Steve McQueen to Bart Simpson Rolexes with nicknames

Steve McQueen to Bart Simpson: Rolexes with nicknames

How a selection of iconic Rolex wristwatches earned their peculiar monikers — illustrated with pieces offered in forthcoming sale in New York, and those previously sold at Christie’s

  • 1
  • Rolex ‘Stelline’

Rolex. An extremely fine, rare and attractive 18k gold automatic triple calendar wristwatch with star dial and moon phases. Signed Rolex, Oyster Perpetual, Officially Certified Chronometer, Ref. 6062, Case No. 916321, Circa 1952. Estimate $1,000,000-2,000,000. Offered in An Evening of Exceptional Watches on 6 December at Christies in New York

Rolex. An extremely fine, rare and attractive 18k gold automatic triple calendar wristwatch with star dial and moon phases. Signed Rolex, Oyster Perpetual, Officially Certified Chronometer, Ref. 6062, Case No. 916'321, Circa 1952. Estimate: $1,000,000-2,000,000. Offered in An Evening of Exceptional Watches on 6 December at Christie's in New York

Introduced at the Basel Fair in 1950, the Rolex reference 6062 ‘Stelline’ — Italian for ‘starlet’ — has a truly stellar reputation among collectors. What makes it shine are its beautifully balanced design, the fact the triple calendar with moon phase was never repeated in an oyster case, and its rarity — scholars estimate only around 350 watches were made across its three years of production. The watch gets its nickname from the stars on the dial. The ‘Mark 1 Dial Type 755’ by Stern Frères is the only dial made for this reference which has star-shaped hour markers with three faceted dagger-shaped hour markers at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock with radium luminous material to their centre. Only one other dial variant (Dial Type 453) has star-shaped numerals, however the luminous material is an accent on the outer dial. The gold luminous stars are a rarity and shine brightly against the matte silvered dial.


  • 2
  • Rolex ‘Paul Newman’

Rolex, Paul Newman Daytona, Ref. 6239. Bracelet 6.7 inches  170mm. Price realised                    $150,000, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Christies Online

Rolex, 'Paul Newman' Daytona, Ref. 6239. Bracelet: 6.7 inches / 170mm. Price realised: $150,000, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Christie's Online

Joanne Woodward gave her husband this model Rolex chronograph when he took up motor racing. After he appeared on the cover of an Italian magazine wearing the wristwatch, the ‘Paul Newman’ was born. The legendary actor is said to have worn the Ref. 6239 in the 1969 motor racing movie Winning, which also starred his wife. The Art Deco font and square-ended indicators in the subdials differentiate the ‘Paul Newman’ from other Daytonas.

  • 3
  • Rolex ‘JPS Paul Newman’ or ‘John Player Special Paul Newman’

Rolex. An Extremely Fine and Very Rare 14k Gold Chronograph Wristwatch with Black John Player Special Paul Newman Dial and Bracelet. Signed Rolex, Cosmograph, Daytona, John Player Special Paul Newman Model, Ref. 6241, Case No. 2084215, circa 1968. Estimate $1,000,000-2,000,000. Offered in An Evening of Exceptional Watches on 6 December at Christies in New York

Rolex. An Extremely Fine and Very Rare 14k Gold Chronograph Wristwatch with Black "John Player Special Paul Newman" Dial and Bracelet. Signed Rolex, Cosmograph, Daytona, "John Player Special Paul Newman" Model, Ref. 6241, Case No. 2'084'215, circa 1968. Estimate: $1,000,000-2,000,000. Offered in An Evening of Exceptional Watches on 6 December at Christie's in New York

Produced between 1966 and 1969, reference 6241’s total production amounts to roughly 3,000 pieces, slightly less than 400 in 14k gold. It is an educated guess that only a fraction of these were fitted with the Paul Newman dial, either in gold or in the case of this watch, in black. The John Player Special reference 6241 was latterly named after the Team Lotus Formula 1 racing car that enjoyed success in the 1970s in the distinctive black and gold livery of tobacco company John Player Special, and was later driven by Ayrton Senna. It is an extremely rare model — less than 10 examples in 14k gold with black Paul Newman dial have appeared at auction in the last 20 years. Models in 14k gold, such as the watch above, were exclusively reserved for the North American market. 


  • 4
  • Rolex ‘Fat Lady’

Rolex, GMT-Master II Fat Lady, Ref. 16760. Bracelet 6.9 inches  175mm. Price Realised USD 20,000, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Christies Online

Rolex, GMT-Master II 'Fat Lady', Ref. 16760. Bracelet: 6.9 inches / 175mm. Price Realised: USD 20,000, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Christie's Online

Following the transitional GMT Master Ref. 16750, Rolex introduced the Ref. 16760 that would mark the beginning of a new era. Now dubbed the GMT Master II, this reference featured an all-new Cal. 3085 movement, along with a new black and red bezel configuration. However what earned it its unofficial title was its case, which in comparison to other GMT Masters is noticeably thicker, giving it additional presence on the wrist, and making it a modern rarity within the GMT Master line.

