Friday, November 29, 2019

Marlon Brando: THE REAL GODFATHER ROLEX



PHILLIPS AUCTION HOUSE 'GAME CHANGERS' FACADE IN NEW YORK CITY 



Note from Jake: This is one of the greatest Rolex stories I have ever written, and I will continue updating it regularly with fascinating information and photos until the auction, which is coming up on December 10 in New York!






Marlon Brando 


Apocalypse Now 

Rolex GMT-Master


The Past Informs the Present

Let's face reality. When people think about the history of Rolex's legendary GMT-Master, they usually think about Supersonic test pilots, or NASA Astronauts, or even of Magnum PI. There is another super-iconic historical Rolex GMT-Master (Reference 1675) that was worn by Marlon Brando when he played Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in the epic movie of Apocalypse Now which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 




While I first documented this watch in great detail in 2008, just like I did with Paul Newman's Daytona and Steve McQueen's Submariner, I believe that after the auction this Rolex will become far more famous as a mainstream storied watch.





Coming to Auction with Phillips

I recently interviewed Marlon Brando's daughter, Petra for this story. Petra is pictured below with her father Marlon Brando when she was eight years old.




Petra is putting up for auction her father's super-iconic 'Holy Grail' and historically significant 1972 Rolex GMT-Master grail watch her father wore during the filming of 'Apocalypse Now' and is donating a portion of the proceeds to charitable organizations in Marlon's name. 


Photos of Marlon Brando appear courtesy of Mary Ellen Mark






Below is an exclusive photo of Marlon Brando's GMT-Master he wore in 'Apocalypse Now'. This watch has one very unusual characteristic in that despite being a stainless steel Rolex GMT, it is lacking a bezel.



The photo below shows the case-back engraving on Marlon Brando's Rolex GMT-Master he wore in Apocalypse Now. It turns out Marlon engraved this himself as we will learn later in the story.



Marlon Brando was one of the top actors on earth back in 1976 when Apocalypse Now was filmed. At the time, Brando was paid $1 Million per week at the time.









In the photo below we see Marlon Brando in 1976 in the Philippines on the set of Apocalypse Now with director, Francis Ford Coppola and fellow actor Martin Sheen. 














Hodinkee's James Stacey published an excellent article back in July titled "HANDS-ON: Marlon Brando's Rolex GMT-Master From Apocalypse Now." James showcased the first photos of Marlon Brando's Apocalypse Now Rolex GMT-Master on the wrist and they were superb, as is his story.



From all the scholarship research around Marlon Brando's GMT-Master he wore in Apocalypse Now, there are no other photos of him wearing it expect the one pictured below discovered by Nick Gould, which shows him wearing it in the Sydney, Australia airport after he left filming on the set of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines in the fall of 1976. I asked Marlon's daughter, Petra about how often he wore it, and she said he wore in rarely, on special occiasions.



If you look closely, you see Marlon is wearing his bezeless Rolex GMT-Master.







An Amazing Actor


What can be said of a man when he has left this world we all share? That he lived and hopefully made the world a better place after he is gone...That is certainly the case with Marlon Brando, and in this story we will look at multiple dimensions of what made him tick, while also exploring aspects of his life in a way never done before.







The Godfather (1972)
Don Vito Corleone

Marlon Brando is perhaps most famous for his command performance in The Godfather as Don Vito Corleone as pictured below on the set of Godfather.


"It's not personal. It's business."





"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."






We see Marlon Brando as Don Corleone below in The Godfather along with Al Pacino who played Michael Corleone. 



Al Pacino is pictured below in a recent photo wearing his Rolex Submariner which he has worn for several decades.



Speaking of Al Pacino, who is considered to be one of the greatest actors alive, he recently wrote this letter for Philipps Auction House which appeared in their catalog for their 'Game Changers' auction which will feature Marlon Brando's Apocalypse Now GMT-Master.




