On June 4th of 2018, when Phillips, via Forbes broke the news saying, “Exclusive: The Secret History of Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner”, needless to say every watch geek on the face of planet earth was rejoicing.

What are the odds that such a gem of one of the greatest horological lore should turn up — for public auction no less. And that it should turn up a year on from the sale of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman”? With the same revered auction house? Those are ridiculous  odds.

But then someone noticed that the image of the watch featured in the news release, although it bore the face of a Rolex Submariner 5512, was captioned to read ref. 5513. On that note, Phillips quickly published their own the press release on the watch titled: Phillips To Sell Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner. Here they included a letter from Rolex authenticating the watch to be genuine Rolex and second, they included a letter from the gentleman who had received the watch from McQueen himself: Hollywood stuntman, Loren Janes.

Doubts were quelled, but not dissipated.

The Submariner ref. 5513 belonging to Loren Janes seen here fitted with a 5512 dial once it had been restored by Rolex (Image: PhillipsWatches.com)
The Submariner ref. 5513 belonging to Loren Janes seen here fitted with a 5512 dial once it had been restored by Rolex (Image: PhillipsWatches.com)

The following day I picked up a phone call from a gent I consider a privilege to call a friend, Jake Ehrlich — the man behind RolexMagazine.com. We discussed several thoughts that were swirling about on the subject matter of the Submariner, including how in the video listed within the Forbes piece, there was a docket of provenance documents pertaining to the watch that clearly had a printout of a Rolex AD that Jake had fashioned back in 2013. This AD was not created by Rolex, but simply as a mock-up for RolexMagazine.com. How and to what end, could this docket, therefore, serve as a proof of provenance?

Undissipated doubt, now had turned into seeds, firmly planted.

As Jake dug deeper and spread out his investigation, he came to speak with Steve McQueen’s son, Chad McQueen, several other Hollywood stuntmen, who would’ve been active in the scene in the time that Loren Janes was, including one, Stan Barrett, who was — as Jake puts it — a “legendary stuntman, speed demon, NASCAR race car driver, pilot, and philanthropist.” Personal achievements aside, Stan is also widely known to have performed as Paul Newman’s stunt double in a good number of his movies. But unknowing to most, Stan was also one of Paul Newman’s closest friends; they were bosom buddies for well over four decades.

Paul Newman on the left, seen here wearing a Daytona on his left wrist on a jubilee bracelet, with his best friend, Stan Barrett (Image: RolexMagazine.com)
Paul Newman on the left, seen here wearing a Daytona on his left wrist on a jubilee bracelet, with his best friend, Stan Barrett (Image: RolexMagazine.com)

It was Stan who ran Jake through Loren Janes’ letter, pointing out the many movies listed in it that Loren was never a part of. Stan went further to link Jake up with several other stuntmen from the era who would able to help broaden the search for answers.

Luck would have it that the more Jake searched, the more people came up to add to the puzzle placed before him. The final piece fell in when Loren’s own kids reached out to Jake and recounted their father, his fight with Alzheimer’s, the horrid Sand Fire that took their home and, of course, the watch that was purchased by Steve McQueen and given to Loren as a gift, while they were out in Hong Kong shooting the 1966 film, The Sand Pebbles.

Steve McQueen with Loren Janes in Hong Kong on the set of the 1966 major motion picture titled, The Sand Pebbles. (Image: RolexMagazine.com)
Steve McQueen with Loren Janes in Hong Kong on the set of the 1966 major motion picture titled, The Sand Pebbles. (Image: RolexMagazine.com)
Steve McQueen photographed next to Loren Janes' wife Sylvia with their son Eric Janes in her arms while she was pregnant expecting their daughter Erica (Image: RolexMagazine.com)
The Submariner ref. 5513 belonging to Loren Janes that was retrieved from his house after the devastating 2016 Sand Fire. The watch was retrieved by Loren's son, Eric Janes. Very clearly the original dial on the watch was in fact that of a 5513 (Image: RolexMagazine.com)
The Submariner ref. 5513 belonging to Loren Janes that was retrieved from his house after the devastating 2016 Sand Fire. The watch was retrieved by Loren's son, Eric Janes. Very clearly the original dial on the watch was in fact that of a 5513 (Image: RolexMagazine.com)

I’ve clearly skimmed over a lot of details here. Those are for Jake to fill in. It was after all his investigation and, therefore, his story to tell, in all its grandeur. The quick thought I will leave you with is this: If you came looking for someone to blame for having gotten the story wrong, that’s exactly what you won’t find here. What you will find is a human story, one of friendship and family; of frailties and flaws, and that incredible thread that is Rolex that binds it all.

You can find the complete story, as told by Jake, on RolexMagazine.com