By Brecken Branstrator
Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 1675, which he wore in the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now,” sold for nearly $2 million at Phillips’ Game Changers watch auction.
New York—Phillips held an auction of watches once belonging to people at the top of their game, and buyers wanted in.

The “Game Changers” watch auction, which took place in New York Tuesday, was comprised of a group of timepieces once owned by people considered to be “game changers” in their respective fields, as well as iconic collectors’ models from leading brands.

All 74 lots offered sold for a total of $20.2 million.

The sale marked the first time five watches have sold for above $1 million at an auction held in the United States, Phillips said.

Urwerk’s Atomic Mechanical Control (pictured below) led the event, a piece Phillips called a “tour-de-force” of modern watchmaking.

20191212 Urwerk Top Lot

The brand spent 10 years researching and developing the watch, which is comprised of an atomic master clock and a standalone mechanical wristwatch.

The master clock automatically winds, sets and regulates the wristwatch to improve its timekeeping.

It sold for $2.9 million, setting a new world record for the independent Swiss brand.

Patek Philippe’s rare “pink-on-pink” Ref. 1518 followed, garnering $2.3 million and setting a world auction record for the reference in pink gold, while Patek’s Ref. 2499 in yellow gold achieved $2 million.

20191212 Rolex Nicklaus

Champion golfer Jack Nicklaus’ Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803 (pictured above) went for $1.2 million, soaring past its pre-sale estimate of between $100,000 and $200,000.

Phillips sold the watch to benefit the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, which aims to provide families access to world-class pediatric healthcare.

20191212 Rolex Brando

The sale also put the Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 1675 once owned by Marlon Brando (pictured above) and famously seen on his wrist in “Apocalypse Now” up on the auction block.

It ended up selling for nearly $2 million Tuesday (there was no pre-sale estimate for the watch) after a 20-minute bidding war among collectors from three continents, Phillips said, setting a world auction record for a Rolex GMT-Master.

Four other Rolex watches—three Cosmograph Daytonas and a Sea-Dweller—and a Patek Philippe rounded out the top 10 lots of the watch auction, garnering between $884,000 and $356,250.

There were several other watches sold for a good cause.

Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Dual Time Prototype sold for $106,250, with proceeds of the sale going to the National Geographic Society, while TAG Heuer’s Monaco Piece d’Art, which topped its pre-sale estimate at $81,250, was sold to benefit United Way of New York City.

20191212 Urwerk Avengers

Proceeds from watches by Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet will benefit One Drop, which was also the beneficiary of the recent auction of a Sevan Bıçakçı ring, which sold for $12,500 on Dec. 9. 

The sale of the Urwerk UR-105 CT Iron worn by Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Endgame” (seen above) for $312,500 will benefit Random Act Funding.

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