I have been a huge fan of the Godfather trilogy my entire adult life. Yes, I said Godfather trilogy, and no, I am not like all those people who say, Godfather Part 1 and 2 were great but that 3 was terrible. I think Andy Garcia's superb performance in Godfather 3 was right up there with Robert Dino, Marlon Brando, and Al Pacino. Andy Garcia is pictured below wearing his vintage Rolex Explorer II.


Photo above appears courtesy of Cigar Officianado

The fascinating thing about Andy Garcia's vintage Rolex Explorer II (Reference 1655) 'Orange Hand' is that he somehow added a black GMT-Bezel to it which I have not only never seen before, but didn't realize was even possible, but damn it looks good!




The supreme irony for me is that when I was younger, as a huge fan of the Godfather and Marlon Brando, I NEVER in my wildest dream thought that one day I would be hanging out with Marlon Brando's daughter talking with her about her father and his love of Rolex watches!?!! But it worked out that way, and in this fascinating story I intend to share her perspective with you on her father.

It has been said, rather profoundly, that "Every Rolex tells a story", and today we will be examining what is arguably one of the most interesting Rolex watches in history. Phillips Auction House, arguably most popular in the world of Rolex for having successfully auctioned Paul Newman's super-iconic trademark 'Paul Newman Daytona' for $17.8 Million will be offering this unique Rolex as part of their Game Changers auction taking place in New York, on December 10, 2019, which is just three weeks away. I originally wrote about Paul Newman's Grail of Rolex Grails being brought to auction back on June 1, 2017.


Earlier this year, on July 11, 2019 I published a story on how Marlon Brando's Rolex GMT-Master he famously wore in 'Apocalypse Now' had been discovered and was coming to auction on December 10, 2019 in New York as part of Phillips 'GAME CHANGERS' Auction.





The Godfather Rolex

I am going to share a story with you that has never been told, about Marlon Brando in his real role of The Godfather. No, I am not talking about the 1972 movie for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, which he famously rejected. I am talking about the role he played as a REAL Godfather.

The 1972 movie, The Godfather has been referred to by many as the greatest movie ever made, and its lead actor, Marlon Brando has been commonly referred to as the greatest actor who ever lived.

The Godfather movie was about an organized crime family in America. In many ways this story is the exact opposite in the sense it is about a loving, nurturing family relationship.




A Tale of Two 

GMT-Master Models

The Godfather and his Apocalypse GMT


Eleven years ago, back in 2008 I published a super detailed article on how I discovered Marlon Brando wore a unique Rolex GMT-Master in the epic 1979 movie titled Apocalypse Now. 


I also discovered that Marlon's parents gave him a Rolex Oyster Royalite Observatory Bubbleback in 1943, at age 19 which is pictured below.


The photo below shows Marlon with his father, and notice he is wearing his bubbleback Rolex pictured above.



The inscription on the back of the watch reads, "To Bud, from Mother & Dad. 1943" "Bud" was Marlon Brando's nickname his parents gave him when he was a child.





Marlon Brando is pictured below wearing his Rolex Bubbleback which is seen above. The dial looks like due to reflection of light.


Marlon Brando is pictured below in 1955 with Grace Kelly at the Academy Awards after having won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in the 1954 movie titled "On the Waterfront". Marlon Brando was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and won twice for Best Actor.
















The Fugitive Kind (1960)
All The Crazy Moonphases

Marlon Brando starred in a movie in 1960 named The Fugitive Kind where he wears and talks about his Rolex Moonphase, as seen below.





Leading Man

Marlon Brando is pictured below in 1962 with his fellow Hollywood leading men including Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck.






Civil Right Activist

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando was very active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In the photo below taken in June of 1963 in Los Angeles at Burt Lancaster's home before a Civil Rights Rally we see Marlon Brando on the far right between Sammy Davis Jr., and Lloyd Bridges (far, far right). In the middle of the photo we see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., standing next to Joanne Woodward who was married to Paul Newman who is standing third from the left next to Reverend Ralph Abernathy and Anthony Franciosa. Polly Bergen is standing left of center, next to Joanne Woodward.


