New York–Christie’s New York put a pretty special lot on the auction block Thursday evening: a historically significant watch owned by a baseball legend.
A highlight of the auction house’s “An Evening of Exceptional Watches” sale was Joe DiMaggio’s Patek Phillipe Ref. 130, a watch he owned for more than 50 years and which sold for $281,250 (including buyer’s premium).
Its hammer price put it right in its pre-sale estimate range of $150,000 to $300,000.
The Ref. 130 was first chronograph to be given a reference number. Patek Phillipe launched it in 1934 and produced it until the 1960s. The 18-karat gold chronograph wristwatch features applied gold Breguet numerals set against a silvered dial.
“The fact that these numerals were Arabic, rather than Roman, shows that the piece was specifically made for American tastes,” said John Reardon, international head of Christie’s watch department. “The likes of Howard Hughes and (aviation pioneer) William Boeing were especially fond of them, and they helped start a trend on this side of the Atlantic, whereas in Europe watches still tended to bear Roman numerals.”
The DiMaggio Ref. 130 sold at Christie’s also had with what the auction house thought could be its original strap, likely the one worn by the baseball player himself.
DiMaggio is regarded as one of the most legendary players to ever wear the blue-and-white pinstripes of the New York Yankees.
He set a record in 1941 when he went on a 56-game hitting streak, and he won nine World Series titles during his 13 years with the New York Yankees (1936 to 1951; he served for three years as a sergeant in the Army Air Corps during WWII).
Following his retirement in 1951, DiMaggio was married to Marilyn Monroe briefly.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
Details around the original purchase of the hall of famer’s Patek Philippe Ref. 130 aren’t clear, but some believe that the owners of the New York Yankees gave the timepiece to DiMaggio. He acquired it in 1948 and kept it until his death in 1999.
The watch went to auction in 2006 at Hunt Auctions as part of the Joe DiMaggio Auction and had been in a private collection since.
It also was one of the highlights of the Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition held in New York this year.
“An Evening of Exceptional Watches” totaled $9.9 million at Christie’s.
Leading the sale was a Rolex Oyster Sotto Daytona Ref. 6263 signed by Paul Newman that sold for $1.1 million.
Another Rolex appeared at No. 2, this one a 14-karat gold version of the John Player Special Paul Newman Ref. 6241. It garnered $672,500 Thursday evening.
The sale also put on the block a Cresarrow Watch Co. silver travel watch once owned by Amelia Earhart.
Amy Johnson, an iconic British aviator, gave it to Earhart as a gift. The caseback is engraved with the words “To Amelia, In Sincere Admiration, Amy.” When she received the watch in 1932, Earhart already had earned the title of the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
It sold for $75,000.