Steve McQueen's Le Mans Heuer Monaco watch to be auctioned

Auctions

Heuer Monaco watch was personally chosen by McQueen to be worn during filming for Le Mans and then later gifted by the Hollywood start to his chief mechanic

Steve McQueen wearing a Heuer Monaco watch at Le Mans 1970

McQueen wearing the Heuer Monaco; Altounian is on the far right

Getty Images

An ultra-rare Heuer Monaco watch worn by Steve McQueen throughout the making of his iconic film Le Mans will be auctioned on December 12, and could sell for more than half a million dollars.

The timepiece, one of the world’s first self-winding chronograph wristwatches, was designed by Jack Heuer and personally chosen by McQueen prior to the Le Mans filming.

This particular watch is said to have been worn by McQueen as he drove a Porsche 917 at speeds of over 200mph down the Mulsanne straight. He can also be seen wearing a Heuer Monaco in publicity posters for the film.

Featuring a world-first square-shaped waterproof case, the Monaco became indelibly linked with McQueen’s image of cool and that charismatic era of racing.

Steve McQueen Heuer Monaco watch

The Monaco is one of two owned by McQueen and the last known one to be gifted to someone else

Phillips

“It’s one of the very, very few watches ever offered that has a direct link to the Hollywood legend, the king of cool, Steve McQueen,” said Paul Boutros, head of watches at Phillips, Americas, which is holding the auction. “Of these Heuer Monaco watches used for the filming of Le Mans, this is the very last one that has come to market. It’s one of the only two that were kept by Steve McQueen and gifted to people close to him.

From the archive

“This one, coming directly from the person who McQueen gifted it to, is as good as it gets as far as provenance goes.”

McQueen’s other Heuer Monaco sold at a Hollywood auction for $650,000 in 2012, the equivalent of £416,000 at the time.

Billed as “one of the World’s most important Heuer wristwatches”, the timepiece was given by McQueen to his mechanic Haig Altounian on the final day of Le Mans’ filming. It is he who has now offered it up for auction.

As recounted by Altounian in the documentary Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, the Bullitt star said “Thank you for keeping me alive all these months” as he handed the watch over.

Steve Mcqueen and Heuer Monaco Inscription

The inscription on the back says “TO HAIG LE MANS 1970”

Phillips

As Chief Mechanic, he was arguably the most important member of the behind-the-scenes crew and McQueen was intent on showing his immense gratitude.

Altounian originally turned down the watch, but McQueen insisted he take it, as he’d already had the dedication “TO HAIG LE MANS 1970” inscribed on the back.

Immense risks were taken in the ground-breaking filming process as professional drivers raced at full speed. Tragedy did eventually strike, with a multi-car pile-up resulting in driver David Piper having to have a leg amputated.

Altounian is featured standing behind McQueen in an early poster for the film and was himself a driver and designer in addition to being a mechanic. Starting out working for Carroll Shelby in California, he later became part of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers before then working for Bruce McLaren’s Can-Am team. His experience from working on Porsche 917s in Can-Am led him to working with McQueen.

Phillips declined to speculate on how much the watch might go for. The auction house’s record sale was a Rolex owned by Paul Newman, which went under the hammer for $17,752,500 in 2017.

The Heuer Monaco will be sold at the Racing Pulse auction on December 12.