New York – Christie’s is pleased to announce its Important Watches auction on December 14 will feature an important single-owner collection: the Gordon Bethune Collection of Fifty Exceptional Wristwatches. This beautiful array of top-quality timepieces from renowned manufacturers such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, and Cartier was assembled with care and great connoisseurship over a number of years by Mr. Bethune, a noted watch collector and former chief executive officer of Continental Airlines. This exceptional collection, estimated at $3 million, will form the centerpiece of the day-long auction on December 14. The total sale of 348 lots is expected to achieve in excess of $7 million.
Among the many exceptional watches in the Bethune collection is a Patek Philippe Reference 1518, a rare 18K pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases manufactured in 1945 (pictured above, center; estimate $600,000 - $900,000). This land-mark model was the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch produced in a series by any watch manufacturer, and only 281 examples were made between 1941 and 1954. The vast majority were cased in yellow gold; only an elite few were ever created in the highly-coveted “pink on pink” version, with a pink gold case and rose colored dial. The upcoming sale marks the first time this watch has ever been offered at public auction, and is one of less than a dozen such “pink on pink” examples of the Reference 1518 seen in the last 30 years.
In keeping with his personal commitment to charitable giving, Mr. Bethune has pledged proceeds from the sale of five watches to benefit three charities with which he is actively involved. The Patek Philippe Reference 1518 will be sold to benefit the United We Care Employee Relief Fund and the United Scholarship Fund. A second top timepiece, his Rolex Reference 6062 wristwatch, will be offered for sale to benefit the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. This rare model in pink gold features an automatic movement and triple calendar indications with moon phases and a star dial (pictured page one, left; estimate: $300,000 – $500,000).
About Gordon Bethune
Gordon Bethune is most famously known for his herculean effort spearheading one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in United States history. He served as Chief Executive Officer of Continental Airlines from 1994 and a Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from 1996 until December 30, 2004. Beginning his career in aviation in the U.S. Navy at the age of 16, he started out fixing electronic and mechanical systems on jet planes. Bethune rose to be one of the youngest Chief Petty Officers and Warrant officers, later fully promoted as a commissioned officer. He retired as a Naval Lieutenant after 20 dedicated years of service.
Under Bethune’s leadership, Continental flourished winning more awards for customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates than any other airline. In 1994, Fortune magazine ranked Continental its No. 1 Most Admired Global Airline and BusinessWeek named Bethune one of the top 25 global managers for 1996.
The United We Care Employee Relief Fund and the United Scholarship Fund
The United We Care Relief Fund was created so that active and retired employees can request emergency assistance due to natural disasters, medical illness, and other crises out of the employee’s control that might cause them to lose time from work and income. Since its inception, both Continental and now United Airlines employees have received over $1.5 million since 2000.
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was founded in 1904 as a private, non-profitable organization, sponsored by the Department of the Navy. Their undertaking, as stated by the society is, "The mission of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, eligible family members, and survivors when in need; and to receive and manage funds to administer these programs."
Further highlights from the Important Watches sale in New York will be announced in the coming days.
Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in 2018 that totalled £5.3 billion / $7 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.
Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price - see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.