At auction: Joe DiMaggio’s Patek Philippe reference 130 chronograph
Coming up for sale at Christie’s December 7 New York auction is Joe DiMaggio’s remarkable Patek Philippe ref. 130 chronograph. Gifted by the New York Yankees in 1948. Over the course of his career, Joe won nine World Series and set a record with his 56-game hitting streak. This was obviously a very well deserved gift.
The “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio should need no introduction, he’s simply one of the most iconic players to ever play the game of baseball. Having played 13 seasons for the New York Yankees, he’s forever enshrined in Yankees lore. This player from the great generation also married the most famous woman of a generation, Marilyn Monroe. It’s no surprise that a timepiece owned by the Hall of Famer is generating quite a buzz.
On the wrist for 50+ years
DiMaggio owned this piece for more than 50 years until his death in 1999. The watch is truly a time capsule on the wrist. It was special to be able to spend with the piece during Christie’s preview. Having the watch on my wrist gave me a euphoric feeling as if I was in Joe’s shoes for just a few moments. The stories this watch could tell!
Manufactured in 1947, the watch is encased in 18k gold, with a beautiful silvered dial with applied Breguet numerals. Measuring 33mm on the wrist, its elongated lugs make for a commanding wrist presence despite its relatively small size. The included extract dates the original sale on December 12, 1948. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that this watch sat in a retailer’s case for over a year before finding a home on DiMaggio’s wrist. The piece was last sold at auction in 2006 for $97,750 and has been rarely seen since. I first saw this watch during its appearance at Patek Philippe’s Grand Exhibition in New York.
Why Joe is important
Baseball fans will recall Joe DiMaggio as a tenacious player with a commanding clubhouse presence. Over the course of his 13-year career, DiMaggio set various records and ended his career with a lifetime .325 batting average and 2214 hits. Historians argue that his 361 home run tally could have been much higher if it weren’t for the old Yankee Stadium’s deep left and center fields.
DiMaggio’s franchise record of hitting 29 home runs in a rookie season was only broken this year by Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge. Notably, DiMaggio took 1943 to 45 off to fight World War II. How incredible to take time off during his prime to fight in Europe. This feat amongst others just goes to show the tremendous character of the man himself.
DiMaggio hung up his cleats in 1951 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955, thus enshrining his baseball legacy forever.
In his post-baseball life, DiMaggio found success as a spokesman for various brands and products. He famously married Marilyn Monroe on January 14, 1954. Joe and Marilyn endured a rocky relationship and divorced after only nine months. While their marriage dissolved, Joe and Marilyn continued a friendship that lasted until her untimely death in 1962. Joe never remarried and for decades after her death, he had a regular delivery of roses sent to her crypt.
On his deathbed, DiMaggio's last words were: "I'll finally get to see Marilyn."
The last time a famous Yankees’ watch was up for auction, it was Babe Ruth’s Gruen Verithin Pocket Watch made to commemorate the 1923 World Series. That piece ended up fetching $717,000 with premium. Christie’s has a $150,000-300,000 USD estimate on DiMaggio’s piece and I suspect it will go for much higher.
Baseball is America’s Pastime, and Joe DiMaggio is one of the most famous players to play the game. Both the sport and the person mean so much to Americana, and I’m looking forward to seeing this piece go to a good home.
(Photography by Liam O’Donnell)