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 Auction, 12-26 October

  • 1
  • Rolex ‘Batman’

Rolex, GMT-Master II, ‘Batman’, Ref. 116710BLNR. Estimate $6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, Online

Rolex, GMT-Master II, ‘Batman’, Ref. 116710BLNR. Estimate: $6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, Online

The tendency to nickname Rolexes means that sometimes only the slightest coincidence can inspire a new sobriquet. The black and blue colours of the ceramic bezel of the GMT-Master II are often associated with the superhero, Batman. Introduced in 2014, this model has also been called ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Bruiser’.

  • 2
  • Rolex ‘James Cameron’

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue, Ref. 116660. Estimate $8,000-12,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, Online

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue, Ref. 116660. Estimate: $8,000-12,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, 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. 

  • 3
  • Rolex ‘Kermit’

Rolex  50th Anniversary Submariner, Ref. 16610LV. Estimate $6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, Online

Rolex 50th Anniversary Submariner, Ref. 16610LV. Estimate: $6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, Online

Despite commemorating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Submariner, this special edition has been dubbed the ‘Kermit’. The vivid green bezel was created in Rolex’s signature green, but immediately drew comparisons to the affable Muppet frog. 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.

  • 4
  • Rolex ‘Steve McQueen’

Rolex Explorer II, Ref. 1655. Estimate $8,000-12,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, Online

Rolex Explorer II, Ref. 1655. Estimate: $8,000-12,000. This lot is offered in Watches Online Auction, 12-26 October 2016, 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 ‘Paul Newman’

Rolex, ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, Ref. 6239. This particular example came from the original owner, for whom Rolex had converted the pump pushers to more water-resistant screw-down pushers during a service. Sold for $118,750 in March 2016
Rolex, ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, Ref. 6239. This particular example came from the original owner, for whom Rolex had converted the pump pushers to more water-resistant screw-down pushers during a service. Sold for $118,750 in March 2016

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.

  • 6
  • 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.