Oh, to be an appraiser on the Roadshow!
One of the benefits of having a store that offers new and pre-owned items is that we get to see a huge variety of wonderful watches. Not just the ones by the famous makers that get our blood pumping (but it helps), but the the ones that come to us with a tale to tell. I often wish I had more time to delve into the personal history of these particular pieces as they would make for great stories. Here’s my foray into PBS’s Antique Roadshow (and I’m proud to be a sponsor).
There are many items that fall into the “family heirloom” category. It could be a book, or a signature from a famous baseball player. It could be a chippendale chair, a stuffed animal or a vintage car. But what intrigues me most are those watches that were carried or worn by the family member of a past generation. Their diminutive nature, purposefulness and life.... the ticking, manual engagement that was (and is still) required, is so full of personality. These timepieces were, for the most part, monies well spent….an investment and a faith in the future. The general consensus could be deemed reasonable then as it is today: “Pay for quality and it will repay you with longevity.” Once in awhile, I’ve purchased a tool for my trade and been wholeheartedly disappointed at its quality. Would this be something I’d want to pass along to my next apprentice? No. But a tool with great attention to detail and understanding of purpose, yes! Such are the watches that are well made… be they from the early 1900’s or the early 2000’s. You get what you pay for.
Two watches came into the shop last week under totally different circumstances, but both with customers in need. The first was a wonderfully well-preserved Rolex Red Submariner, in immaculate condition with (according to the original purchaser) all the goodies: box, papers, receipts etc... It was graduation weekend at Montana State University and the mother was having the ca. 1970’s Rolex fitted to her graduate’s wrist. We were MOST happy to oblige. As their emotions made clear, the passing on of this timepiece was significant to both the mother and her son. The second watch came in and it blew me away: a Patek Philippe pocket watch. This particular piece was a minute repeater with a split second chronograph. I was only asked for a rough valuation and a lesson on its operation. It just so happened that the customer’s elder relation was in the horse racing business and the following day was significant race - nostalgia hard at work. Two pieces each worth significantly more than my 3 year old truck, brought into my business for my expertise. I’m privileged to be entrusted with adjusting and appraising such items.
Both of these pieces were mechanical, utilitarian, artistic and horological masterpieces of their day, and both were resurrected for a new life experience. A college graduation present purchased new in the 1970’s now offered to a deserving student and a descendant of a well deserving horse racing individual who might be celebrating an anniversary equine race. Who really knows what these pieces mean to the givers or the recipients….but it is the fact that they are passed down, as symbols of all that they meant to the original owner.