An Exclusive Conversation With Watch Collector Gordon Bethune at His Christie’s Watch Auction

On Friday, Christie’s will hold the Gordon Bethune Collection of Fifty Exceptional Wristwatches auction, which features 50 pieces from brands like Patel Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, and Cartier, all from the single owner. We caught up with Mr. Bethune earlier this week and spoke to him about why he feels its time to put these pieces up for sale.

“Most of these watches have been in safely deposit boxes…so you don’t use them and you don’t see them…and they ought to be. When you have so many watches—I have 70—so I’m selling 50 of my best ones…it’s time to let somebody else enjoy them,” he said.

Bethune is the former CEO of Continental Airlines, responsible for one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in U. S. history. He began his career in aviation at age 16 in the Navy and retired as a Naval Lieutenant after 20 years of service.

“Some watches I kept at home and wore them consistently. But these 50 got to be so expensive that you feel foolish wearing them because you might damage them and loose them…so you quit wearing them,” he said.

In addition to selling off the watches at auction to private collectors, proceeds of the five most expensive will go to two charities that Bethune holds near and dear— the United We Care Employee Relief Fund and the United Scholarship fund, and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

“I picked them because of the amount of money they represent. Both of these organizations mean a lot to me. And I wanted them both to get about a million dollars each. We will probably approach that for both of them, and if it doesn’t I’ll make it up the difference,” he said.

Gordon’s collection is estimated worth $3 million and will be the centerpiece of the daylong auction. “I don’t have a favorite [watch]…it’s like your children…you’re not allowed to choose.”

Among some of the most exceptional pieces include the Patek Philippe Reference 1518, a rare 18K pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph with moon phases manufactured in 1945, with an estimate of $600-$900.

A second piece, a Rolex Reference 6062, an extremely rare 18k pink gold automatic triple calendar wristwatch with star dial and moon phases
with an estimated worth of $300,000-$500,000.

Another Rolex, reference number 6036, a very fine and extremely rare 18k pink gold triple calendar chronograph wristwatch with two-tone silvered dial made for the Italian market is expected to fetch $180,000 to $280,000.

Photo Credit: CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2012

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