Marion Mitchell Morrison, better known as John Wayne, is famous for his longstanding film career. On-screen, he was the All-American man. He often played the role of the stoic and heroic cowboy or soldier—characterized by rugged masculinity, honest moral values, and a pioneering spirit.
As is the case with many typecast actors, many fans believed John Wayne was the man he played on the big screen. But behind closed doors, Wayne was actually quite the opposite—a sensitive and artistic man who often felt torn between his true self and his public persona.
Wayne’s watch of choice reveals a little bit about the man he was off-camera. He was not a watch aficionado or collector by any means. In fact, he predominantly stuck to one watch: a unique 18-karat yellow gold Rolex.
Wayne’s preferred watch is no longer in production today: the Rolex King Midas reference 9630, first produced in 1964 in a limited edition of only 1000 pieces. His particular piece was number 557 of 1000, circa 1967.
The King Midas featured gold baton hands, sapphire crystal, manual wind movement, and solid 18-karat yellow gold case and bracelet with a deployant buckle. The words “King Midas” are etched on the clasp and on either side of the crown.
If you’ve heard of this model, you may initially think of its other famous wearers. Elvis Presley received this watch as a token of gratitude for playing six days of sold out performances at the Houston Astrodome. Actor Christopher Lee, who played James Bond’s nemesis Scaramanga in the James Bond film Man with the Golden Gun, also wore the King Midas.
Despite the other celebrities who put the Rolex King Midas in the spotlight, Wayne was in fact the first to own it. And, it’s believed that he wore the watch until his death in 1979.
In 2011, Wayne’s watch sold at the Personal Property of John Wayne Signature Auction conducted by Heritage Auctions. Although it was only estimated to go for $6000-$8000, the winning bid was $26,200.
John Wayne will never be remembered for his true subtle and subdued nature or for the particular timepiece on his wrist. He will forever be remembered as a man’s man and a symbol for nostalgic Americana. Despite that, it’s interesting to learn about the man behind the camera and the watch that accompanied him throughout his life and career.
Images ©: Header; Wikimedia Commons. 1; Heritage Auctions.