Marlon Brando is pictured below sitting next to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as they listen to Reverend Ralph Abernathy speaking at a reception at Burt Lancaster's home  after the Freedom Rally. Reverend Abernathy was the co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and present in the audience we see Joanne Woodward with her husband Paul Newman, pictured on the far right. We also see Attorney, Jack Tenner, and Gilbert Lindsay.


It may not seem like such a big deal today, but these famous actors were potentially risking their careers by supporting the civil rights cause at this level. In my opinion this really speaks volumes about Marlon Brando's character and humanity.







The Godfather (1973)

Brando Rejects Oscar for Best Actor


Sacheen Littlefeather is an Apache actress and native American activist that represented Marlon Brando at the 45th Academy Awards, and rejected his Oscar award for Best Actor for his role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather.




Sacheen Littlefeather was never given the opportunity to deliver Marlon Brando's full speech, but in the video below which was recorded 45 years later, for the first time reveals the speech in its entirety as read by Sacheen Littlefeather.



Marlon Brando is featured below on the Dick Cavett Show discussing his rejection of his Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather.



"I don't think that people generally realize what the motion picture industry has done to the American Indian, as a matter of fact, all ethnic groups. All minorities. All non-whites. People just simply don't realize. They take it for granted that that's the way people are going to be presented and that these cliches are just going to be perpetuated." —Marlon Brando



Last Tango In Paris (1972)

Ironically, Marlon Brando also wore a Rolex Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet in the movie Last Tango In Paris as seen below:






In the picture below which was taken on the set of Last Tango In Paris in 1971, we see Bernardo Bertolucci wearing a Rolex Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet, with Marlon Brando standing in the background on the set in the restaurant. 



There is another bizarre mystery regarding Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando.



In the photo above we see Bernardo Bertoluci rocking his Pepsi GMT-Master, and in the photo below we see him wearing is without its Pepsi bezel, which is trois-bizzare if you ask me. I can't help but wonder if there is some correlation between Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci both sporting this look!?!!





A 1961 Pepsi Appears in 1973

When Marlon Brando's GMT-Master was discovered and came to Philipps Auction house in July 2019 it initially confused my research team and I who had assumed Marlon only owned and wore one GMT-Master his whole life. We carefully sifted through all the historical evidence and with the kind assistance of Paul Boutros from Philipps auction house were able to put together the entire puzzle which told the story of how Marlon owned two GMT-Master models.

From all our research, with special help from Marlon Brando expert, Patxi Bente in France we discovered that Marlon began wearing his first Pepsi GMT-Master (Reference 1675) in January 1973, which was made in 1961. The photo below shows Marlon Brando with two of his sons on his Island in Tahiti wearing his 'Pepsi'. For the sake of clarity, in this article I will refer to his first Rolex GMT-Master as "The Pepsi", and the second one as "The Apocalypse Now GMT".




The first Rolex GMT-Master Marlon Brando wore was a Pepsi GMT, which he modified by adding a Rolex Flip-Lock Safety Clasp which can be clearly seen in the photo below which was taken on the set of the NBC Tomorrow Show which aired on December 16, 1974.


Today it's standard for a GMT-Master to have a locking clasp like this, but when the photo below was taken it was NOT standard. As a matter of fact, the only Rolex at that time that featured the Flip-Lock as standard were the Submariner and SEA-DWELLER models. It is fascinating to note Marlon Brando wore his first GMT-Master without a bezel insert long before he filmed Apocalypse Now (1976), as we see in the photo below from December 16, 1974.




Marlon's first Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master watch also has pointed crown guards and was made in 1961. This is a strange fact as Marlon Brando was first documented wearing it in 1973. My best guess is that he received the watch from a friend who may have taken it off their wrist as a gift, or maybe Marlon appreciated the then vintage look of a watch that was 12 years old. 

One of the strange and mysterious details is that for some bizarre reason, Marlon Brando wore his first Pepsi GMT-Master on a regular basis in the mid 1970s with and without its Pepsi bezel as we see in the photo below which was taken in 1974. In other words, the photo below is of Marlon's first Pepsi GMT-Master, which he is wearing below without a bezel, and just to be crystal-clear, this is NOT the same bezeless GMT-Master he wore in Apocalypse Now. This fact initially confused Nick Gould and I terribly, but as the pieces of the puzzle fell into place we finally were able to achieve clarity around this previous mystery.


