19 Jun 2024

John Lennon’s Watch

, , , ,

The New Yorker recounts the complicated history of a preposterously valuable timepiece.

[S]ometime around 2007, in the early days of social media, a new kind of watch obsessive materialized, equipped with native computer skills and an appreciation for the places where pop culture and the luxury market intersect. In those pre-Instagram years, fanboy wonks traded watch esoterica online: an image of Picasso wearing a lost Jaeger-LeCoultre; Castro with two trendy Rolexes strapped to one arm; Brando, on the set of “Apocalypse Now,” “flexing,” as watch geeks say, a Rolex GMT-Master without its timing bezel, a modification he made to better inhabit the role of Kurtz; and—the Google image-search find of them all—two frames of an uncredited snapshot of Lennon and his Patek.

“I’m not a watch guy,” Sean Lennon said. “I’d be terrified to wear anything of my dad’s. I never even played one of his guitars.”

Since its discovery, around 2011, the image has appeared online again and again, fuelling a speculative frenzy about what the watch—which cost around twenty-five thousand dollars at Tiffany in 1980—might bring at auction today, with estimates ranging from ten million to forty million dollars. (Bloomberg’s Subdial Watch Index tracks the value of a bundle of watches produced by Rolex, Patek, and Audemars Piguet, like an E.T.F.; the Boston Consulting Group reported that, between 2018 and 2023, a similar selection outperformed the S. & P. 500 by twelve per cent. In 2017, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona broke records by selling at auction for $17.8 million.) But all the clickbait posts about the Lennon Patek, as it had come to be known, were regurgitations that contained few facts. There was never a mention of who took the photo, where it was taken, or even where the watch might be.

During the long, dull days of the pandemic, I decided to see what I could find out. Several years went by, as I traced the journey of the watch from where it was stowed after Lennon’s death—a locked room in his Dakota apartment—to when it was stolen, apparently in 2005. From there, it moved around Europe and the watch departments of two auction houses, before becoming the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, in Switzerland, to determine whether the watch’s rightful owner is Ono or an unnamed man a Swiss court judgment refers to as Mr. A, who claims to have bought the watch legally in 2014.

Having reached its final appeal—Ono has so far prevailed—the case is now in the hands of the Tribunal Fédéral, Switzerland’s Supreme Court, which is expected to render a verdict later this year. Meanwhile, the watch continues to sit in an undisclosed location in Geneva, a city that specializes in the safe, secret storage of lost treasures.


2 Feedbacks on "John Lennon’s Watch"


John Lennon was a pretty good musician. But I’m not sure his elevator ever went to the top floor. Or to put it another way I’m not sure he ever really knew what time it was. Just saying…


imagine no possesions-


Please Leave a Comment!

Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.


Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark