The recent sale of Paul Newman’s Rolex Oyster Daytona watch for nearly $18 million certainly turned a lot of heads in the watch world. That was the most money every paid for a wristwatch, and it proves that who owned something can affect the price as dramatically as the nature of the item itself.
When that kind of watch attracts that kind of attention as well as that kind of money, it’s only a matter of time before other people who own items that once belonged to famous people dig them out of their dressers and safe deposit boxes to sell them at auction.
Of course, the biggest problem in trying to do that is to establish provenance. It’s one thing to say that something belonged to someone famous, but if you can prove it, then you can get a lot more money for it.
Coming up for auction this week are watches that belonged to two different people who were recognized leaders in their respective fields – professional baseball and aviation.
The first watch is a small Tiffany travel watch, built by the Cresarrow Watch Company, that once belonged to aviatrix Amelia Earhart. This one has terrific provenance, as it was given to her by a personal friend fellow flier Amy Johnson in 1932, and is engraved to her.
Obviously, Ms. Earhart didn’t have the watch with her when she disappeared somewhere in the Pacific in 1937.
The other significant watch coming up in the Christies auction is a Patek Philippe Reference 130 wristwatch that once belonged to former Major League baseball player Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio was famous for 13 years of playing Hall of Fame baseball, but he’s also famous for briefly being married to Marilyn Monroe.
The DiMaggio watch would likely bring a lot of money even if it were a Timex, but the fact that it’s a well-preserved 18k gold Patek Philippe will likely add to the price. Keep in mind that baseball is itself collectible, and many collectors of sports memorabilia have deep pockets, sometimes as deep as those of watch collectors.
This means that there’s really no telling how much this watch might sell for or who might buy it. Christie’s is estimating something in the $150,000-$300,000 range for this one, but it could very easily go for a lot more than that.
DiMaggio is revered among fans of baseball and fans of the New York Yankees in particular.
Estimates for the Amelia Earhart watch are somewhat lower, ranging from $60,000-$120,000. Again, she’s an important historical figure, so it’s possible that the watch could sell for a great deal more money, especially since it was engraved to her.
Christie’s has a number of other watches coming up in the auction this week that belonged to famous people, including a watch that belonged to jazz singer Billie Holiday and one that belonged to former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.
Jazz collectors might be willing to pay quite a bit for the Billie Holiday watch, which is a diamond-set Gruen from 1938. Estimates for that one are in the $12,000-$18,000 range.