A Short History of the Wristwatch

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No element of men’s style inspires such fascination and devotion as the wristwatch. Up until the late 19th century the wristwatch was considered a piece of jewelry exclusively for women. Men preferred the pocket watch for some very practical reasons. At the time, watches were extremely susceptible to the elements. Moisture, cold, heat, and dust could easily ruin the intricate gears and springs within a watch, causing it to lose its accuracy. Men were more likely to face these elements as they held positions in the military, business, and government that made accurate timekeeping a paramount concern. Care had to be taken to protect their timepieces and keep themselves on schedule. Function superseded fashion, so into the pocket men’s watches went, only to be taken out when needed.

As with most things in men’s style, it would take a war for things to change and for the watch to leave a man’s pocket and be placed on his wrist. In the tumult of battle, a man needed all the hands he could get. So soldiers began improvising wristwatches by strapping their pocket watches on their arm with leather.

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In 1880 Kaiser Wilhelm I commissioned watchmaker Girard-Perregaux to produce a wristwatch for his German Naval officers.

Two thousand watches were manufactured with its characteristic protective grille.  This is probably the first large series of wristwatches ever made.  But the product did not become popular with the general male public and was discontinued.

Soon after this wristwatches showed up with British soldiers fighting in the Burma and Boer Wars in the late 19th century. Called “wristlets,” these leather straps had a cup to hold their pocket watch. By the 1890s, a few companies started manufacturing leather wristlets for soldiers and even made improvements to them, like adding a compass on the strap for navigation. They were often marketed as “Campaign” or “Service” watches. Soon watchmakers took note of the subtle shift in social conventions. One vendor in England advertised that the “wristlet watch” had been used at the legendary Battle of Omdurman in Sudan in 1898 and again during the Boer War, pointing out that “desert-experience is the severest test a watch can have.” The implicit message was a notable one in a period of more precise time: A wristwatch’s reliability, rather than its aesthetics, was what mattered most.

campaign watch

Then in 1906 pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch while flying. He needed to keep his hands on the plane’s controls, but instead kept having to fumble for the pocket watch. Louis Cartier made a wristwatch for his friend affixed by a comfortable leather strap and secured with a small buckle. Santos-Dumont who wore it every time he flew. Alberto was a celebrity throughout Europe, and with his flamboyant personality, his Cartier watch became equally famous.

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All these trends cascaded to warfare as World War I soldiers and aviators strapped on wristwatches en masse. The development conjured scenes like the one described by the English war correspondent Philip Gibbs in Belgium:

The watch hands [on the officers’ wrists] pointed to the second which had been given for the assault to begin, and instantly, to the tick, the guns lifted and made a curtain of fire round the Chateau of Hooge, beyond the Menin road, six hundred yards away. “Time!”  The company officers blew their whistles, and there was a sudden clatter from trench-spades slung to rifle-barrels, and from men girdled with hand-grenades, as the advancing companies deployed and made their first rush forward.

By the end of the war, watch manufacturers were designing wristwatches “for men with the promise that this watch could make a man more soldier like, more martial, more masculine,” Alexis McCrossen, a history professor at Southern Methodist University said. “And they don’t just have some random soldiers out in Africa, they now have the most modern of all heroes of World War I—the aviator—[wearing wristwatches]. … By the 1920s, you have aviation, you have automobiles. The pocket watch was really intimately associated with the railroad. And so it seems very antiquated, it’s like something your dad wore. A modern man’s going to wear a wristwatch.” By the Great Depression, wristwatch production had eclipsed pocket-watch production; by World War II, the pocket watch was obsolete. The Great War, as one U.S. paper put it in 1919, had “made the world safe for men who wear wrist-watches.”

In recent times there have been those who believed the watch had finally met its demise in the smartphone, and would fade away with other male fashions such as monocles and sock garters. And yet the popularity of the wristwatch persists. To understand why, we need to understand the history of this timepiece, how its past continues to inform its present.

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In The Golden Age of Aviation – Longines Were King

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Since its invention, the watch has been associated with mankind’s greatest endeavors, and the conquest of the skies is no exception. Like the sailors, who almost two centuries before the invention of flight, would strike out in search of the new world, aviators would need the help of a timepiece to follow their route across open skies without a landmark to guide them.

As aviation entered into its Golden Age between the two World Wars, watchmakers would become essential partners with these new adventurers and the Longines watch company would become aviation’s associated partner.

Being the official timer of the Olympics, Longines was a well-respected time keeper and a name that people knew. In 1927 when Charles Lindbergh flew his famed non-stop, solo Atlantic crossing, it was Longines that timed the event; total time was 33 hours and 30 minutes. When Lindbergh left Roosevelt Field in Long Island, NY and landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris, France he became an international sensation and a true celebrity.  Imagine flying all that way across the ocean and keeping your bearings. Over the ocean there is just water, sky and clouds. For ships as well as for planes, determining longitude at sea is the trick, and Lindberg and Longines would rise to the navigational challenge.

Together they would produce a navigation watch that enabled calculating a precise location despite the accuracy shortcomings of the time.  But before Lindbergh collaborated with Longines, there was P. V. H. Weems.  In 1929, Navy Captain Phillip Van Horn Weems developed the Weems Second-Setting Watch for nautical navigation. The watch also quickly became an aeronautical tool. Given the turbulent cockpits and the thick gloves needed for altitude flying, the Weems was typically oversized. This 48mm watch’s distinguishing characteristic was its rotating center seconds dial. Pilots could listen to the minute beeps over the radio and adjust the dial, which maintained accuracy. The rotating inner dial displayed the correct minutes and graphically showed the margin of error from the original set time.

Lindbergh set out to update and improve the Weems watch based on his experience of flying over the Atlantic. He explained to Longines what he needed from a navigational watch, and the watchmakers went to work, with Charles Lindbergh giving his stamp of approval on the final product. In 1931, the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch was born. With Lindbergh’s global notoriety; it was a huge PR boon for Longines, and they sold the watch to working pilots and the adoring public alike.

The updated watch allowed pilots more easily to determine the Hour Angle, the watch’s namesake, which is a technical description of finding longitude based on the Greenwich Mean Time. Lindbergh’s watch aided navigation with the addition of markings to dial and bezel that made the hour angle calculation easier. A pilot could now confidently determine his position even over miles of open water.

Lindberg’s personal Hour Angle Watch is now part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

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Today, vintage Hour Angle watches are relatively rare, although they come up for auction on occasion.  In 1987 Longines first produced a commemorative edition of the Hour Angle watch to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight.

 

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A Slice of “American Pie” for a Mere 1.2 Million!

american-pie

“A long, long, time ago…” Those five words, when uttered or sung, make Baby Boomers immediately think of Don McLean’s pop masterpiece “American Pie”. There has never been a popular song quite like it. For more than 40 years, its lyrics have been an enigma wrapped in an eight-and-a-half minute long rock ‘n’ roll puzzle.  Argued over by generations of fans, deciphered and re-deciphered by code-breaking rock nerds it is considered to be a poetic reflection on mid-20th century U.S. social history. And this week its lyrics, hand-written in 1971 by the folk singer, were sold at auction by Christie’s in New York for $1,205,000 million dollars

That’s a lot of money for 16 sheets of paper, albeit with a lost seventh verse. But, in this age when song lyrics have all but become meaningless, American Pie illustrates, in a series of images, metaphors, and allusions, just what can be done within the frame of a melodically straightforward pop song.”Don McLean’s manuscript of ‘American Pie’ achieved the 3rd highest auction price for an American literary manuscript, a fitting tribute to one the foremost singer-songwriters of his generation,” Christie’s Tom Lecky said in a statement.

Since debuting on the airwaves in 1971, Don McLean’s “American Pie” has stood as one of the most important icons of twentieth-century American music. The song, composed in Pennsylvania and at McLean’s Victorian cottage in Cold Spring, New York, was recorded in May 1971. The single achieved number-one status in January 1972 and remains the longest track to ever hold such a distinction.

