The Most Legendary Lost Watches Of All Time

17 July 2019
The Most Legendary Lost Watches Of All Time
Image: Breguet

The Most Legendary Lost Watches Of All Time

Marlon Brando's recently-unearthed Rolex is just the beginning. Turns out, there are timepieces out there, lost to the ages and worth millions

Ths week, we reported on the news of perhaps one of the most major horological discoveries of our age: a Rolex GMT-Master II, owned and worn by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, had been brought back into the public light and now placed up for auction after decades of being thought missing.

Now in this case, the story of how said watch was found isn't quite as exciting as you'd like to think – it was basically sitting in the sock-drawer of Brando's adopted daughter's husband. But there are some timepieces out there that, if word about their potential whereabouts were to surface, would probably bring Indiana Jones out of retirement.

These are stories of the watches and horological treasures that adorned the wrists and pockets of Hollywood icons and historical figures alike; some stolen, some lost to the ages, some presumably in the collection of an extremely private figure, and all legendary.

Buzz Aldrin's Omega Speedmaster

Buzz Aldrin's Omega Speedmaster
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings, Omega have made a great fuss (and rightly so) of the fact that it was their watches, namely a set of Speedmasters, that adorned the wrists of NASA's astronauts as they completed the greatest feat of the 20th century – perhaps of all-time – and set foot on the Moon.

Unfortunately, in the case of the Speedmaster worn by Buzz Aldrin, no-one actually knows where it is. When Aldrin arrived back on Terra Firma, he sent his timepiece to the Smithsonian to join Armstrong's, but it was stolen en-route.

Breguet Pocket Watch

Marie Antoinette's Breguet Pocket Watch
It's not missing any more, but if this isn't proof of the Swiss watchmaker's heritage, we don't know what is. The doomed French Monarch was said to be fascinated with the horological creations of Abraham-Louis Breguet, and eventually commissioned him to create a watch that would end up taking him 44-years to complete.

After 10, she was executed along with her husband as the most high-profile casualties of the French revolution We assume Monsieur Breguet had a lot on.

The company did eventually finish the ludicrously complicated watch in 1824 (four years after Breguet's own death), which according to Breguet eventually came to feature the following: "a minute repeater that on command strikes hours, quarters and minutes as well as a full perpetual calendar showing the date, the day and the month at two, six and eight o’clock respectively.

"At ten o’clock, an equation-of-time display expresses the difference between civil and solar time. At centre, jumping hours and a minute hand accompany a large independent seconds hand, the forerunner to the chronograph hand, while a sub-dial for the running seconds is situated at six o’clock.

"A 48-hour power-reserve indicator and a bimetallic thermometer are positioned side by side."

After a couple of hundred years, it was eventually transferred to a museum in Jerusalem, however it was stolen in 1983 in one of the most high-profile jewellery heists of all time. It was only recovered in a Tel-Aviv apartment in 2005 (a year after Breguet commissioned a replica to be made), and now sits in its rightful place, almost undoubtedly the most valuable watch in the world.

Fidel Castro's Rolexes

Fidel Castro's Rolexes
Another GMT Master, a number of Rolex's were seen on the wrist of the communist poster boy throughout his public reign over the island of Cuba – which says a lot about the conflicted ideologies of the man, but we digress.

According to Hodinkee, who we generally trust on these matters, he definitely owned both a Ref. 1675 and 6542, however naturally, neither have been seen since his death in 2016, and it's presumed that they're still with his family.

Breguet wristwatch

Caroline Murat's Breguet
Who's Caroline Murat, you may ask? Hers isn't a story we necessarily need to go in-depth into here, but as a direct descendent of the Queen of Naples, she was distinguished enough to earn herself not only the first wristwatch Breguet ever made, but to our knowledge, the first wristwatch ever made, period.

Made in the mid 1800's, it was sent for service by Murat in 1855, after which it promptly vanished. No-one seems to know where it ended up, but it certainly didn't make it to Breguet's workshop.

John Lennon's Patek Philippe

John Lennon's Patek Philippe
The story of the Patek that John Lennon famously showed off in a photo shortly before his death is a weird one, because no-one seems to be quite sure whether or not it actually belonged to Lennon or not.

Some speculate that it was given to him as a gift by Yoko Ono, but the example of the reference 2499, which is already seen as one of the most desirable Patek models in the watch world, has never been found in his belongings.

Miles Davis's Breitling

Miles Davis's Breitling
As one of the most iconic entertainers of the 20th century, any watch sported by Davis would almost certainly go down as a cult classic. His weapon of choice turned out to be primarily a Breitling Navitimer, which he wore for some of his most iconic performances. Unfortunately, none of Davis's watches have ever surfaced.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso's Patek, Rolex, and Jaeger Le-Coultre
Picasso had a noted fondness for his timepieces, and many featured prominently in some of the most iconic photos ever taken of the abstract artist. Chief among these were three distinct watches: a Jaeger Lecoultre Master Triple Calendar in 18K Rose Gold, a Rolex GMT Master-II, and a Patek Philippe Reference 2497. His paintings are still being tracked down, but none of his watches have been found since his death in 1978.

Via GQ Australia