The photo below taken on November 26, 1974 in New York City shows Marlon Brando attending the American Indian Development Association Gala Benefit at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and notice wearing his bezeless GMT-Master on a Jubilee Bracelet. 


Nick Gould was the first person to discover Marlon Brando wore this Pepsi GMT-Master on an Oyster Bracelet, both with and without its bezel. Petra's Mom owns this 1961 Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master today, and has no intention of selling it as it was given to her by Marlon. Petra said that as a child growing up in Marlon's home that he was would spend countless hours in his shop tinkering with all kinds of different things, which likely explains his tweaking of his first GMT-Master.



In the next three photos, all taken in 1975 we see Marlon Brando sporting his Pepsi GMT Master on an Oyster bracelet. The first photo below shows Marlon Brando with famous rock and roll promoter, Bill  Graham.



It's interesting to note these two photo of Marlon Brando with Bill Graham were taken in March of 1975, which was a year before Marlon traveled to the Philippines to shoot Apocalypse Now, and we notice he was back to wearing his Pepsi bezel on his first GMT-Master.



So what explains why Marlon wore his Pepsi GMT-Master, with the Pepsi bezel, then without, then with it, then he wore the Apocalypse Now GMT only without the a bezel? It's hard to say for certain. It could be that he knocked it off by mistake, or tried swapping it and lost it. Also, Marlon's first GMT was a 1961 model, so when he first was documented wearing it in 1973 in Tahiti, maybe the Tahitian sun faded it too much, so he took it off? 

Also, Paul Newman who was friends with Marlon was also a Rolex tweaker who went so far as to put a Rolex President Bracelet on his stainless steel Rolex Daytona!?!! Dizzy Gillespie was the same way. He would wear his Pepsi GMT, on a Jubilee bracelet, then switch it to an Oyster bracelet, then back to a Jubilee, not to mention he removed the Pepsi bakelite bezel and replaced it with an aluminum bezel insert. Go figure!!!




Marlon Brando is pictured below in 1977 sporting his Rolex GMT Master.




The photos below of Marlon Brando are from a 1977 Playboy interview and it appears Marlon has some kind of black tape on his Oyster bracelet, and I have no idea why?






In the photo below, Marlon Brando is pictured with his secretary, and he is wearing his Rolex GMT Master.





Superman (1978)

In 1978 Marlon Brando played Superman's father Jor-El in Superman: The Movie. 



I remember seeing Superman with Christopher Reeve in 1978 on the big screen and it blew my mind!!! Watching this Superman trailer seriously Deja Vu's me out in a positive way!!!






Patxi Bente in France sent in this image that shows Marlon Brando on the set of Superman while he is getting a 3D face scan, and notice his is wearing his GMT-Master on his right wrist.




It's interesting to note that Marlon Brando was the first actor in history to break the $1 Million threshold for a movie role which occurred in 1962 when he played Fletcher Christian in the film Mutiny on The Bounty. Adjusted for inflation that would be close to $8 Million in todays dollars. Marlon Brando reportedly was paid $3.7 Million for two weeks of work for his portrayal of Jor-El in Superman in 1978. 






In this next photo, taken in 1982, we see Marlon Brando pictured with Native American activist and leader of the American Indian Movement, and Brando is wearing his Rolex GMT-Master on a Rolex Oyster Bracelet.




As mentioned earlier, it has been said many times that ‘Every Rolex Tells A Story.’ This is not only profoundly true, but I have often wondered if a Rolex were able reveal what it had witnessed, what would it share with us?

And that is EXACTLY what I always try to do on Jake’s Rolex World, is tell the stories behind the stories.  This Rolex GMT-Master worn by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now is a particularly heartwarming story.

It’s a very sweet story about a Godfather and his Goddaughter who later became her adopted father. I interviewed Marlon Brando’s daughter, Petra for this article and she shared some amazing insight into her relationship with her amazing dad.

In this story we are going to see a side of Marlon Brando that has never been documented. It speaks volumes to who he really was as a person.

This is a story about a man who found solace in his family. Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 and when he was 78 years old, in 1821 he published his memoirs which made him unusually old at the time, and in his autobiography he said “As I reflect back, I realize the best times of my life were the times I spent in the bosom of my family.”

But what is family? The root of family is “familiar”. In other words, somebody does not have to have the same blood running through their veins to be family. A close friend or even a dog or cat could be your family.




Connie Chung Interview

The photo below is a screen grabs from the 1989 Connie Chung interview, which can be seen below. The photo show that for some reason, Marlon Brando was wearing two watches. A Pepsi GMT as well as a Tag Heuer which I originally mistook for being a two-tone GMT, as it looked so similar.











This Silly Game Of Life

Petra was born to Caroline Naylen and James Clavell, the Australian author who most famously wrote the book titled 'Shogun', as well as The Great Escape (1963). James Clavell was a prisoner of war during WWII, and went on to become a famous novelist, director, and screenwriter. Petra's mother, Caroline ran Marlon Brando's office which he ran from his home-based office located in the canyons of Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. 

Petra Brando @ age four with mother Caroline pictured 
above on Marlon Brando's private atoll on Tetiaroa in Tahiti


"My mind is always soothed when I imagine

 myself sitting on my South Sea Island at night"

—Marlon Brando


Petra met Marlon Brando when he she was 4 years old and in the photo below we see Marlon hanging out with Petra as a little girl.


In the photo below we see Petra with Marlon Brando and her mother Caroline in London. When Petra was five years old, Marlon and Caroline had become romantically involved, which was not long before he left to film Apocalypse Now in the jungles of the Philippines. Notice the Pepsi GMT-Master on Marlon's wrist, was his first one that he got and wore before the Apocalypse Now GMT-Master model. He later gifted the watch to Petra's mother, Caroline Barrett who owns it today. Nick Gould pointed out that it was interesting that in this photo Marlon is wearing his Pepsi on his right wrist...



I think it's to interject Caroline's story in her own words from Philipps auction catalog as seen below in green bold italics:

I was Marlon Brando’s friend, companion and confidant.

I began working for Marlon just before he went to flm “Apocalypse Now”. I ran Marlon’s office and spent my days at his house, organising every aspect of his work and personal life. We travelled together on holiday and for work and ofen spent evenings together. We were romantically together for 7 years and I continued to work for him afer our relationship ended. We shared a close friendship that lasted for over 25 years and we treated each other as family.

When my daughter, Petra, was a little girl, Marlon became Petra’s godfather in a private ceremony at our local church and asked her if she would consider him as her father and call him ‘Dad’. Petra’s biological father was not involved in her life and Marlon was dedicated to providing Petra with the parental love and support he felt that she deserved.


Marlon Brando with Petra in a ceremony in Catholic church were he becomes her Godfather.

When Marlon decided to adopt Petra a few years later, he dictated the following words to me, which he then read aloud to his lawyers: 

“Petra is a child of my heart, and as her godfather, I was sworn in solemn Catholic right to protect her spiritual light, to act as a guide and mentor for her and to look to her worldly protection, it falls to me to see that the duties of parenthood are assumed, to see that she receives love, assistance and help. There are many laws in the books but none of them cover the love of the human heart.”


Marlon Brando is pictured below in 1982 with Caroline Barrett Naylen, who is Petra's mother. 



Marlon Brando is pictured below with Petra at her graduation from Brown University in 1994, along with Petra's mom, Caroline Barrett.





When Petra’s biological father died in 1994, Marlon insisted that he be the one to deliver the news to Petra. Petra had graduated from Brown University not long before and Marlon was extremely proud of her. He told me he wanted to give Petra a gift of something personal.

