that Steve McQueen would go out of his way to request such a man as his stunt double for the duration of his film career.
McQueen was known to gift watches to friends and colleagues that acquitted themselves particularly well, so it is no surprise that Janes would be the recipient of such a watch. Other watches, even other Rolex Submariners, have appeared in public with established McQueen provenance, but none with this level of personalisation. In fact, the present watch is the earliest McQueen-owned Submariner known.
The reference 5513 dates to 1964 and was gifted to Loren Janes likely in the mid-to-late 1970s as recollected by the surviving Janes family members.
Further elevating its importance in the field of elite collectors’ watches is the fact that it is the only known Steve McQueen watch to include his name engraved on the caseback which indisputably connects the watch to its legendary former owner. Furthermore, with its passionate and emphatic dedication to Janes, no other McQueen-owned timepiece has been seen that features such an endearing and personalised engraving.
If the provenance of this Submariner was not remarkable enough already, there was one more dramatic twist in its tale that is befitting a timepiece so immersed in Hollywood folklore.
In 2016, a wildfire outside of Los Angeles, now known as the Sand Fire, burned intensely for almost two weeks, destroying over 40,000 acres of land and killing two. Of the eighteen buildings destroyed, one of them was the home of Loren Janes and his wife. To the dismay of the Janes family, nearly all of their personal belongings and Loren Janes’ personal collection of film memorabilia were believed to be lost. However, the family was encouraged to try and find the Rolex in the rubble given the legendary durability of Submariners. They did find it, after a few days of emotionally charged shovelling. Once the watch had been found, the family sent it to be examined and restored by Rolex U.S.A., which took particular care in documenting the restoration process and preserving the watch’s priceless caseback. The soot wedged between the Rolex bracelet clasp and on the caseback is still present.
The watch will be sold along with a letter signed by Loren Janes attesting to its provenance, a letter and photos from Rolex U.S.A. documenting its restoration, and a book titled “Steve McQueen: A Life in Pictures,” which includes photos of Steve McQueen wearing the watch.
The watch will also be accompanied with an additional Rolex Submariner with glossy, gilt dial and corresponding handset; correct for its year of manufacture, acquired at great expense by the current owner to bring the watch back to its original configuration as it would have appeared originally on the wrist of McQueen in 1964.
This Rolex Submariner, given by Steve McQueen to his stuntman Loren Janes, escaping destruction when destruction seemed inevitable, is a fitting tribute to these two inimitable men. A portion of the proceeds from the auction of this watch will benefit The Boys Republic, The McQueen Family charity that rehabilitated McQueen when he was a youth. An additional portion of the proceeds will be gifted to the surviving family members of Loren Janes.