Some watches have gained true cult status, mostly because of who wore them. Notable actors, men of political and historical importance, some of the greatest pilots or even space heroes who walked on the Moon. Not only are these watches great horological objects, but their background has given them an unbeatable aura, which extends far beyond the small circle of watch enthusiasts. Some years ago, Ben Clymer of Hodinkee published a list of 12 great watches that were known to exist but that were MIA (missing in action). Since then, a couple of them have resurfaced; however, today we are going to look at five other lost watches that we’d love to see reappear.
Many watches that have built up the reputation of a certain model have been lost. Take for instance Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster, one of the two actual watches that gave this model its “Moonwatch” name. What about Jean-Claude Killy’s Rolex Killy? Or Fidel Castro’s Rolex GMT-Master? In recent years, we’ve seen several important models resurface. For instance, in 2017 and to much fanfare, Paul Newman’s own Rolex Daytona 6239 “Paul Newman” – the actual watch that gave this specific exotic dial version its name – appeared out of the blue. The watch, offered by Newman’s family at auction, achieved a whopping USD 17.8m, making it the most expensive Rolex ever auctioned.
In the same vein, the bezel-less Rolex GMT-Master Reference 1675 owned and worn by Marlon Brando’s character Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now was put up for sale by his daughter, Petra Brando Fischer in 2019, and fetched USD 1.95m with Phillips. Pablo Picasso’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Triple Date Moonphase was on the list but has not surfaced yet, although in 2019 I discovered that his daughter Paloma Picasso had the watch in her possession and gifted it to her first husband, Rafael López-Cambil.
With this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to add a few more interesting timepieces owned by notable people, which I have come across recently and that are missing. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they reappeared?
Dan Gurney’s Breguet Diver
In 2019, I published an article on Dan Gurney and his previously unknown Breguet dive watch. This was the first photograph that documented someone wearing the timepiece, which has always been shrouded in mystery. Other examples have come up for sale in the past, with extracts from the archives confirming Breguet made the watches. Gurney’s Breguet would be the coolest of the bunch if it came up for sale.
Dizzy Gillespie’s Patek Philippe 1463 Chronograph
American trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie made the original missing watches list for his first-generation Rolex Reference 6542 GMT-Master. He also owned a yellow gold Patek Philippe Reference 1463 chronograph, which is noted for being the first water-resistant chronograph from the Geneva Maison. Gillespie wore it often and it was spotted on his wrist at the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival.
General Dwight Eisenhower’s Heuer Reference 2447 Chronograph
In 1946, Casa Masson, a Rio de Janeiro jeweller, ran an advertisement featuring a picture of General Dwight Eisenhower and a Heuer chronograph. Until March 2020, nobody knew the exact model he owned. I happened to come across several photographs that clearly showed which model graced Eisenhower’s wrist. With the assistance of vintage Heuer specialist Jeff Stein of On The Dash, we were able to identify it was a Heuer Reference 2447 NR (with the “N” indicating a black dial and the “R” showing the use of radium), with a tachymeter scale on the dial.
Michael Jordan’s A. Lange & Söhne Datograph on platinum bracelet
Compared to the watches on this list, the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph is a more modern timepiece. However, if you knew who owned it, it would increase its value exponentially. Earlier this year I came across a 2002 photo of NBA legend and whom many consider the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan, sporting an A. Lange & Söhne Datograph. What made the find even cooler was the fact that he was wearing the watch on a factory-sourced platinum bracelet. The Datograph was launched in 1999 and even in 2002 was still a relatively unknown model to many in the watch world – which makes MJ owning one that little bit more special.
Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner 6538, worn in Goldfinger
In October 2020, the world mourned the passing of Sean Connery, the first actor to portray British secret agent James Bond on the silver screen. In the third Bond film Goldfinger, the Rolex Submariner Reference 6538 appeared in the pre-title sequence when Bond was consulting the time with the aid of his cigarette lighter. This scene cemented the Submariner in horological history and now the Reference 6538 is nicknamed the “James Bond”. Surprisingly, this watch has never surfaced but it would be very interesting to find out where it is hiding!