What’s It Worth? When Provenance Doesn’t Matter

A few years back, a Miami antiques dealer asked us to partner with him on a Breguet watch. I was skeptical about this, since 99 percent of the Breguet watches brought to us are not authentic. Breguet is the most faked watch in the world. Complicated men’s Breguet watches have brought almost a million dollars at auction. In addition to my skepticism about the manufacturer, the Miami jeweler said it had belonged to a princess.

In our business, pretty much everyone has an item that once belonged to some sort of royalty. Typically, this family lore is ultimately discounted. Nevertheless, I asked that it be sent to me to see if I wanted to partner with him for $5,000, which would be a steal if it were a genuine Breguet and owned by a princess.

Much to my surprise, it indeed resembled a later Breguet — and did appear to have a Russian royalty symbol on the back. I called my contact at the Breguet Factory in Switzerland and he quickly confirmed via email that this was a genuine Breguet watch and indeed belonged to a Russian princess — Princess Wolkonsky. A quick Google search showed that she ran in a circle with many famous people — including Rachmaninoff, who was her grandfather. Breguet noted that they even had the service records for this watch; however, it had been converted to a wrist watch from a pendant watch and the conversion wasn’t done by them.

Now I had a decision to make. This would only be the second Breguet I’d owned in my career and the provenance was rock solid, but the watch had problems. It was converted to a wrist watch, the winding crown was a crude replacement, the bracelet was a more recently manufactured gold-filled one, and finally, it was a ladies’ watch. (For some reason, women’s watches have never commanded the premium of men’s watches. The most prevalent theory about that is that mostly men collect watches — which isn’t always true).

At the end of the day, I partnered with the Miami dealer. Sadly, the results were not good. In spite of it being the finest watch made in the world and the Russian princess provenance, we ultimately lost money. Of course, this was years ago and today the results might be different. The retail value is way over $20,000, but in this case, the fair market value was less than $5,000.

It takes highly educated experts like the team of graduate gemologists at Old Northeast Jewelers to understand and identify the true value of natural pearls. Call or bring yours in for an appraisal and offer. You have seen us in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine

If you have a fine antique watch with provenance, pay us a visit. If you need an appointment in St. Petersburg or Tampa, give us a call or email JeffreyPHess@aol.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Stop by one of our locations or we will meet you at your home, bank, or attorney’s office.

You’ve seen us in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine and the New York Times. We are internationally known buyers of fine gems and watches No estate too small or too large.

JEFF HESS, Owner & Appraiser.
Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.
St. Petersburg 1131 4th St. N, St. Petersburg FL 33701. 727.898.4377.
Tampa International Plaza, 813.875.3935. Contact Us
Old Northeast Jewelers, Fine Jewelry and Watches, Buying and Selling since 1984.

Share Article
We use cookies to improve our site and your browsing experience. By clicking the “Accept All” button, you accept the use of cookies on our website.
Take 10% off your first purchase
Sign up to our email list to stay up to date on our latest deals, news, and events.
Exclusions apply. By signing up, you agree to receive email marketing from us.