When creating a wristwatch, it is possible to convey not only the specific characteristics and fashion trends of the period but also the ethos of the period in which it is made. According to the watch business, timepieces once owned by historical people, superstars, and prominent families are now regarded not only as fashionable ornaments but also as cultural artifacts with historical significance.
Because of the unique stories behind each watch, they are frequently sought-after objects at auctions and other high-profile sales, where they may fetch record-breaking sums of money. Top luxury watch companies utilize this approach to replicate designs that have been influenced by their historical predecessors. Discover some of the most well-known and sought-after antique watches on display.
1. Montblanc Monopusher Chronograph MB R200
Montblanc’s Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph commemorates both the 9th anniversary of the Only Watch auction and the 200th anniversary of the renowned French watchmaker’s inking chronograph. In addition, the one-of-a-kind watch will be auctioned alongside a wooden replica of the original nineteenth-century chronograph, a winning combo for any collector.
The dial is covered in 18K yellow gold and accented with subtle orange accents, and the Manufacture Monopusher Chronograph MB R200 is completed with a simple brown alligator bracelet with orange stitching. It is among the most brilliant and expensive Montblanc men watches the manufacturer has created which cost around $33,000-$49,000.
2. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona
Four years ago, a classic given by the late American actor, racing driver, and philanthropist, Paul Newman, sold for an astonishing $17.7 million at auction. He was a racing driver in the 1960s movie Winning when he received the Rolex Daytona as a gift from his wife, Joanne Woodward. The Rolex Daytona that Paul Newman wore in the racing scenes of Winning has become the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.
3. James Dean Pocket Watch
Another timepiece left behind by a superstar is a pocket watch produced around the 1880s by Standard USA. It was originally owned by the late American actor James Dean, who starred in only three films before dying in a vehicle collision in the 1950s at the age of 24. He purchased the watch before achieving renown and later donated it to his friend Tillie Starriet, who worked at Warner Brothers’ movie company.
The keyless pocket watch had an Elgin movement and was packaged in a hardwood casing with a golden logo on the front cover. Dean’s initials “JD” are etched onto the surface of the piece. It was auctioned in Hong Kong eight years ago for around $41,000, despite its assessed worth of barely $5,000.
4. Elvis Presley’s Omega
Collectors were also interested in the Omega wristwatches given to music legend Elvis Presley. The Omega watch was originally purchased at Tiffany & Co., which explains why the dial features the logos of both businesses. The wristwatch features a basic yet elegant design, with an 18-carat white gold case and a bezel studded with 44 diamonds.
RCA Records gave Presley the watch to mark the time when he collected 75 million records in the 1960s. The inscription “To Elvis, 75 Million Records, RCA Victor, 12-25-60” on the back of the box is quite motivating. According to the Elvis Presley Museum, Presley got the watch in the 1960s in Memphis, Tennessee. The watch, which was estimated to be valued between $53k and $107k, was auctioned off for US$1.8 million two years ago in Geneva, Switzerland.
5. Charlie Chaplin’s Rolex Oyster
Another highly sought-after antique timepiece is the Rolex Oyster, which was manufactured in the 1940s and once belonged to the late Charlie Chaplin, the famous silent cinema actor, and director. The watch, which had a straightforward design and a water-resistant stainless steel casing, was unique in that it was one of the few left-handed versions ever created to be worn on the opposite wrist. The watch was auctioned in New York and sold for US$51k, more than double its estimated worth of US$12k eight years earlier.
6. Patek Philippe Titanium 5208T
The Patek Philippe Titanium 5208T, which was created just for Monaco’s renowned Only Watch auction three years ago, sold for $6.23 million. An exclusive titanium version of the 5208 model, it was created in an inky blue color palette and has a sapphire crystal case back, hand-guilloché embellishments, gold indexes, and an 18K gold dial plate. It is a limited edition of just 50 pieces worldwide. Not only is the Ref. 5208 one of the most complicated watches to manufacture, but the elaborate casing of the watch is even harder to construct in titanium.
7. Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco
During the filming of Le Mans, Steve McQueen wore four Heuer Monaco watches. The watch was also worn by the great while he was shooting and promoting one of the world’s best exhibits. This is a genuine piece of cinematic history in superb shape. Hollywood’s original bad boy is still relevant today because of his confidence, sense of style, and rejection of authority. McQueen’s performance had a major impact on TAG Heuer’s history, and his wearing the watch in Le Mans propelled the wristwatch into the position of a legendary timepiece. It was auctioned off for about $799k.
8. Dave Scott’s Bulova Chronograph
During the Apollo 15 mission, Dave Scott wore this Bulova Chronograph on the surface of the moon. It is the watch which he had customized with a NASA-issued velcro strap. It even contains residue on the surface of it, as well as some wear and tears from the re-entry process. When you consider that only 12 people have ever walked on the surface of the moon, this is a significant achievement that goes well beyond the fact that it is a watch. At $1.3 million, this timepiece was sold at auction.
Due to the sheer high level of interest produced by antique watches with historical significance, several big brands have developed new timepieces with retro styles. Many of these companies, like Blancpain, IWC, Tudor, Oris, Bell & Ross, and Longines, have been able to draw motivation from their iconic works in the past. Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms collection may trace its roots back to the company’s maritime series, which was launched in the 1950s. Oris has created a few limited edition watches that were inspired by products from the previous century, as well. Ownership of a watch with historic features is not only a sign of wealth; it also adds to the appeal and sense of elegance associated with the timepiece.