Watch Sells for $420,000 at Kennedy Auction
NEW YORK – An Omega watch that John F. Kennedy wore at his 1961 inauguration sold for $420,000 Thursday at an auction of Kennedy memorabilia that also included hundreds of everyday items like desk calendars and party invitations.
The Swiss watch company Omega purchased the timepiece and will display it at its museum in Biel, Switzerland.
"Watches are emotional purchases, and we were very determined to procure this watch," Omega President Stephen Urquhart said in a statement. "It is important to Omega due to its history and will reside in the Omega Museum next to the first watch worn on the moon -- something Kennedy himself made possible."
Kennedy's 1951 passport sold for $54,000 and Jacqueline Kennedy's 1953 passport sold for $56,500 on Thursday, the first day of a three-day auction.
The sale of more than 1,500 lots by Guernsey's auction house also included horse blankets, rocking chairs and two sailboats. The sale prices included a 20 percent commission; the more expensive items in the auction did not have presale estimates.
Don Carter, an investor from Palm Beach, Fla., bought the two passports and other items.
"I came of age during the Kennedy administration, and my wife and I were big fans of the Kennedys," Carter said. "For young adults of my age he represented the greatest hope for the future of America."
The bulk of the items in the auction, held at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue, belonged to the late Robert White, a Kennedy admirer who became fascinated as a teenager with the then-senator. White, a cleaning-supplies salesman, began a correspondence with Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy's secretary, and they became friends after the president's 1963 assassination.
"The two were kindred spirits in their devotion to the late president," said Guernsey's president Arlan Ettinger. "It was said that Robert became the son that she never had."
When Lincoln died in 1995, she bequeathed a file cabinet full of presidential items to White, adding to his already substantial collection.
The few dozen bidders who showed up in person on Thursday competed with telephone and Internet bidders.
The auction, which concludes Saturday, includes a wide array of ephemera from restaurant bills to campaign posters and buttons to crayons used by a young Caroline Kennedy.
On a page of presidential doodles, the phrase "Blockade Cuba!" is circled.
Among the lots is a hot line telephone the president took with him when he traveled -- and which provided an automatic connection to the White House.
Some items went for as little as $120 on Thursday, and a number of lots -- such as a 1950 Kiwanis Club certificate -- failed to sell.
"I'm just fascinated by the Kennedys," said Antonio Lopez, a hospital ward clerk from Brooklyn who paid $780 for a framed photograph of the former president speaking on the telephone, wearing glasses. And these prices are reasonable."