Pablo Picasso's Watches: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre

Pablo Picasso's Watches: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre

Pablo Picasso should need no introduction. He is one of the most influential artists in history. From his desolate Blue period (1901 - 1904) to his co-creation of Cubism (1907-1914), Picasso was unrelenting in his exploration and evolution of visual culture. Something you may not know about the Spanish artist is that he appreciated fine Swiss watchmaking. I’ve long known of the infamous picture of Picasso wearing his Rolex GMT-Master, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned of his other watches. Being the huge watch nerd that I am, I became morbidly curious about Picasso’s picks; which brands did the visionary artist gravitate toward? Spoiler alert – and one that should come as no surprise – Picasso had pretty good taste. Only five of Picasso’s watches are known, with the whereabouts of most still being a mystery. Still, the small selection at hand paint a good picture (pun intended) of what, to Pablo Picasso, constitutes a watch worth owning.

Picasso’s Undiscovered Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 6542

Pablo Picasso GMT-Master

Image Source: Wind Vintage

Perhaps the most famous picture of Picasso wearing a wristwatch is the one above, circa 1960s. Wearing a Native American headdress – gifted to him by Gary Cooper – Picasso leans his head on his left hand, displaying a Rolex GMT-Master ref. 6542. As the first GMT-Master reference ever created, this is a very valuable watch. Of course, the provenance of Picasso’s ownership makes this particular example even more valuable. Further adding to this watch’s value is its unknown location. That’s right – the whereabouts of the GMT-Master pictured are unknown. Needless to say, Picasso’s undiscovered Rolex is a holy grail of watch collecting. Time will tell if it’s ever discovered.

Picasso’s Patek Philippe Ref. 2497

Picasso Patek Philippe 2497

Image Source: Hodinkee

Beyond what we can gather from the above photo, little is known about Picasso’s Patek Philippe ref. 2497. Among the storied brand’s first serially-produced perpetual calendars, the ref. 2497 was the first to feature a central seconds hand. It’s among the rarest Patek Philippe references in the world with only 115 examples produced. Because the photo is black and white, we can’t discern the watch’s case material. While it’s most likely yellow gold, it could be pink gold, white gold, or even platinum. From my understanding, ~20 pink gold examples are known, and even fewer of white metals. Depending on its case material, Picasso’s Patek Philippe ref. 2497 could break records at auction, much like his artwork does regularly. Of course, the watch will have to be discovered and consigned for that to ever happen.

Picasso’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Triple Calendar Moonphase

Picasso JLC

Image Source: GQ UK

Photographed by Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, Picasso is seen wearing a 1940s Jaeger-LeCoultre Triple Calendar watch. While there’s not enough detail in the photo to pinpoint a reference, the brand and era can be identified by the watch’s distinctive 6 o’clock moonphase aperture, large applied arabic numerals at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock, date ring around the dial, and teardrop lugs. Clearly, Picasso had a fascination with complicated Swiss watches. Yet another undiscovered example, this JLC Triple Calendar proves that Picasso (or someone close to him) had very good taste in watches.

Picasso’s Michael Z. Berger ‘Picasso’ Watches

Picasso Michael Berger Watches

Image Source: Francois Guillot

This pair of 32mm dress watches, one in steel and one in gold, were created by Michael Z. Berger as gifts to Picasso in the 1960s. Picasso’s first and last name total 12 letters, making for the perfect set of personalized “numerals” on a watch dial. Both Berger watches were gifted to Picasso’s personal driver in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. The steel example sold at auction in 2021, reaching a hammer price 20x that of the pre-sale estimate: $270,000. The gold example is ostensibly still in possession of Picasso’s driver, but could grace the auction houses at any time.

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