by Brooke Kennedy
Many remarkable watches have come through RR Auction’s doors, and these five are no exception. It is no surprise that Vacheron Constantin and Omega make this list, but there are a few interesting appearances such as two Bulova watches! Each of these timepieces has a grand history behind them, so let’s take a look at RR Auction’s top five selling watches.
Fifth on our list is a wristwatch presented to Astronaut Alan Shepard after his successful landing of the Apollo 14 mission. This watch, manufactured in 1971, features a 32 mm face and 7.75” wrist band. The watch face presents a hand-painted enameled dial displaying the Apollo 14 insignia. The watch case has 18k gold, coin-edge bezel, downturned lugs, and an engraved snap on back that reads “5.2.71, Presence Americaine Sur La Lune, Commander Apollo 14, Alan Shepard, Avec L’Admiration De Citoyens De Geneve.” This custom made watch is one of only three in existence, with the other two watches being given to fellow astronauts Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa. Adding to the watch’s value is the brand, Vacheron Constantin. Originally founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron, this Swiss brand is one of the world’s oldest watch manufacturers.
In 1971, Alan Shepard went on his second spaceflight aboard the Apollo 14 spacecraft. According to NASA, along with going on two moonwalks and collecting moon rocks, Alan Shepard became the first person to hit a golf ball on the moon. This timepiece chronicles the incredible feats achieved by Alan Shepard when he first set foot on the moon. This is the only Vacheron Constantin that RR Auction has ever sold. Selling at auction for an exceptionally high price of $81,312, this Vacheron Constantin takes its place as RR Auction’s fifth highest selling watch.
Al Capone is familiar to many as one of America’s most notorious gangsters. Born in New York City to Italian immigrants, Al Capone was the leader of a crime empire in prohibition-era Chicago. His list of crimes included “bootlegging, gambling, racketeering, and other illicit activities,” stated Morgan Winsor at ABC News. Al Capone’s crimes helped him make millions of dollars, some of which was spent on lavish clothing and accessories. Al Capone put heavy importance on his appearance. According to Hodinkee, “one of Capone’s many nicknames was ‘Snorky,’ a term used for a sharp dresser, bestowed upon him by his friends.”
This watch was personally-owned and -used by the gangster himself, and has many stunning details that highlight Al Capone’s love of opulence. The watch’s front bezel is outlined with a series of seventy-two cut diamonds. It also has a platinum face, and gold-tone impressed numerals and watch hands. The back of the watch shows the initials of “AC”, made of twenty-three cut diamonds, and twenty-six more encircle both letters. This watch also came with the original watch chain made of 14k white gold. This watch is a surviving reminder of how Al Capone wished to be thought of. The watch sold at auction for $84,375, a fitting price for this elegant piece.
RR Auction’s third highest selling watch was the Bulova wristwatch of Clyde Barrow, one half of famous American outlaw pair, Bonnie and Clyde. According to the Daily Mail, “the gold wrist watch was worn by Barrow when he died with [Bonnie] Parker by a hail of bullets from police officers in Louisiana.” Bonnie and Clyde were responsible for multiple thefts, murders, and robberies during the height of the Great Depression. The story of Bonnie and Clyde has been heavily romanticized in multiple forms of media including the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the titular duo. The short lived 2011 Broadway musical Bonnie and Clyde starring Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan also chronicled the lives of the two outlaws.
This wristwatch likely lived through the throes of Bonnie and Clyde’s two year long crime spree. Henry Barrow was lucky to retrieve some of his son’s belongings, as the sensationalized nature of the couple’s crimes caused people to try and take souvenirs from the pair’s bodies such as locks of hair and pieces of clothing. After Henry Barrow reclaimed the watch from his son’s body, the watch was later sold by Clyde Barrow’s sister Marie Barrow. RR Auction was proud to auction off this piece from the popular outlaws, achieving an extraordinary price of $112,500.
This Bulova Space watch is a unique timepiece in that it is the only Lunar Surface watch that can be legally owned by a collector. Dave Scott completed 18 hours and 37 minutes of exploration of the moon’s surface over a period of three days from July 31st to August 2nd, 1971. On August 2nd, David Scott and James Irwin began their journey back to Earth, landing in the pacific ocean 335 miles north of Honolulu on August 7th.
According to Benjamin Clyder at Hodinkee, “any Omega Speedmaster issued by NASA is always and forever the property of the United States government—unless they expressly gift it to someone, which doesn’t happen often.” While Dave Scott’s personal chronograph is a Bulova, not an Omega Speedmaster, it was still a one-of-a-kind consignment for RR Auction. Not only was this watch consigned by Dave Scott himself, but it was also matched up with NASA photographs of the watch being worn on the moon. The chronograph was worn on a NASA issued velcro strip, which was still included when the watch was consigned. Benjamin Clyder elaborated more on the condition of the watch stating, “the watch still has residue on it from not only Scott’s time on the lunar surface but also wear and tear from re-entry.” Bidding for the watch began at $50,000, and ended up selling for $1,625,000—more than 30 times the starting bid price. CNN covered this historic sale in October 2015.
The highest priced watch ever sold by RR Auction was Wally Schirra’s 18K gold Omega chronograph which realized $1,906,953 in October 2022. Wally Schirra was presented with this watch at a special gala dinner on November 25, 1969 at the Hotel Warwick in Houston, Texas. According to Hodinkee, “Omega gifted these gold speedies at a fancy gala shortly after the successful Apollo XI mission. The first couple went to then-President and Vice President Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew (Who couldn’t accept them), while the next 28 numbered watches went to mission astronauts…it makes these first few examples gifted to astronauts the most special.” The watch is an 18K solid yellow gold Omega Speedmaster.
The watch’s engraving says “Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Mercury 8–Gemini 6–Apollo 7.” Wally Schirra’s watch engraving is especially unique because he was the only astronaut to fly on all three NASA projects that led to the fulfillment of John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon. The engraving’s central quote reads “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” He kept this watch until his passing, and he also took excellent care of the timepiece for almost 40 years. The sale of this piece was a huge success not only for RR Auction but for the consignor of the watch.
RR Auction is always looking for consignments, so if you have any historic watches you would like to sell, consider consigning it to RR Auction. Your watch could become our new number one seller! You can contact us via telephone at 800-937-3880.
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