Update: Loren Janes/Steve McQueen Ref. 5513 Rolex Submariner Saga Redux Thanks To ‘The Hunter’
by Nick Gould
When the news broke on June 4, 2018 that Phillips was to auction off a Rolex Submariner owned by Steve McQueen, one he is said to have gifted his friend Loren Janes, a stuntman who worked with him on various films, I became interested in the backstory of the timepiece – one that had survived the notorious California Sand Fires of 2016 during which Janes had lost all other worldly possessions.
When I first saw the picture of the Rolex Submariner coming up for sale, I thought the auction house, Phillips, had made a typo since it was listed as a 1965 Rolex Submariner Reference 5513. The watch Phillips pictured showed a Reference 5512 dial featuring the depth rating and the words “Submariner” and “chronometer certification” printed underneath. So I set out to do some research.
My article, The Steve McQueen/Loren Janes Rolex Submariner 5513 Coming To Auction: How Long Did He Own It, How Often Did He Wear It, And How Much Survived The Fire?, highlighted the fact that McQueen wore his watches on a regular basis, but there was no sign of a Submariner on his wrist from 1965 through 1969.
Jake Ehrlich of Jake’s Rolex World also published his findings after an extensive amount of research and interviews with people affiliated with both Janes and McQueen. My further research brought some more interesting details regarding McQueen wearing a 5513 Submariner to light.
In my previous article, I highlighted that there were no sightings of McQueen wearing a Rolex Submariner before 1970, therefore he could not possibly have gifted Janes a watch he had already worn. I believe McQueen gave Janes a new Rolex Submariner.
Ehrlich’s research revealed what type of dial Janes’ Submariner had before the 2016 Sand Fire: a matte first 5513 dial with two lines of text. After restoration, the watch exhibited a 5512 dial with four lines of text.
McQueen most likely gifted Janes the watch in 1966 after the filming of The Sand Pebbles in Hong Kong.
Ehrlich’s post displays a photograph of McQueen with a personalized message to Janes: “To Loren, Crackers and Cookies and the Best damn Stuntman in the world, Steve.” McQueen gave this photograph to Janes after the completion of the film Nevada Smith in 1965. Janes was McQueen’s stunt double in this film, which was shot before The Sand Pebbles.
The engraving on the back of the Loren Janes Submariner to be auctioned by Phillips features some of the same words: “Loren The Best Damn Stuntman In The World.” This leads me to believe McQueen had it engraved on the back for Janes, giving the watch to him after The Sand Pebbles. Janes, the stunt coordinator for that film in addition to doubling for McQueen, almost died on location after being bitten by a bamboo pit viper.
Ehrlich spoke to McQueen’s first wife, Neile Adams, who revealed that the actor had purchased a few Rolex watches in Zurich around Christmastime in 1969.
As highlighted in my previous article, the first time McQueen was seen wearing a Rolex Submariner was during the 12 Hours of Sebring Race in 1970, a Reference 5512 Submariner with four lines of text on the dial.
The first time a Reference 5513 Submariner is clearly seen on McQueen’s wrist was on the set of Papillon in 1973, seven years after he gifted Janes a Rolex Submariner. Janes himself said in a 2011 Wall Street Journal interview that he already had the Submariner in 1968.
Through more photographic research, I came across some very clear pictures of McQueen wearing a 5513 Submariner from 1977 through 1979.
When Bonhams sold McQueen’s 1940 Indian Chief motorcycle on November 14, 2009, the auction house included several photos of the actor with the motorcycle. One shot from about 1977-78 shows McQueen and his Reference 5513 Submariner very clearly with just the two lines of text on the dial.
The 1979 production of The Hunter, a film released in 1980, was the last film McQueen made; his stunt double for the film was Janes, who he had specifically requested to work with.
Truly interesting here is that McQueen is clearly wearing his 5513 Submariner during many scenes in the film.
Janes was wearing his own Rolex Submariner while doubling for McQueen during the stunt scenes, even swapping the watch from his left wrist to his right wrist to avoid any continuity issues during filming. You can see the watch peeking out from under Janes’ sleeve in the photo below.
One scene sees McQueen’s character, bounty hunter Ralph Thorson, on top of a moving train, then he is hanging onto the side of it. A shot of a hand and wrist allows us to see the Submariner clearly, and it is highly likely this was Janes’ wrist as he was hanging onto the side of train in the next shot and the watch is visible there.
Janes and McQueen were wearing two completely different 5513 Submariners on the set of The Hunter.
When Antiquroum sold McQueen’s 5512 Submariner with provenance letter in 2009, the auction house mentioned that watch was worn in The Hunter. This was incorrect as McQueen was clearly wearing a Reference 5513 Submariner.
I still strongly believe that the Loren Janes Submariner up for auction at Phillips was a gift from McQueen, but that the actor never wore it before giving it to the stuntman. If someone can produce a photograph of McQueen wearing a Rolex Submariner around 1965-1966, it would shed further light on this story.
On a closing note, I’d like to add that in a 2016 interview with Andy Green from Time+Tide Chad McQueen mentioned that he has two of his father’s Submariners put away for safekeeping, one of which has the old-style domed crystal. We know for a fact one of them is a Reference 5512 Submariner from various photos of Chad wearing it.
I would love to know if the other Rolex is a 5513 Submariner. Wouldn’t you?
You may also enjoy:
The Steve McQueen/Loren Janes Rolex Submariner 5513 Coming To Auction: How Long Did He Own It, How Often Did He Wear It, And How Much Survived The Fire?
The Real Story Behind Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco: Exclusive Interview With ‘Le Mans’ Property Master Don Nunley