The lyrics to “American Pie” that have continued to enthrall successive generations of audiences. “People ask me if I left the lyrics open to ambiguity,” McLean said. “Of course I did. I wanted to make a whole series of complex statements. The lyrics had to do with the state of society at the time.” From a reference to February 3rd, 1959—the “day the music died”—when the musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash, “American Pie” follows the social, cultural, and political trajectories of the 1950s and 1960s. The song comes to mourn and mythologize the hopes and aspirations of American popular music. Shifting national mores, Vietnam, the Beatles, and even the violent 1969 Altamont Free Concert are, like underpainting on canvas, among the many influences that harbingered McLean’s sprawling opus of joy and loss.

“American Pie” has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was named a “Song of the Century” by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The popularity of the song also earned Don McLean an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

The draft that was auctioned is 16 pages: 237 lines of manuscript and 26 lines of typed text, according to Christie’s. It includes lines that didn’t make the final version as well as extensive notes — all of which should be revealing, McLean said.

The record for a popular music manuscript is held by Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which sold for $2 million in June.

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You Can Own Steve McQueen’s Rolex

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When Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Daytona sold at auction for an astonishing $17.8 million it was not only a record for a Rolex but also the highest amount ever paid for a wristwatch at auction. Now, a little more than a year later, a Rolex Submariner belonging to Steve McQueen, Newman’s only real rival for Hollywood’s title of “King of Cool” is set to come to the auction block this October at Phillips.

When you think of actors who defined “cool” for their generation, Steve McQueen has to be at the top of your list. Although his tenure as a superstar leading man was relatively brief, he packed those years with a string of great films that remain iconic like Bullitt, The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven

McQueen was frequently photographed wearing his Rolex Submariner, circa 1964 which he bought some time in the mid-1960s for around $250. Like Newman’s watch, McQueen’s Submariner has a fascinating history.

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According to Forbes magazine, sometime in the late 1970s, McQueen gave his Submariner to his favorite stunt double, Loren Janes. The pair had been working together since 1958, when McQueen was making the TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive. Over the next two decades, in 19 movies—including Bullitt, The Getaway and The Thomas Crown Affair—Janes performed some of McQueen’s most memorable stunts. That iconic ten-minute car chase in Bullitt, where McQueen careens through San Francisco in a 1968 Mustang? It was actually Janes behind the wheel.

To show his gratitude for Janes’ work and friendship, McQueen also had the case back engraved—Loren, the Best Damn Stuntman in the World. Stevemaking it the only known McQueen watch to bear the actor’s name.

When Janes’ California home was ravaged by wildfire in the summer of 2016, it was presumed gone for good. But Michael Eisenberg, the collector who’s selling the watch this fall, begged the Janes family to search the ashes of their former home for it. After they found it, the Submariner was shipped back to Rolex for a much-needed service to get it in good working condition again. But even after a thorough cleaning, you can still see soot from the fire in the bracelet clasp.

It’s a remarkable watch owned by two remarkable men. And while the likelihood is that it won’t quite eclipse the astronomical selling price of the Paul Newman Daytona, there’s a good chance collectors will drive its value well into the seven-figure territory.

Very few stars have the allure of Steve McQueen when it comes to collectability—in large part because he was seen as a man’s man who lived his movie fantasies in real life and also because of the scarcity of things he actually owned. “Elvis, Bogart, James Dean,” Eisenberg says, “nobody’s items have sold for the same prices. It could be 10x or 100x if it were owned by McQueen.”

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Hemingway’s Last Ride

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“There are only three sports: bullfighting, mountaineering and motor racing; all the rest are merely games”.  Ernest Hemingway, author of The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls and arguably one of America’s most illustrious authors is said to have uttered that famous quote.

