Famous Watches & the Stories Behind Them
Experienced collectors in the timepiece space know there’s more to watches than just their ability to tell the time. Certain watches have their own kind of rarity, and that’s because they tell a story, too.
Passed down through generations not only because of their exclusivity - but their sentimental value, too. In this article, we’ve uncovered four famous watches with a backstory as interesting (and mysterious) as the people that wear them.
Breguet Grande Compilation for Marie Antoinette
Breguet’s Pocket Watch No.160 is not only steeped in history, it’s also the 4th most expensive watch in the world right now. Commissioned in 1783 for Marie Antoinette, 18th century French Queen, Abraham-Louis Breguet was instructed to “create a watch that was as spectacular as possible”.
Unfortunately, the completion of the watch came too late - 34 years too late, with Marie Antoinette executed by guillotine in 1793. The watch was later stolen from a museum in Jerusalem and, assuming it was gone forever, Breguet tried to recreate it in 2004. The recreation was named No.1160 and a few months before its release, the stolen original watch was mysteriously returned.
Patek Philippe for John Lennon
The legend of Lennon’s Patek Philippe is the ultimate merging of fame and haute horology. Said to have been gifted by Yoko Ono on John Lennon’s 40th birthday, only two photos of the Patek Philippe 2499 exist on Lennon’s wrist, as he was killed two months later.
The 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph is one of the world’s most expensive and most coveted watches, coming in at $3,915,000 at an auction in 2018. Although little is known about the watch, some theories have circulated about where it now lies. Some say it’s since been sold to a dealer in New York, but when the dealer tried to re-sell the watch, Lennon’s family claimed it had been stolen.
Omega Speedmaster for Buzz Aldrin
When Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon in 1969, he was wearing an Omega Speedmaster Professional, or “the Moonwatch”. Unarguably the world’s best travelled timepiece, the Speedmaster has become an iconic piece amongst astronauts, Air Force pilots, athletes and actors.
The Speedmaster may have been the first watch to go to the moon, but where is it now? It’s said that Buzz sent it to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, but it somehow got lost on the way. Many Speedmaster owners have claimed to own this lost moon watch, but they have all been hoaxes so far.
Rolex GMT-Master for Marlon Brando
Actor Marlon Brando purchased his Rolex in the early 1970’s and wore it on screen for the movie Apocalypse Now, but there was something different about it. Brando had replaced the strap with a simple rubber one and removed the rotating GMT-bezel, in order to make the watch look more like something his character Kurtz would wear.
After its appearance, the watch wasn’t seen again until 2019, when it was put to auction. It sold after 20 minutes for $1,952,000. Since Brandon had carved his name in the back of the watch all those decades ago, it’s not surprising so many wanted this piece of Hollywood history.
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