Clark Gable Wears The Coolest Watch Of 1955 In ‘Soldier of Fortune’: Patek Philippe Reference 1526 Perpetual Calendar
by Nick Gould
Clark Gable (1901-1960) was an American actor who starred in more than 60 motion pictures to become a Hollywood legend – hence the nickname “King of Hollywood.”
Gable won an Academy Award in 1935 for best actor for his performance in It Happened One Night and gained critical acclaim – and everlasting fame transcending generations – for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 epic historical romance Gone with the Wind, in which he uttered the iconic words “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
In 2005, this line was voted by the American Film Institute as the most memorable American movie quotation of all time, beating out “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” by Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
On an off the screen, Gable was known for his dapper good looks and sense of style. Any number of photographs with Gable in a suit show him neat as a button and looking like he’d just stepped out of a gentlemen’s fashion magazine.
Like a proper gentleman, Gable paired wristwatches to go with his outfits both on and off screen. Gable had a gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Reference 6011, retailed by Brock & Co., that he wore in the 1953 film Mogambo. It was sold in 2013 by Bonhams for $28,750.
Jake Ehrlich, who runs the respected Jake’s Rolex World and Jake’s Patek Philippe World blogs, first discovered Gable wearing a Patek Philippe Reference 1526 Perpetual Calendar in yellow gold back in 2011. The image below shows Gable sitting with a cigarillo in hand and the watch on his wrist. The timing of the photograph was unknown until now.
Note Gable’s attire in the photo: a white t-shirt and trousers. It was this that enabled me to understand when the photograph was taken. I stumbled upon a black-and-white lobby card Getty image of the 1955 film Solider of Fortune, in which Gable starred as the main character, Hank Lee, wearing the same clothing and watch!
The original color photograph of Gable with his Reference 1526 appears to have been taken on the set of Solider of Fortune.
You can see it on Gable’s wrist near the end of the film, and he didn’t even take it off while throwing himself to the floor during a couple of action sequences. The film also provided another surprise about Gable’s watch.
The buckle of Gable’s watch was not a stock tang buckle from Patek Philippe but appears to be a deployant-style Tank buckle from famed jewelry and watch maison Cartier; I know from previous research that Gable was a regular customer there.
This might indicate that Gable was a bit of a tweaker, preferring the deployant buckle from Cartier to the tang buckle that came with the Patek Philippe. This also raises the question: did Gable acquire his Reference 1526 from Cartier?
A complicated Patek Philippe on the wrist of Gable would have to be one of the earliest “cool” watches in a motion picture, which is for me only topped by a certain British Secret Service agent’s Rolex Submariner.
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Reference 1526
Case: yellow gold, 34 mm
Dial: gold with champlevé enamel numerals and minute tracks; applied yellow gold dots and Arabic numerals; gold moon disk with hand-applied fired blue enamel background; hammered gold hands with blued hand for date
Movement: manually wound Caliber 12”120 Q, Victorin Piguet base movement
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; perpetual calendar with date, moon phase, day, month
Production number: 210 total examples of Reference 1526 including all metals, with a small minority in pink gold
Production years: 1941-1952