Throughout his colorful lifetime, the famed author and ex-patriot was a car buff, having owned a number of different vehicles in a number of different countries around the world.   Unfortunately, when the author committed suicide in 1961, his vehicles were scattered about from his time in Paris, Cuba and the western United States. But it is the last car he owned, a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe convertible coup that has captured the imagination of car enthusiasts around the world.

In 1955, Hemingway paid $3,924 for the Navajo Orange and Desert Sand convertible while living in Cuba. He had been living there since 1939 when he purchased his home “Finca Vigia” located about 10 miles outside Havana. It was here that he penned some of his most famous works, including The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream.

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When the Cuban revolution occurred in1959, the author left the island to return to the United States and Finca Vigia was seized by the Castro government.  But what became of his 1955 convertible? Of all the mysteries swirling around Cuba, one of the most intriguing was “What happened to Hemingway’s Chrysler”? For decades, the car survived only in legend. Was it still on the island? Had it been secreted away? Or was it lost to history?

What little is known about the car reads like a novel. Somehow the Chrysler escaped government hands and apparently passed to Hemingway’s driver. The driver hid the car before he fled by raft to the United States. It then somehow made its way into the hands of Hemingway’s doctor. In the 1970s the doctor passed the Chrysler down to his son. From there, it changed hands again, and again, and again. With each new owner, the car’s connection to Hemingway dimmed. The Chrysler disappeared into Cuba’s’ automotive jungle, where it might have been sold for scrap, chopped for spare parts, or simply pushed, rusting, onto a junk heap. It would have stayed lost forever, had Ada Rosa Alfonso not continued the search.

Ada Rosa Alfonso is the director of Finca Vigia, now a restored museum. With Ada’ s help, a Chrysler matching the description of Hemingway’s car was discovered nearby and towed to the museum where it sat on cement blocks under a tarp rusted and topless. Although there is no documentation showing that Hemingway registered the 1955 Chrysler coupe in Cuba, he did take out an insurance policy on the car. The recently discovered policy included the vehicle registration number.  That registration number matches the VIN number of the Chrysler now located at Finca Vigia.  Mystery solved!!

There is now an attempt underway to totally restore the 1955 Chrysler back to its original condition. It will be a long road – the original two-tone Navajo Orange and Desert Sand color scheme was no longer visible beneath a shoddy white paint job. The original leather interior was lost forever, eaten away by mildew and the stresses of time. The chassis had rotted away and even the 331 cubic inch Hemi V8 looked beat up.

Although Cuban mechanics are experts at keeping old American cars running, much of their work comes down to improvising repairs and hand-making parts. But proper restorations require original components, impossible to find on the island. The Chrysler New Yorker is, after all, an American car, and although the Cold War has been over for decades, the United States still has a trade embargo with Cuba. This means that anyone in that country hoping to get authentic car parts for a rare American classic will have a heck of a time getting them through customs. However, with the best efforts of many people some parts are slowly making their way into the hands of restorers. The 50 year journey to bring Hemingway’s classic ride back to life continues and it is as colorful and interesting as the author’s life.

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Can You Tell If A Painting Is A Forgery? Maybe?…Maybe Not?

Supper at Emmaus
As the great French painter Theodore Rousseau of the Barbizon School pointed out “We should all realize that we can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have been detected; the good ones are still hanging on the walls”.

“Supper at Emmaus” is perhaps the best example of how even the most renowned art experts can be fooled.  In 1937 Dr. Abraham Bredius, was asked to examine the “recently discovered” Vermeer. Bredius had dedicated a great part of his life to the study of Johannes Vermeer and was one of the world’s most authoritative art historians. After examining the painting, Bredius presented his findings in The Burlington Magazine, the “art bible” of the day.  He wrote “It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master, untouched on the original canvas, and without any restoration, just as it left the painter’s studio.  And what a picture -I am inclined to say – the masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft… quite different from all his other paintings yet every inch a Vermeer.  In no other picture by the great master of Delft do we find such sentiment… so nobly human expressed through the medium of highest art”.

The art world might never have known how wrong Bredius was if it were not for a knock on Hans van Meegeren’s door in 1945 Amsterdam. Fueled by rejection from the art world, van Meegeren would become the force behind the greatest art hoax of the 20th century.

