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Here’s Why John Lennon’s Patek Philippe Is Worth More Than Double Paul Newman’s Daytona

Paul Altieri

In a masterful feat of horological reporting in the New Yorker, Jay Fielden has just untangled the twisted tale of John Lennon’s iconic Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph, aka the “El Dorado of lost watches.” Every collector in the world would love to get their hands on this Patek Philippe timepiece, which Bob’s Watches Founder and CEO Paul Altieri calls nothing less than “arguably the most important and significant timepiece on the planet,” eclipsing even Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona.


Lennon’s gold Patek Philippe, which has been missing in action for over 40 years, is now worth up to an estimated $40 million, Fielden reports – more than double the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman 17.8 million dollars received at auction in 2017, setting a new world record. The value of the Patek, purchased by Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono at Tiffany & Co. in New York for around $25,000 (around $95,000 in today’s dollars) as a 40th birthday present for the legendary musician, is even higher thanks to its rare double-stamped dial. 

Ono gifted John Lennon the watch, which famously appears in photos of the Beatle taken by lensman Bob Gruen, on October 9, 1980, just two months before he was shot and killed by a deranged fan outside the Dakota, the couple’s apartment building in New York City. The Patek, which appears to be the only wristwatch Lennon ever wore, bears an elaborate engraving on the caseback from Ono, reading:

10 • 9 • 1980
N. Y. C.

Patek produced just 349 examples of the ultra-complicated Ref. 2499, which encompasses three apertures (day, month, moon phase) and three subdials (seconds, elapsed minutes, date), from 1952 to 1985, Fielden notes. After Lennon’s death, Ono stored the Patek in a locked room in one of their apartments at the Dakota, and there it remained – or so she thought. Fielden reveals that it was allegedly stolen by a former employee of the couple around 2005, reportedly without Ono’s immediate knowledge. The man subsequently claimed the watch had been a gift from Lennon’s widow. 

Patek Philippe Ref. 2499

It has since passed through the watch department of at least one European auction house, and in 2014 was valued at about $800,000 (about $1 million today), prior to being sent to Christie’s in Geneva. Ono says she only learned the watch had allegedly been stolen when Christie’s contacted her lawyer as part of their due diligence. Christie’s then locked the watch away in its Geneva vault for several years while trying to untangle its true ownership. 

The iconic timepiece is now the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in Switzerland to determine whether it should be returned to Ono, or to a man who says he purchased it legally in 2014 and owns it outright. Switzerland’s Supreme Court, the Tribunal Fédéral, is expected to render a final verdict later this year, Fielden reports. 

Altieri, who is one of the world’s top Rolex collectors and also counts several rare Pateks among his prized possessions, says that, “I would love to see this watch be legitimately put up for auction, and have a chance to bid on it; but in my heart I hope it stays in Lennon’s family, because if it was mine I would want to keep it in my family. I think John Lennon would have wanted his son to have it. Any Patek is an heirloom, but this might be the biggest one of them all, especially as it is the only watch Lennon ever wore.”

And indeed, Lennon’s son Sean – whose birthday is October 9, 1975, the same day and month as his father’s, tells Fielden, “Of all the incidents of people stealing things from my parents, this one is the most painful…. It’s important that we get it back because of all we’ve gone through over it,” though he has no plans to wear the watch himself. “I’m not a watch guy,” he says. “I’d be terrified to wear anything of my dad’s. I never even played one of his guitars.”

Paul Altieri
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