Ringo Starr’s Patek Philippe Fetches Almost $180,000 at California Auction
On Thursday, Los Angeles-based Julien’s Auctions hosted a 1,367-lot sale dedicated to the property of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and actress Barbara Bach. Buried in the couple’s possessions, among everything from Lichtenstein prints to old scarves and Adidas sneakers, was Lot 167, a gold Patek Philippe wristwatch that fetched $179,200.
Forget the connection to Ringo—this is a rare watch. The ref. 3448 was the first automatic perpetual calendar made by Patek, and only 586 were produced. Julien’s listed the watch with a $40,000 starting bid and an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000, which is significantly less than you’d expect for a basic 3448. For comparison, one sold in November 2012 at Christie’s for $136,300, though that watch appears to have been in better condition than this one. Ringo’s was clearly worn and isn’t pristine, but it’s by no means trashed or damaged. The watch is on a worn-in strap from famous London jeweler Asprey, indicating he may have purchased it there to begin with, adding value for collectors.
A closing bid of nearly $180,000 (about 30 percent higher than the 2012 example) is a strong result for this watch, if not a gobsmacking one. Yes, crazed Beatles fans dueling with their auction paddles could easily have driven the price much higher, but those kinds of results only distort the market. The price paid for this watch would be high without its provenance, but it seems like a reasonable premium (if one can even try to assess the value of such things).
Looking at other celebrity watches for a sense of scale, an actual James Bond Rolex drew $365,000 last month at Phillips, and in 2012 a Heuer Monaco worn by Steve McQueen in Le Mans sold for almost $800,000, under two very different sets of conditions. Ringo’s Patek sits almost halfway between the two: The Bond watch doesn’t function and is just a movie prop at this point, but it was still sold at a dedicated watch auction, while the McQueen Monaco is a functioning timekeeper sold at a thematic auction of Hollywood memorabilia.
There’s another, even more desirable Beatles watch out there somewhere, too. John Lennon is known to have worn a yellow gold ref. 2499, which is a perpetual calendar chronograph (to one-up Ringo’s “basic” perpetual calendar). The watch is clearly visible in multiple photographs of Lennon, but its whereabouts today are entirely unknown. Considering a yellow gold 2499 brought in almost $400,000 at Sotheby’s in May 2015, Lennon’s watch could easily achieve something astronomical.
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