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Celebrity owned watches that shone at the auction house

Celebrity owned watches that shone at the auction house

Friday, 07 April 2017
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William McNish
Strategic Planner at RE-UP

“There is nothing quite as beautiful as the spark in a person's eye when you bring up something they are passionate about.”

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6 min read

Last year marked what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. In honour of this, Julien’s auctions hosted a special event which saw hundreds of items from the icon’s personal collection, including a never-before-seen Blancpain cocktail watch paved with diamonds.

The watch was eventually sold to Marc A. Hayek, CEO of Blancpain for $225,000. In a recent interview the HH Journal conducted with Martin Nolan of Julien’s auctions he described it as “one of the most expensive watches we have ever sold”. So what is it that made the watch so expensive? More than just a brand of a timepiece, the watch was a small piece of history that will never be forgotten and will never fade into the sands of time.

Beyond Marilyn, we have looked at some of the most expensive ‘celebrity’ watches at auction. Few things can increase the price of a timepiece more than its ownership, but we have tried to look at what can make a watch’s price skyrocket at auction, beyond their previous owners. A historical moment, a sporting achievement or a true icon?

Here’s our list of celebrity watches that shone at the auction:

JFK: Omega Ultrathin

Price: $350,000
History: The watch was gifted to John F. Kennedy in 1960 by his friend Grant Stockdale. At the time, he had not yet become president but was well on his way. Jacqueline Kennedy expressed her deepest thanks to Grant for the watch describing it as ‘the thinnest most elegant wristwatch’ and how JFK ‘promptly took off the chunky little one’ she had given him.
Why: A true piece of history, beyond celebrities and beyond timepieces. The watch can be seen on JFK during his inauguration ceremony AND prominently during his LIFE magazine cover shoot. The watch encapsulates a historical icon before his untimely death and a well-documented piece of history.

JFK's Omega Ultrathin
Steve McQueen: Heuer Monaco

Price: $799,500
History: McQueen actually wore four Heuer Monaco’s during the production of the movie Le Mans. This particular piece was worn by the icon during the still photography and promotional shots for the movie.
Why: A piece of cinematic history, and one in perfect condition. Hollywood’s original bad boy is still relevant today for his confidence, style and defiance of authority. McQueen’s performance had a profound influence of Tag Heuer’s history and when he was seen wearing it in Le Mans, it catapulted the timepiece into its iconic status.

Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco
Dave Scott: Bulova Chronograph

Price: $1.3 million
History: Dave Scott wore this Bulova Chronograph on the moon, during the Apollo 15 mission. The ‘real’ moon watch is an Omega Speedmaster, however as they are owned by the government we will probably never see one come up for sale to the public. This Bulova however, was Scott’s own watch, with an added NASA-issued velcro strap.
Why: This is probably the only watch (ever) that has ever been to the auction house that has also been to the moon. It even still has residue on the face of it and some wear and tear from re-entry. Considering only 12 people have ever been on the face of the moon, this is pretty important, far beyond it being a watch.

Dave Scott's Bulova Chronograph
Daniel Craig: Omega Seamaster ‘Planet Ocean’

Price: $255,565
History: The watch was made for and worn in many of the scenes of Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first role as James Bond. It was actually i fairly bad condition when it was sold at auction, covered in sand and dirt.
Why: More than just a ‘James Bond watch’, Casino Royale marked a big change in the franchise and what it meant to be a ‘James Bond film’, which is probably the reason that the timepiece sold for more than its almost identical Skyfall counterpart.

Daniel Craig's (or James Bond's) Omega Seamaster 'Planet Ocean'
Albert Einstein: 1929 Longines

Price: $596,000
History: Not a lot is known about this watch, apart from the fact that it was probably given to the mathematician in 1931 in Los Angeles – as the engraving tells.
Why: It seems quite apt that the timepiece of a man who revolutionised our perception of time sold for such a high amount. Einstein is one of the most influential, intelligent and recognisable men in history so it came as no surprise that his watch would sell for so much.

Albert Einstein's 1929 Longines
Eric Clapton: Patek Philippe Ref. 2499/100

Price: $3,637,844
History: The watch was bought by Clapton from a private collector in the last 10 years. Since 1986 only 349 of the 2499 reference have been made; most were encased in yellow gold, around 10% were made in rose gold, and in platinum? Well… a year after the last yellow gold 2499 was cased – Philippe Stern put the two remaining movements inside special platinum cases.
Why: This watch was something of a legend in the watch world before it came into the public eye. Clapton owning it elevating it to God status. This watch is more important than any watch made in the last 35 years. The two platinum watches were supposed to be a centrepiece of Patek Philippe’s Geneva museum and never come up for sale… but one did. According the Patek Philippe collectors the 2499 is the perfect reference.

Eric Clapton's Patek Philippe Ref. 2499/100
Babe Ruth: Gruen Pocketwatch

Price: $717,000
History: In 1923, the NY Yankees won the franchise’s very first World Series. Babe Ruth was awarded this impressive Gruen Verithin pocket watch. The five-sided case is made with 14 carat gold and is heavily engraved with a game of baseball, Babe Ruth’s name, Yankees and World’s Champions 1923.
Why: A true piece of sporting history. The first time the Yankees won the World Series AND belonged to Babe Ruth, arguably the most famous baseball player to ever live. If you’re a fan of horology and sport, this is the ultimate collector’s item.

Babe Ruth's Gruen Pocketwatch
More than just a celebrity

It’s often more than just the celebrity factor that manages to raise such prices for a timepiece, it is what these celebrities represent. James Dean throws people back to a bygone era of cinema and is THE Hollywood bad-boy. Einstein has arguably done more for mathematics than anyone that has ever lived. These timepieces don’t just encapsulate this, they give these people immortality, in a small way.

Buying a Fine Watch such as these are a way of trapping human time, bringing back memories or thoughts of a moment in time that will never be repeated, but with this watch in their possession, they will never be forgotten.

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