In the mid 1920’s van Meegeren established himself as a young artist in the Netherlands art scene.  The highly sensitive artist took offense as critics soon noted his limitations. The artist, determined to prove himself, set out on a mission to “not only copy the style of the Dutch masters but produce a work of art so magnificent that it would rival the works of master painters”. He settled on Johannes Vermeer- an artist many considered among the most difficult to emulate as the master he would copy. That Vermeer produced only about 35 or 36 paintings was helpful to van Meegeren.  Other major artist of the time, such as Rembrandt, typically created hundreds of paintings. Many critics at the time agreed that there were at least 15 Vermeer’s that had been lost with time.  All this provided van Meegeren’s fakes with a plausible backstory.

Trial

Recreating Vermeer’s style proved incredibly difficult. Van Meegeren spent years conducting extensive research and experimentation with canvasses, paints and aging techniques. He purchased original 17th century canvas, crafted his own paints from raw materials and meticulously constructed his own paint brushes from badger hair – all of which the 17th century masters had done.

Another dilemma faced by van Meegeren was emulating the age of the paint. Oil paints take decades to fully dry and harden; he had to find a way to make two-month-old paint seem as if it were three centuries old. So he bought a pizza oven and tried time and again to mix a paint that could withstand the heat of the oven and harden, but not lose its brilliance. Time and again, his experimental paints burned up or melted. Then he hit on dissolving a small amount of plastic into the paint and rolling it with a baking pin to crackle it, and washing it through a cycle of India ink to emulate patina. It was an ingenious system — perhaps the best ever devised by a forger — and it produced incredibly convincing paintings.

 

During his studies, van Meegeren had learned that Vermeer greatly appreciated the work of Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Van Meegeren analyzed the Italian’s best known work, “Supper at Emmaus,” then went about replicating it in the style of Vermeer He titled the work with the same name — “Supper at Emmaus” — and went about peddling it to the art world.

With Bredius’s “expert” stamp of approval, the painting sparked a fierce bidding and was ultimately purchased for the unbelievable sum of 550,000 Dutch guldens -roughly $4.5 million dollars today! Supper at Emmaus” was so well received that van Meegeren began churning out one Vermeer forgery after the other, each selling for millions of dollars.

At this time Hermann Goring was the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, behind only Adolf Hitler himself. Goring was also an avid and greedy art collector. His collection was enormous and much of it had been plundered and stolen during the war. In 1942 he took 137 looted paintings and traded them for one of van Meegeren’s forgeries, “Christ with the Adulteress. It would be this painting that would become van Meegeren’s undoing.

A few years later, as Allied forces pushed into Nazi territory, 6,700  looted pieces of art were discovered in an obscure Austrian salt mine. Among them was van Meergeren’s “Christ with the Adulteress”. The Nazis were known for meticulous record-keeping and Goring’s Vermeer was eventually traced back van Meegeren.

When the police rapped on van Meegeren’s door in 1945 to question him about what they thought was a routine matter van Meegeren was unable to explain himself and unwilling to admit to his life as a forger.  It was only when he was accused of being a “Nazi plunderer” that van Meegeren revealed the truth.

Van Meegeren’s story was immediately met with skepticism – no one could forge a Vermeer with such authenticity.  Van Meergeren was soon facing charges of not only fraud but of aiding and abetting the enemy. After being confined to the headquarters of an Amsterdam military command for a few months, van Meegeren offered a proposition to prove his innocence — he’d forge one last Vermeer before a panel of reporters and court-appointed witnesses. The court agreed, and the man was brought his paints and brushes. Over the course of six weeks, he crafted his last Vermeer, “Jesus Among the Doctors.” Forgery experts subsequently determined that it was of such a high quality that van Meegeren couldn’t possibly be lying, and his abetting the enemy charge was dropped.

