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Marilyn Monroe stars in Blancpain’s Timeless Elegance...
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Marilyn Monroe stars in Blancpain’s Timeless Elegance exhibit

Friday, 08 November 2019
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Roberta Naas
Journalist

“Life is all about time - what we make of it and how we use it.”

Roberta Naas is a veteran journalist in the watch world with more than 32 years of experience and author of six books on watches and time. She was as well the founder of www.atimelyperspective.com.

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5 min read

Blancpain brings Marilyn into the spotlight again as it unveils a never-before-seen in America watch and opens an exhibit dedicated to the screen legend, and to women everywhere.

Enrapturing fans once again, pop-culture icon Marilyn Monroe is the center of attention as the star of a celebratory exhibit at the Blancpain flagship boutique in New York. For the opening of the Timeless Elegance exhibit (which runs from October 31 to November 23), a rarely seen watch once owned by Marilyn, rare photographs of the legendary actress, personal items, and portraits caused a huge stir amongst guests. The star of the exhibit – after Marilyn, of course – is a spectacular diamond-adorned Blancpain cocktail watch made in the 1930s. Three years ago, Blancpain was able to acquire the watch at auction for $225,000. Ultra feminine and exquisitely Art Deco in design, the watch is the central focus of the exhibit that honors the actress’s independent and brazen spirit.

Blancpain “Timeless Elegance” exhibit in New York
Blancpain “Timeless Elegance” exhibit in New York

Thanks to a partnership which Blancpain struck up with Authentic Brands Group (ABG), owners of the Marilyn Monroe® Estate brand, other personal items are also on display. These include her director’s chair from Bus Stop, a gown and a lace fan she wore in The Prince and the Showgirl, a host of film equipment and cameras, and more. There is even a private viewing room with her movies playing. Lining the walls are photographs from a “who’s who” of Hollywood photographers of quite possibly the most photographed woman of the twentieth century. In a separate sitting room, the famous nude swimming shots taken by Lawrence Schiller were discreetly on display, and Schiller himself was there to talk about his days photographing the icon.

The blonde bombshell

Before her untimely death at the age of 36 in 1962, Monroe called upon Hollywood photographer Lawrence Schiller to photograph her in a pool. It was a publicity plan to tout her upcoming movie Something’s Got to Give (which never came to fruition). She went into the pool wearing a nude-colored bathing suit bottom, which she then removed while in the water before swimming and exiting naked. This was not the first time Schiller had worked with Monroe, but it may have been the most important, as the pictures propelled Marilyn’s image as a sex symbol even further when they appeared in print.

Blancpain has long focused on creating women’s watches.

Marilyn Monroe was a blonde bombshell who conjured up envy, lust and a host of adoring emotions during her heyday in film in the 1950s. Norma Jeane, as fans even today sometimes refer to her (after her birth name, Norma Jeane Mortenson), starred in dozens of films, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. She also made an appearance at Madison Square Garden to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President John F. Kennedy – an unforgettable performance thanks to the sexy voice and skin-tight beige sequin dress she wore that made her look almost nude.

The Blancpain watch owned by Marilyn

As mentioned, Blancpain acquired the Art Deco watch that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe at a Julien’s Auction in Los Angeles in late 2016. It had been part of the estate of Lee Strasberg, Marilyn’s acting coach who received the watch when she died. It houses an exquisite elongated rectangular-shaped mechanical movement with 17 jewels that also bears the Rayville signature. The brand had been renamed Rayville-Blancpain in 1933 after the death of Frederic-Emile, the last of the Blancpain family. The business was taken over by his long-time assistant – and the first woman to run a Swiss watch company: Betty Fiechter.

Cocktail watch that belonged to Marilyn Monroe © Blancpain
Cocktail watch that belonged to Marilyn Monroe © Blancpain

The dial of the watch is silver with gold applied numerals and tiny rose gold hands and crown. The watch’s platinum case, lugs and bracelet are meticulously set with 71 brilliant-cut and two marquise-cut diamonds. The case is numbered, and the diamond bracelet boasts two platinum safety chains. “We are proud to present Marilyn’s Blancpain watch to the public for the very first time,” said Marc A. Hayek, President and CEO of Blancpain. “This rare and precious artifact connects us to one of the most iconic women in the world, highlighting our pioneering role in the history of watchmaking.”

Blancpain and women

Blancpain has long focused on creating women’s watches, and has even excelled with certain specific pieces, including its first self-winding ladies’ watch, the Rolls, in 1930, and the now-well-known Ladybird mechanical watch in 1956. In fact, the Ladybird Ultraplate collection continues to grace the Blancpain line-up, with beautiful dials and mechanical calibers. Among its women’s watch collections today (Quantieme Complet and Retrograde, Mille et Une Nuits, Hour Decentree, and others), Blancpain showcases the lovely Villeret Quantieme Phases de Lune watch wherein the moon is a woman’s face with a star-shaped beauty mark on it — another nod to the famed Marilyn.

Knowing that Marilyn’s larger-than-life personality continues to influence people today, the Blancpain Timeless Elegance exhibit – actress Naomi Watts made an appearance at the opening night – is expected to be a huge success.

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