Clarke Gable epitomized the Golden Age of American film—he was known as the “King of Hollywood.” In a career that spanned close to 30 years, he amassed tremendous fame and notoriety as the stuff of Hollywood legend and came to epitomize the Golden Age of film
He landed his first big role on screen in 1931 in the film The Painted Desert. After seeing him on camera, MGM studios offered him a contract. That same year he landed his first leading role opposite Joan Crawford in Dance, Fools, Dance. From that moment forward, Gable was a star. Over the next ten years, he starred in some of his most memorable roles, like It Happened One Night and Gone with the Wind.
Yet, despite his fame, few fans remember, or even know, that the Academy Award Winner was also a huge timepiece collector of some of the world’s most illustrious brands. He wasn’t loyal to one particular brand, and he had a diverse collection including a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, a Cartier Tank, a Patek Philippe Triple Date Moonphase, and a Mathey-Tissot Chrono. Gable wore his array of timepieces both on and off screen.
Provenance has the ability to make a relatively ordinary watch extraordinary. This is especially true in the auction world, where a watch owned by an important historical figure like Clarke Gable can result in a phenomenal final hammer price. In Bonham’s 2013 “What Dreams Are Made Of” sale, which featured memorabilia from nearly 100 years of cinema history, what caught the eye of most collectors, naturally, was the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 6011 owned by legendary actor Clark Gable. The 14k gold automatic watch can be seen on Gable in the movie Mogambo (1953), where he stars alongside fellow Hollywood royalty Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. The final sale price was a whopping $28,750 to a private collector.
One of the greatest things about vintage watches is that they come to you with a story. Whether it’s been passed down through your family, or from the estate of a famous movie actor, there are great stories to be had. Most notably, watches belonging to famous people or watches that have accompanied their wearers during important events can fetch large prices and be highly sought after by collectors of all types.
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