Get pumped. The watch that many credit with singlehandedly turning Panerai into a global brand is heading to auction. Sylvester Stallone’s Panerai PAM5218-201/a in steel (around £300,000-£600,000) will hit the block at Phillips during its New York “Racing Pulse” sale on December 12. The event has a splashy roster of major timepieces once owned by everyone from the late Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. There are also watches from Bono, Shark Tank‘s Kevin O’Leary and Cirque de Soleil’s Guy Laliberté (they’re part of a dedicated “Time Counts” charity component of the sale). Sly’s Panerai, however, is the only timepiece that’s raised a brand out of total obscurity.
When the action hero wore the PAM5218-201/a on his wrist in the 1996 film Daylight, Panerai had only been selling its watches to civilians for three years. It had previously only manufactured timekeeping gear for the Italian Royal Navy and the Egyptian Navy. In 1993, the company launched a limited-edition collection of 677 Luminor 5218s for the public, inspired by its historic military timepieces. But the Italian watchmaker (now based in Switzerland) was unknown, so customer acquisition was limited.
When Hollywood royalty came calling, it changed the game. Stallone wore the timepiece for the duration of filming as muscle-man Kit Latura. According to the actor, the watch went to “hell and back” on the big screen. However, according to Phillips, it is remarkably well-preserved.
“The great thing it was never restored and never refurbished or anything,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’s head of watches for the Americas. “It’s very crisp though. He must have worn it throughout filming and maybe a few other times. There’s a scratch on the crystal that we didn’t fix or replace. It’s as received.” But, he added, the caseback still has the markings of the actor’s sweat stains, in case “eau de Sly” adds an extra touch of provenance for hardcore fans of the star.
According to Stallone, he discovered the brand in a boutique in Italy, but some naysayers maintain that it was a product placement (then again, so was McQueen’s Monaco). We imagine it won’t matter much for the client that gets their hands on the piece, which is forever cemented in Hollywood and watchmaking history. What we do know is that his PAM5218-201/a is coming to Phillips direct from Stallone’s vault. A friend of the actor connected him to Phillips over the summer, but it wasn’t until Stallone found out that Boutros’ colleague, Geoff Hess, was a relation of the Hollywood agent who believed in him before he made it, that Stallone was sold on parting with his precious possession. By October, Boutros and his team hopped on their first flight in the Covid-era to inspect his wrist candy in L.A. “It was quite an adventure, says Boutros. “We had just two hours with him. We met him and he was so grateful and gracious. He’s a true watch lover and he has a great collection.”
But Stallone didn’t just part with his Panerai. He’s also selling four Richard Mille watches, including the out-there RM025-01 Tourbillon Chronograph Adventure he designed with the brand as a tribute to his career-defining character Rambo. The watch, which is estimated to fetch between $250,000 and $500,000, originally retailed for almost $1 million and is one of Mille’s most complicated watches—only 20 pieces were ever produced. For those already in the know about this piece of ultimate survival gear, it does, for the record, still include its water purification tablets.
A Richard Mille RM032-TI worn in the movie The Expendables 3 ($60,000 to $120,000) is also up for grabs, along with a RM052-01 Tourbillon Skull TZP Nano-Ceramic (around £265,000 to £530,000) and a RM059-01 Yohan Blake “Beast” Tourbillon (around 227,000 to £454,000). Each will come with a personally signed note from Stallone asserting its original provenance.
The “Beast” was a personal favorite of the actor’s, but according to Boutros it was developing its own fame, so Stallone decided to stop wearing it. “It got spotted by so many people, because he was photographed wearing it so many times,” says Boutros. “He told us a story about going into a restaurant in Europe and he was wearing a different watch and the waiter said to him, ‘Where is your Yohan Blake? I was hoping to see it on your wrist.’ And he laughed and told him he had to put it away because it was too eye-catching. He didn’t want to get attacked for it!” We’re pretty sure the average bystander wouldn’t survive a blow from Stallone’s wrist, however.
But now, if you want to try your hand at getting hold of one of his personal timepieces, they’re right there waiting for you. May the best man (or woman) win.