But van Meegeren still faced a less serious fraud charge, and on October 29, 1947, his second trial began. In interviews with the press, he’d won over the public. He’d taken the original declaration that he was a traitor and Nazi conspirator, and flipped it on its head: Instead, he claimed, he had planned to dupe the Nazis with his forgeries in a scheme to reclaim 200 plundered Dutch paintings. In a matter of months, he went from being a detested figure to a patriotic hero. The Dutch had been taken by van Meegeren’s rhetoric — that he’d conned a Nazi official to prove his patriotism — and the fact that he’d cheated people and walked away with millions of dollars seemed to be of little importance.

Van Meegeren was eventually convicted of fraud and sentenced to a year in prison in 1947. Nearly two months later, he died of a heart attack without serving even a day. Ironically, the forger died a hero.

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A Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton and the Death of a Superstar

Tom Mix

Before there was Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, James Stewart, or even Gary Cooper, there was Tom Mix.

Mix was the iconic Hollywood cowboy hero of the silent-film era. Having starred in close to 300 films, his popularity in the early 20th century would have rivaled many of today’s superstar celebrities. Moving from Pennsylvania to the West as a young man he wrangled cattle and rode horses before the 20th century arrived. His way of life and the company he kept was representative of the Old West. He rode with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during his inaugural parade and served as a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

As the silent-era of movies slowly faded into the background and films with dialogue rose in popularity, Mix’s spotlight started to dim. By the 30s, most of his money was gone; however, he was still able to afford a brand-new, Gordon Buehrig-designed Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton, one of the coolest cars ever designed.

His Cord 812 was no ordinary Cord. True to Mix’s flamboyant and outlandish lifestyle, his vehicle was outfitted with various customizations and upgrades. According to Bonhams, Mix’s car was designed with a “front-wheel drive chassis, supercharged Lycoming V-8 engine and open 5-seat coachwork” and featured “an exposed rear-mounted spare tire with extended rear bumper, raised rear license plate bracket on the left bumper spring, two Kilborn Sauer fog lights and single Trippe driving light, which are seen in period photos with the famous cowboy star.”

Other customizations included “TM” embossed leather stone guards, flag poles on the front bumper, bumper guards, grille protector, Mix’s initials on the side of the car, his last name on the horn, leather holster for his gun, an accelerator that fit the heel of his cowboy boot and two medallions given to him by the King of Denmark on the front of the car.

Mix’s new car was beautiful and fast … just the way he liked it. Unfortunately, the Cord 812 is linked to the Hollywood cowboy in a way that no one wants to be associated to a vehicle.

Cord 812

On October 12, 1940, Mix was behind the wheel of his yellow Cord 812 when he tried to cross a bridge in Arizona countryside. He was driving so fast that he didn’t notice–or failed to heed–signs warning that the bridge was out on the road ahead. The Phaeton swung into a gully and Mix was smacked in the back of the head by one of the heavy aluminum suitcases he was carrying in the convertible’s backseat. The impact broke the actor’s neck and he died almost instantly.

In 2010, the hammer fell on Mix’s Cord for $155,000 according to Bonhams.  After extensive renovations, the Tom Mix Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton has made its way around the show circuit picking up awards and honors at some of the most prestigious events: the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Glenmoor Gathering, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, The Elegance at Hershey, Keels and Wheels and Santa Fe Concorso, among others. Tom Mix was truly one-of-a-kind and so was the car he drove.

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King of Hollywood… and Wristwatches

Clark Gable

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.

If you or someone you know would like to share or are interested in receiving more of our little known but true stories about luxury collectibles please email us at info@eliassoncapital.com or like us on Facebook.  Eliasson Capital provides collateral loans on fine art and collectibles.

The Spring Season Begins With TEFAF

TEFAF

TEFAF is widely regarded as the world’s pre-eminent organization of fine art, antiques, and design.  TEFAF, once known as The European Fine Arts Fair, has existed in Maastricht, the Netherlands, since 1988. Building on its history and success, the fair expanded globally last year, adding two New York editions: A fall fair focusing on art and antiquities up to 1920 and a spring edition that highlights the best art and design produced from the Modern era up to today. Besides attracting the world’s top galleries, what sets TEFAF apart from other leading art fairs is the great emphasis it places on quality through a rigorous vetting process in which each work is checked for quality and authenticity by experts.

