Why John Lennon & Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe Watches Are So Controversial

One high-profile Patek recently sold for $5 million against the watchmaker’s wishes, while another is the subject of a $40 million lawsuit.

Courtesy Bob’s Watches

Patek Philippe, perhaps the world’s most prestigious watchmaker, has been in the news lately—not for feats of horology, but thanks to Sylvester Stallone and John Lennon. While they occupy seemingly opposite ends of the celebrity spectrum, both boldfaced names owned extremely valuable Patek Philippes that have recently surfaced surrounded by controversy, in twisted tales demonstrating just how massively celebrity provenance can affect the value of a timepiece, and just how fraught with difficulty selling them can become.

Lennon’s yellow gold Patek Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph was recently uncovered by Jay Fielden writing in the New Yorker, wherein he valued the long-missing watch at up to $40 million. The legendary timepiece, one of only 349 examples of the Ref. 2499 ever made, was purchased at Tiffany & Co. as a 40th birthday gift for Lennon by Yoko Ono in 1980, just a few short months before the rock icon was killed by a deranged fan. Its exact whereabouts have long been unknown, but Fielden reports that the watch, which was allegedly stolen from Ono years ago, is locked in a vault during an ongoing lawsuit in Switzerland’s highest court following an attempt to sell it at auction. 

Courtesy Sotheby’s

Meanwhile Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Grandmaster Chime recently sold at Sotheby’s for $5.4 million, around double what the actor reportedly paid for it in 2021. The auctioning of the watch by Stallone has however angered Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern, who originally only signed off on the sale of one-of-seven timepiece to Stallone after much lobbying fromThe Expendables star himself, on the understanding that he would keep it as the jewel of his personal collection. The reason for the angst is that many other top collectors around the world were denied the chance to purchase the landmark timepiece in his stead; and the actor now “flipping” it for profit has them furious at Patek for selling it to Stallone in the first place.

Courtesy Sotheby’s

“Of course we do not like it, [but] I cannot control everybody,” Stern told WatchPro following the sale. “It is not fair for a client that may have been waiting for this piece for many years and then sees it being resold…. We can be vigilant, but we cannot be perfect. [You] cannot control humans one hundred percent. Those risks are part of success. You have to accept them and see how to handle it in the future”—the clear implication being that Stallone will never again be allowed to purchase one of their singular creations from the watchmaker directly; he’s persona non grata with Patek, to be sure.

Thierry Stern / Getty Images

“Both Lennon and Stallone owned examples of the most rare, exclusive and expensive Pateks ever made,” says Paul Altieri, Founder and CEO of luxury timepiece powerhouse Bob’s Watches, who owns one of the world’s top Rolex collections as well as several precious Patek Philippes. “Stallone’s is of course much newer, but in its way no less important, and it’s the world’s most complicated Patek wristwatch and the most valuable modern watch ever sold in Sotheby’s history. Stallone’s watch doubled in value, while Lennon’s Patek is now worth an astonishing 1,600% of its original price,” making it one of the most expensive watches in the world.

Paul Altieri / Courtesy Bob’s Watches

Altieri notes that, “In terms of the timepieces themselves, Stallone’s is actually rarer since only seven Patek Grandmaster Chimes have ever been made. But Lennon’s watch is the only one he ever owned or wore, and it bears a unique engraved inscription from Yoko Ono with the date on its caseback; plus in terms of sheer celebrity wattage, Lennon is arguably the more famous figure with a higher profile from a historical perspective, which boosts his Patek’s value into the stratosphere.” 

Courtesy Phillips

Altieri tells us that if and when Lennon’s Patek does come up for auction, and it fetches close to the $40 million estimate, the sale will shatter the world auction record for the highest amount ever paid for a wristwatch at auction—currently held by Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona, which sold for $17.8 million at auction in 2017, possibly to Rolex itself, astonishing the watch collecting community at the time. Similar to Lennon’s Patek, Newman’s Rolex was a gift from his wife and bears a unique engraved inscription on its caseback.

Courtesy Assouline

“I am personally hoping Yoko Ono prevails in court and Lennon’s watch stays in his family,” Altieri says. “But if it should be auctioned at some point, the person who wins will instantly have one of the most important and valuable watch collections in the world. And should anyone ever have the means and opportunity to acquire both Lennon’s Patek and Newman’s Daytona—with say, Steve McQueen’s Rolex Submariner thrown in for good measure—the value of the collection will be even greater than the sum of its parts; I’d say around the $100 million mark at least. And don’t think for a minute that the world’s richest watch collectors aren’t dreaming of that every single day.”