Phillips is about to make some serious money. On December 12, the auction house will hammer Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco – worn in the movie LeMans. The pre-Christmas sale is lousy with collectible pieces from Rolex, Patek Philippe and F.P. Journe. And then there’s Sylvester Stallone’s Panerai PAM5218-201/a . . .
I reckon Sly’s PAM will blow past its $40k to $80k estimate like a Lotus 33 in Grand Prix. While Steve McQueen’s Monaco joins Paul Newman’s $17.5m Rolex Daytona as One of The World’s Coolest Watches™, neither actor’s timepiece – nor any of the other watches for sale in Philipps’ Racing Pulse auction – had as much of an impact on the world watch industry as Sly’s PAM.
Legend has it that Mr. Stallone was in Italy researching his character for the 1996 film Daylight (i.e., taking a tax deductible vacation) when he popped into an Italian jewelry store and “discovered” Panerai. He bought a 44mm Luminor to wear in the film.
That’s Mr. Stallone’s apocryphal account. The real story – chronicled in detail by our pal Perezscope – is a lot less ennobling of Mr. Stallone (including the fact that his 40-plus Panerais were freebies and the actor’s “endorsement” drove Panerai to the brink of bankruptcy).
We learn that the Phillips PAM was not Sly’s first Panerai. That the Phillips watch is one of four Submersibles Panerai sent to the actor for Daylight (a.k.a., Die Hard in a Tunnel), the movie that rocketed the then-Italian brand to world prominence.
NOTE: Phillips’ catalogue fails to mention the fact that there are four versions of the Daylight watch. Apparently, they didn’t know. But now they do. It remains to be seen if the auction house and/or Mr. Stallone will issue a correction.
For sure Stallone started handing out/recommending Panerai to his Hollywood pals. No surprise there; he’d cut a deal with Panerai for a special edition celebrating his celebrity.
Arnold Schwarzenegger wore one in the 1996 film Eraser. Less than a year later, the luxury conglomerate known as Vendome (later Compagnie Financière Richemont SA) bought Panerai for a million dollars – and made their money back 60 watches later.
Before Mr. Stallone’s cinematic PAM5218-201/a (and its three sibs) shattered horological convention, most men’s watches were 36mm. A 39mm watch was considered large. These days, 41mm is the new “standard size,” 43mm is perfectly acceptable and 45mm watches abound. Panerai sells a 47mm Luminor.
The 44mm Panerai on Phillips’ auction block started all that. It’s the watch that literally changed the face of watchmaking.
For any timepiece made before 1996, it was PAMegeddon. The prices of “small” vintage watches tumbled. Hundreds of millions dollars of market value disappeared overnight. In fact, the vintage watch market has never fully recovered.
Billionaire buyers prowling Philipps and other auction houses for hugely expensive vintage pieces may beg to differ, but Sylvester Stallone’s decision to wrist an Italian watch popular with Nazi frogmen changed the game. The fact that modern watchmakers raiding their back catalogues wouldn’t dream of offering heritage pieces in their original size tells you all you need to know about that.
All you need to know about Sly’s Panerai: one lucky buyer will take home the watch, its original box, two Panerai Pre-Vendome straps and its original brass screwdriver. And a handwritten note from Stallone saying “My grandchildren’s trust fund thanks you for your generous contribution to their financial future.”
If I was the Richemont Group’s Swiss supremo, I’d pay whatever it takes to buy Sylvester Stallone’s four cinematic Ur Panerai and put them on display. Hell, I’d build a shrine to them and make Panerai execs light a candle to Ref. 5218-201/A and its brethren before every board meeting.
Meanwhile, Mr. Stallone has also charged Philipps with cashing in on four Richard Mille watches from his extensive collection. A prospect which brings to mind five words from my youth: gag me with a spoon.
Saying that, there’s something to be said about owning The World’s Stupidest Watch™. In fact I wrote an entire post about the Richard Mille RM 25-01, very little of which was complimentary. Except this . . .
“What a sad world it would be if we didn’t have people like Richard Mille putting the tacky into a ‘tactical’ watch without even a hint restraint, irony or embarrassment – and getting someone else to pay for it.” At the Phillips auction, Mr. Stallone will join Mr. Mille and Mr. Dolman in doing that very thing.
Oh, and I have it on good authority that Mr. Stallone received the $1m MSRP RM 25-01 for the same price he paid for the Panerais: nothing.
As for the impact of Sylvester Stallone’s historic Panerai, I’ll say this about that: we can thank the actor’s patronage for the fact that Panerai makes a huge range of high-quality Swiss pieces, including one relatively demure 40mm Luminor. How great is that?