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Vintage & Auctions

Comic Timing: Our Favorite Watches From The Upcoming Robin Williams Sotheby’s Auction

A Horological Preview of Sotheby’s Creating the Stage: The Collections of Robin Williams and Marsha Garces Williams Auction.

By Rhonda Riche
Editor-At-Large

I met Robin Williams once in 2006. It was in the back room of a restaurant in Toronto that also doubled as an alternative comedy club. We were watching a friend’s set when suddenly the energy in the room simplify amplified.

Behind me, I could hear a man commenting on the comedy onstage. Not heckling, instead making mental notes out loud. Still, talking during someone’s set is a no-no, and I turned around to ask the interloper to please be quiet.
 

The Williams family. Photography courtesy Sotheby’s

It was Robin Williams. He had dropped into the bar to get some stage time. Who could say no? Williams went on to perform about 30 minutes of frenetic free association. Then he left — taking that supercharged energy with him.

Extra Extra

The point of this anecdote is that Williams never did things in half measures. Not in his performance, and not in his personal life. For one thing, he was a passionate collector of art, furniture, bicycles, and watches.

And oh, what watches he had! Sotheby’s is auctioning off 44 of the actor’s timepieces in their upcoming Creating the Stage: The Collections of Robin Williams and Marsha Garces Williams auction taking place in New York on 4 October 2018. Funds raised will go to support the charities Robin and his wife championed, including The Juilliard School, Wounded Warrior Project, the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The sale will be preceded by a public exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries, opening on the 29th September. But we got a chance to peruse the catalog to bring you some of Williams most impressive watches.
 

Robin Williams

Bulgari Diagano

Over on the art side of the Williams’ collections, the couple clearly loved color. With its electric blue crocodile strap, this sporty, stainless steel Diagano by Bulgari compliments polychromatic sculptures by Niki de Saint-Phalle and Dale Chihuly.

At 36mm, this circa 2000 timepiece is small and scrappy and features an automatic jeweled movement, black dial, luminescent Arabic and baton indexes, sweeping center seconds, and a date aperture at 3 o’clock.
 

Cartier Dual Time

Over on the art side of the Williams’ collections, the couple clearly loved color. With its electric blue crocodile strap, this sporty, stainless steel Diagano by Bulgari compliments polychromatic sculptures by Niki de Saint-Phalle and Dale Chihuly.

At 36mm, this circa 2000 timepiece is small and scrappy and features an automatic jeweled movement, black dial, luminescent Arabic and baton indexes, sweeping center seconds, and a date aperture at 3 o’clock.
 

Franck Muller Wall Street Master

1979s era baggy pants and rainbow suspenders aside, Williams’ personal style was expressive without being too excessive. So, it’s no surprise to find this Franck Muller Wall Street Master Banker from 1999 in his watch wardrobe.

This platinum, tonneau-cased, triple time zone timepiece is a little over the top (even the rotor of the automatic is crafted in platinum), but it also features subtler touches such as the silvered, sunburst dial, and blued steel hands.
 

Dior Chiffre Rouge

The Williams’ also collected a lot of examples of images by graffiti artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey. This boldly graphic Dior Chiffre Rouge chronograph is the analog to this street art style.

The PVD coated, stainless steel timepiece also stands out because of its clever use of color: the base is a black dial and tachometer with silvered subdials that set off a bright red second hand and date display.
 

Banksy Happy Choppers

Ikepod Automatic Chronograph

The Williams family were also champions of independent designers — both in horology and home. The auction offers a large selection of furniture pieces by leading American studio designer Judy Kensley McKie. And smaller brands represented in the sale are Oris, Doxa, and Azimuth. Perhaps the most avant-garde timekeeper in Williams’ collection is this stainless-steel automatic chronograph from Ikepod.

“We didn’t really think of it as collecting,” says Marsha Garces Williams in an interview with Sotheby’s. “We chose things that made us laugh, think, or want to be its caretakers for a period of time so that we could see them regularly. We loved the pieces that elicited immediate responses from ourselves, each other, family and friends. Much of the art in the auction were things we gifted to each other, as different pieces would remind us of the other.”
 

Hamilton Gold Plated Quartz Watch

Maybe the most personal timepiece in the auction, this retro-inspired, rectangular model from Hamilton was worn by Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society. Furthermore, the case back is inscribed “Robin Williams Dead Poet Society 1988.”

It’s a handsome watch, and though it’s not horologically outstanding, it’s special because of the sentiment its appeal to collectors of cinematic curiosities.
 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Stainless Steel Automatic

Like many serious watch collectors, Williams watches had a wide selection of IWC, Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre. And by all accounts, he was not afraid to wear examples of haute horology. Well, maybe not this one. It still has all the original stickers!

One is tempted to play armchair psychologist and speculate on the mind of the collector. Was Williams so caught up in acquiring watches that he never even got around to wearing this AP? Or was he the other kind of WIS that keeps the stickers on to keep a watch pristine?

If you are the latter, this is a rare chance to get a factory fresh, stainless steel Royal Oak with a cal. 2225 automatic movement and a gorgeous blue Tapisserie dial.
 

Breitling Triple Calendar Chronograph

Williams was also a bicycle aficionado. And this triple calendar Breitling has all the qualities that appeal to a road warrior: A bold design and lots of gadgetry. Garces Williams says “One of the things Robin did was he shopped, he was a shopper. He tended to have a guy everywhere. I think every guy in every bike store across the Bay Area thought of himself a "Robin’s guy." The same rules applied to timepieces.

“And there were watch store guys. He was always the creature of habit so that he would wear a specific watch all the time for a while. And then he would fall in love with another one.”

 

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