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 our Watches Online ‘Summer Watch Series Part II' Auction’, 28 June to 12 July, and those previously sold at Christie’s

  • 1
  • Rolex ‘Paul Newman’

Rolex, Paul Newman Daytona, Ref. 6239. Bracelet 6.7 inches  170mm. Estimate                    $100,000-200,000. Offered in Christies Watches Online Summer Watch Series Part II, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Online

Rolex, 'Paul Newman' Daytona, Ref. 6239. Bracelet: 6.7 inches / 170mm. Estimate: $100,000-200,000. Offered in Christie's Watches Online: Summer Watch Series Part II, 28 June to 12 July 2018, 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.

  • 2
  • Rolex ‘Fat Lady’

Rolex, GMT-Master II Fat Lady, Ref. 16760. Bracelet 6.9 inches  175mm. Estimate                    $15,000-25,000. Offered in Christies Watches Online Summer Watch Series Part II, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Online

Rolex, GMT-Master II 'Fat Lady', Ref. 16760. Bracelet: 6.9 inches / 175mm. Estimate: $15,000-25,000. Offered in Christie's Watches Online: Summer Watch Series Part II, 28 June to 12 July 2018, 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.

  • 3
  • Rolex ‘Pepsi’

Rolex, GMT-Master Faded Pepsi, Ref. 1675. Bracelet 7.48 inches  190mm. Estimate                    $15,000-20,000. Offered in Christies Watches Online Summer Watch Series Part II, 28 June to 12 July 2018, Online

Rolex, GMT-Master 'Faded Pepsi', Ref. 1675. Bracelet: 7.48 inches / 190mm. Estimate: $15,000-20,000. Offered in Christie's Watches Online: Summer Watch Series Part II, 28 June to 12 July 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.

  • 4
  • 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’. 

  • 5
  • 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.

  • 6
  • 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. 

  • 7
  • Rolex ‘Batman’

Rolex GMT-Master II, Batman, Ref. 116710B. Bracelet 7.2 inches  182mm. Offered on 12-26 October 2016, Christies Online

Rolex GMT-Master II, 'Batman', Ref. 116710B. Bracelet: 7.2 inches / 182mm. Offered on 12-26 October 2016, Christies 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.

  • 8
  • Rolex ‘Kermit’

Rolex 50th Anniversary Submariner, Ref. 16610LV. Bracelet 7.5 inches  190mm. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online Time for Autumn, 12-26 October 2016, Online

Rolex 50th Anniversary Submariner, Ref. 16610LV. Bracelet: 7.5 inches / 190mm. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online: Time for Autumn, 12-26 October 2016, 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.