I’ve handled my fair share of watches from iconic manufacturers, Patek, Rolex etc. But when there is provenance, how does the value of that watch become more than just the sum of the parts?
This past year, a Rolex Daytona, owned by and years later dubbed the “Paul Newman Daytona”, sold for a record $17,000,000. The watch was gifted to him by Joanne Woodward and inscribed “Drive Safe, Me” He wore that model watch, made it famous and it became known as the Paul Newman Daytona. But this was Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona! OK, I’ve not handled this caliber of watch but in my mind, all watches have a story. The ones that come with some level of provenance can and often bring to the prospective buyer a sense of history or association with a time and place to elevate its value beyond “just a watch”.
Albert Einstein's Longines - $596,000, Eric Clapton’s Patek Philippe - $3.6 million, Babe Ruth’s Gruen pocket watch - $717,000, Dave Scott’s Bulova (Apollo 15) $1.3 million. These have all inspired a wonderment that can only pluck a heartstring of emotions to the enthusiast of watches and the famous.
Two particular watches in my collection that have historical significance by virtue of who owned them are treasures to me. One of the watches might not even bring $500 on the open market without this connection. But it is this connection that makes this watch important to me and maybe to someone in the future. A Gallet World Timer Chronograph, a tool watch with a model name of Flight Officer. This one having the name of David E. Davis Jr. inscribed on the back.
Saying that David E. Davis was an automotive enthusiast is like saying that Fred Astaire liked to dance. Albeit not a “car and driver” watch with a tachymeter scale on the periphery of the dial, this one appealed to me because I took part in the very first Going to the Sun Rally and got a chance to meet the man, a prolific writer in the automobile industry, founder of Automobile Magazine, contributor to Car and Driver and founder of the online magazine Winding Road.
On the other end of the scale of horological treasures, sits humble Timex Marlin, the first watch Timex has made in almost 20 years with a mechanical, hand wound movement. After a convoluted series of events that culminated in the Last Wind-Up getting the account, I received this watch as a token from the CEO of Timex, Tobias Reiss-Schmidt. For a watch that retails under $200, this watch means way more to me and will mean more to those who appreciate provenance in years to come because of this connection and the preservation of its history.
Assembling provenance can be challenging especially if there are gaps in generations. I’ve experienced this with some watches and yet find it a terribly fulfilling goal. There is always more to garnish and help establish a foundation for the piece, more color to add and more of a completeness to solidify. Get it while you can because there is more value to a piece than just the sum of its parts. Afterall, if the Rolex Daytona that sold for $17 million had not been Paul Newman’s, it might have only brought $50,000. Just my 2¢.