  • 5
  • Rolex ‘Pepsi’

Rolex, GMT-master Pepsi, Ref. 16700. Bracelet size 7.08 inches  180mm. Price Realised $17,500, 21 Jun 2018, Online

Rolex, GMT-master "Pepsi", Ref. 16700. Bracelet size: 7.08 inches / 180mm. Price Realised: $17,500, 21 Jun 2018, Online

In the minds of collectors, the most iconic variant of the GMT Master is, and always will be, that with the classic red and blue bezel insert configuration. From the original Ref. 6542 to the most recent, maxi-cased ceramic Ref. 126710BLRO, the Rolex has maintained this GMT Master colourway over the years. Given that this colour scheme is also shared with the famous Pepsi ‘globe’ logo, collectors affectionately refer to this variant of GMT Master bezel insert simply as a Pepsi.

  • 6
  • Rolex ‘Steve McQueen’

Rolex Explorer II, Ref. 1655. Sold for $11,250 on 12-26 October 2016, Christie’s Online 

Rolex Explorer II, Ref. 1655. Sold for $11,250 on 12-26 October 2016, Christie’s Online 

The original Rolex Explorer II Ref. 1655 is popularly known as the ‘Steve McQueen’, even though the actor apparently never sported the wristwatch himself. Instead he wore the Submariner Ref. 5512, notably on his right hand. Aficionados attribute the misnomer to an article printed in an Italian journal in the mid-1970s. First released in 1971, the timepiece’s distinctive orange 24-hour hand earned it its Italian moniker, ‘Freccione’, or ‘big arrow’. 

  • 7
  • Rolex ‘Bart Simpson’

Rolex, Submariner, Ref. 5513. Sold for $8,750 in September 2016

Rolex, Submariner, Ref. 5513. Sold for $8,750 in September 2016

A quick examination explains the nickname for Rolex’s Ref. 5513 — the ‘Bart Simpson’ Submariner. The timepiece’s coronet logo and the cartoon character’s head are similar because of the flat and shortened appearance of the crown. Rolex produced its last runs of gilt gloss dials with this Bart Simpson coronet around 1966, for Ref. 5512 and Ref. 5513, before changing to matte dials.

  • 8
  • Rolex ‘James Cameron’

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue, Ref. 116660. Sold for $13,750 on 12-26 October 2016, Christie’s Online

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue, Ref. 116660. Sold for $13,750 on 12-26 October 2016, Christie’s Online

Popularly known as the ‘James Cameron Deepsea Sea-Dweller’, this Rolex commemorates the Oscar-winning writer and director’s successful 2012 Mariana Trench expedition, when he became the first solo explorer to reach the deepest point on Earth, 35,787ft beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. In 2014, Rolex presented Cameron the first watch at the premiere of the documentary of the excursion, Deep Sea Challenge 3D, in New York. The wristwatch features a gradating blue-to-black dial with ‘DEEPSEA’ inscribed in chartreuse, the same colour as the explorer’s submersible. 

  • 9
  • Rolex ‘Batman’

Rolex GMT-Master II, Batman, Ref. 116710B. Bracelet 7.2 inches  182mm. Price Realised USD 10,000 on 12-26 October 2016, Christies Online

Rolex GMT-Master II, 'Batman', Ref. 116710B. Bracelet: 7.2 inches / 182mm. Price Realised: USD 10,000 on 12-26 October 2016, Christie's Online

The affinity for nicknaming Rolexes means sometimes the slightest coincidence may inspire a new sobriquet. The black and blue colours of the ceramic bezel of the GMT-Master II are often associated with the superhero character, Batman. Introduced in 2014, this model has also been called ‘Bruiser’ and ‘Phantom’, and features three lines of text identifying the style.

  • 10
  • Rolex ‘Kermit’

Rolex 50th Anniversary Submariner, Ref. 16610LV. Bracelet 7.5 inches  190mm. Price Realised USD 8,750 on 12-26 October 2016, Christies Online

Rolex 50th Anniversary Submariner, Ref. 16610LV. Bracelet: 7.5 inches / 190mm. Price Realised: USD 8,750 on 12-26 October 2016, Christie's Online

Despite celebrating an important anniversary, this Submariner is dubbed with the lighthearted nickname ‘Kermit’. The vivid green bezel was intended to signify the brand, but incited comparisons to Jim Henson's affable Muppet character. Issued in 2004, the anniversary timepiece is no longer in production. ‘LV’ stands for ‘Lunette Verte’ and the ‘maxi’ style dial features slightly larger hour markers and a thicker minute hand.