A watch is a particularly intimate object. Often handed down through generations of family members, they connect strongly to the person who once owned the piece. For its upcoming luxury auction, Christie’s has put together a particularly star-studded lineup of timepieces once owned by American icons for An Evening of Exceptional Watches on December 7, 2017.
The top lot, a Patek Phillipe 130 cronograph formerly owned by baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, is sure to interest both watch aficionados and sports buffs worldwide. The watch make, the first of its kind to receive a reference number, shined as one of the highlights of the Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition in New York at Cipriani last July. Among the distinguishing features are a well-preserved case and Breguet numbers against a silvered dial, as well as what is assumed to be the original strap worn by DiMaggio. A receipt accompanying the lot confirms DiMaggio purchased the piece on December 12, 1948.
Hitting the right notes, a Gruen platinum and diamond-set bracelet watch formerly owned by jazz icon Billie Holiday hits the block. The delicate, ladylike piece, befitting someone with the nickname “Lady Day,” is engraved with “To Billie From David 1938” and is being offered with three vintage vinyl records plus a photograph of Holiday. It has an estimate of $12,000—$18,000.
There’s also a lot that once belonged to another female powerhouse, the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. Christie’s offers her handsome, silver travel timepiece made by Cressarrow Watch Co. and retailed by Tiffany & Co. The circa-1923 edition is engraved with the pilot’s initials, and the inside back case is engraved “To Amelia, In Sincere Admiration, Amy.” Amy refers to Amy Johnson, a friend of Earhart’s and another pilot. Accompanying the watch is an original presentation box with engraving on the cover; a book entitled Soaring Wings by George Putman, 1939; and three photographs of Earhart.
Although perhaps not the style supernova of her successor Jacqueline Kennedy, whose Cartier tank watch sold for $379,500 at Christie’s in July, former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was a trendsetter in her own right, often credited with popularizing the light pink color that dominated 1950s fashions. Two of Eisenhower’s watches will be auctioned separately as part of the sale, and one of them—a circa-1965, 18k gold Rolex—features interchangeable straps in that signature shade.
These magnificent timepieces are certainly poised to continue the power that celebrity watches have recently wielded on the auction block. Just last month, in fact, a Rolex Daytona once owned by actor Paul Newman sold by Philip’s for a staggering $17.8 million, setting a record for a highest price ever paid for a wristwatch. We’ll soon find out if it gets to keep the title.
The auction takes place at 20 Rockefeller Center in New York on December 7th at 6:30 pm. christies.com