As the world’s most buoyant art market, New York City provides the ideal location for the TEFAF Fair.  The Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was home to the second edition of TEFAF New York Spring which ran from May 4 – May 8, 2018. The historic Armory provides the prime setting for the world’s leading art dealers to meet with curators and collectors. The Fair’s timing in early May is intended to coincide with auctions, exhibitions and other fairs in New York dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design, including Christie’s expansive sale of Peggy and David Rockefeller’s collection

The well- heeled crowd, including some of the biggest collectors in the world, streamed into the Fair on opening day. The aisles were jam-packed with people sipping Champagne and shooting freshly shucked oysters as gigantic cylinders of flowers hung from the ceiling above them.  With about 90 dealers in attendance, the Fair brought out deeply blue-chip art.

Nahmad, whose booth right next to the entrance, presented works priced from seven figures on up: a Jean Arp at $1.5 million, a Max Ernst at $12 million, a Fernand Léger at $13 million, and a Joan Miró at $15 million.

David Zwirner had gone with modern masters, Josef Albers (two works by the artist sold by late afternoon, for $1.75 million and $750,000 and Giorgio Morandi, with two works also selling, for undisclosed prices.

Not far away, Hauser & Wirth was presenting pieces by Eva Hesse, Philip Guston, and Louise Bourgeois, and early in the day it had already parted with a late Guston—painted in 1979, the year before his death—for $5.5 million.

With the success of the auction business, art fairs have grown in size and number in recent years. While auctions create a pressured environment to buy, art fairs like TEFAF provide a more relaxed environment. TEFAF champions the finest quality art from across the ages by creating a community of the world’s top art dealers and experts to inspire lovers and buyers of art everywhere.

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What Is A Tourbillon and Why Do Prestigious Watchmakers Say You Should Want One

tourbillon

From his small workshop in Paris, Abraham –Louis Breguet would blaze a trail that would transform time measurement forever. Breguet established his watchmaking company in 1775 and would go on to create such innovations as a shock protection system known as “Pare-chute” and the perfection of the “Perpetuelle” – the basis of the self- winding watch. However, Breguet is probably best known for his patent on the “Tourbillon” regulator. With the tourbillon, he developed a system to eliminate errors in rate caused by the Earth’s gravitational pull on pocket watches and thereby increase their precision.”

Breguet’s idea was essentially to house a balance wheel that rotates on itself within a clock.  If you understand the concept of a balance wheel, you know that it does not just turn endlessly in one direction. Rather, it moves in a back and forth manner, like a revolving pendulum. This is often referred to as balance wheel oscillation. In fact, a balance wheel is a pendulum, and the consistency of its back and forth rotations are the basis for mechanical watch movement accuracy. So a tourbillon is a balance wheel that itself rotates, but the balance wheel rotates in one direction (not oscillation), and it typically makes a full rotation every 60 or in some cases, every 30 seconds. For this reason, the tourbillon is often used as the seconds counter when it is used in a watch. A-a convenient way of putting in a seconds counter. There are different types of tourbillons: traditional tourbillons (one axis) and flying tourbillons, along with various terms to refer to multi-axis tourbillons.

Even though the progress of watchmaking has made it possible to considerably improve regularity by more modern means, the Tourbillon remains a legendary milestone in the history of timepieces. Tourbillons are extremely complex to develop and manufacture. Each must be carefully assembled by hand and their complexity and intricacy of movement are a marvel to view.

In a world of mass- produced and ultimately disposable technology the Tourbillon is a testament to our desire to celebrate and cherish the permanence of the intricate craft of watchmaking. Today many luxury watchmaker will have at least one innovative variation on the still popular tourbillon watch in its catalogue. Recent examples of luxury watches with tourbillions are: Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon. Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 7 . Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon,  Breguet Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon.

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