Some months later, I was in the living room at Marlon’s house and Petra was with Marlon in this TV room. She came into the living room holding Marlon’s watch, which she told me her Dad wanted her to have. She showed me a card written to her on his personal stationary, which he gave to her at the same time, in which he wrote that he was very proud of her. I recognized the watch as his old Rolex GMT-Master on a rubber strap.


Petra recounted to Phillips: 

"Throughout my life, my dad was my guardian, my guide and my friend. He was also my greatest supporter and when I was offered a place at Brown University, he said that the news was a "ray of sunshine". Following my graduation in 1994, I spent a great deal of time with my dad before going to law school at University of California. He was very encouraging and spoke to me at length about enjoying life's journey. 'These lovely young years will never come again,' he said, 'so appreciate even the small insignificant moments."

"He handed me an envelope addressed 'to Petra Brando (Dream girl),' which I laughed about. 





Petra continues: 

"I opened the envelope and it was a note to me on his personal stationary, which recounted lines from the poem I later discovered to be "Let No Charitable Hope" by Elinor Wylie."

Marlon Brando's words in this letter are amazingly sweet and profound:




Next to him on the table was his old Rolex on a rubber strap, which he picked up. He looked at it and said: 

"This watch is like a tank, you can do anything you want to it and it will keep on going." 

Handing it to me, he said "I want you to have it as a reminder of how proud I am of you.

He told me that he wore that Rolex during the flming of “Apocalypse Now.” He said he was asked not to wear the watch in the movie and he argued, “If they’re looking at my watch, then I’m not doing my job as an actor.” He said that they let him wear the watch but he took the bezel off.

I knew that my dad loved this particular watch. He was normally rough on his watches but this one he kept in his walk-in closet drawer and only wore it on special occasions. He would ofen take it out, look at it, and say it would keep going forever.

On our wedding night sixteen years ago, I gave my husband, Russel, the Rolex that my dad had given to me. Russel appreciated its signifcance and never wore it but always kept it safe. Russel and I believe that the Rolex made famous by my dad 40 years ago in “Apocalypse Now” is a piece of movie history that belongs in the hands of a collector who can give it the prominence that it deserves.

The proceeds of the sale will assist us in our endeavours through our charitable foundation, The Brando Fischer Foundation, to provide fnancial support to children who are living through serious hardship due to abuse, neglect, poverty or physical or mental illness or disability, causes which would have been signifcant to my dad.

Through Phillips’ auction of the watch we wish above all that people will remember Marlon Brando for his great contribution to film and celebrate his legacy.

Petra's mother Caroline continues:

I witnessed Marlon sign his name, “M. Brando” on the back of that Rolex watch with his own hand some years before gifting it to Petra. 




Marlon had bought himself a new toy, an electric micro engraver pen. Afer signing his name on the watch, he turned to me and said, “Now let me sign your watch”. I replied “Absolutely not!” I later saw Marlon use his engraving pen to mark various other metal objects such as his keys.

Sometime in the 1980s Marlon asked me to organize the strap to be changed to the rubber one now seen on the watch, as he wanted a waterproof strap so that he could wear the watch in Tahiti.

Marlon later gave me his other old Rolex GMT-Master, which has a blue and red bezel with a bracelet. It is not engraved and its dial and bracelet were replaced in the past.


The Rolex GMT-Master that Marlon gifted to Petra, which is being auctioned by Phillips, is Marlon’s personal watch that he wore during the filming of “Apocalypse Now”.

Below is a photo of Marlon Brando with his daughter Petra when she graduated from USC Law School.





Petra Brando Fischer is pictured below with her father Marlon Brando and husband Russel Fisher in 1998.




Petra said:

"My father's only real extravagance was his love of watches and he was never without one on his wrist, even when he slept. He loved to be connected to time; he telephoned the 'Speaking Clock' several times a day to tune his watch to the exact second and insisted the we synchronize watches when he wanted me to return at a precise time. He often wore two watches at once to keep an eye on different time zones; the watch on his left wrist would show the time in LA, while the watch on his right wrist would be set to London or Tahiti."

Below is a current photo of Petra with her husband  Russel taken recently and we see her wearing a two-tone Rolex Datejust.









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