I was browsing through the catalog for the upcoming Sotheby's Important Watches sale and noticed a number of interesting pieces while doing so. Among the many prestigious watches, one piece that did catch my eye was a Heuer Monaco Steve McQueen Chronograph dating back to c.1971. At first glance it's a rather battered old thing whose crystal is heavily scratched and scuffed. There are dings and dents aplenty on the aging stainless steel case and the steel link bracelet could do with the watch version of a nip n' tuck to tighten it up a little - well, a lot actually. In short, the watch is a sight in this condition. And, with a price guide estimate of between 6, - 8,000 CHF (or around £5,000) all add up to seems a little fanciful for a piece in this condition.
But a quick read through the details of the sale reveals a little of the watch's history. For once, long ago it had been the property of former Ferrari and Williams F1 pilot, Clay Regazzoni. Looking once more at the condition of the watch, it does begin to make sense in the end. Sure, it would be a real find to come across a piece with provenance in mint or very good condition, but the fact that the watch is unrestored only adds to it's character. After all, we come to expect that any piece of machinery which has passed through the hands of a 1970's racing driver would have been 'well-lived' and pretty second-hand.
Included in the sale is a bill of sale written in the hand of Regazzoni himself when the watch changed hands to one Clive Miller for a princely $80!
Now it is fair to say that Clay Regazzoni was not the greatest F1 driver - of his or any generation, but he surely was a character, enjoying the life of the racing driver of his time and to me, it's nice to see this old bird appearing for the short time before it goes to sale in Sotheby's auction rooms in Geneva on 9th May 2010.
Battered and worn it may be, but I would be surprised if it didn't reach the guide price and disappear once more into the hands of a collector to whom a watch like this might have less value if it were unworn and in mint condition - it wouldn't have been lived-in.