Split Second: Update on the Gallet Flight Officer Sale
Two weeks ago I spoke about a Gallet flight officer in museum condition that was on sale on Ebay and one week ago I speculated as to why it didn't go for more. Well it just so happens that the winner of the auction contacted me shortly after that article was published to share in my surprise. Even though this was a second generation model with the newer mono-color dial and alpha hands, the condition it was in should have brought in more bidders. But luckily for the winner it didn't and after a few impatient days he received the watch, but not before he had to chase down the mailman to get it!
Once he got the watch open, any concerns about the dial went out the window. It was perfect and despite being seventy years old, there was still a strong reading on the geiger counter for the radium used in the hour markers and hands. I thought the photos used in the auction were a nice balance between the typical "press release" style photos and the "live" photos that are more representative of the final product. From the photos that the winner sent me, I'm very pleased to say that the watch looks just as good in real life as it did in the lots.
The distortion of the cities round the edge of the dial thanks to the domed crystal is a charming anachronism to the triple anti-reflective coated flat sapphire crystals we see today. In fact this piece is in such good condition that Gallet could just reissue this piece as "heritage" and no-one would bat an eye.
It's very rare to ever find out what happens to a watch after it is bought at auction. Whilst there is always speculation about the high profile auctions at Christies and Phillips about who raised their paddle the highest (or more precisely who they were raising it for), often we never see the watch again. I'm sure there are people in the know who are aware of the location of the Patek Philippe Supercomplication but the seller hasn't come out and said "Gee guys, I'm so happy with my purchase of $24 million. Here is some photos of it that I took". I'm sure they are very happy with their purchase but sometimes I just wish everyone could drop the pomp and circumstance and, perish the thought, actually enjoy what they bought?
I asked the owner whether he would be wearing the watch, to which he replied both yes and no. As soon as he opened the watch he knew that it was a piece of history, despite the lower-than-expected cost. If the watch had seen action and had sustained just a scratch or two across the case then he would have felt much better wearing it more often but the case is near perfect and he wants to keep it that way. So on special occasions the watch will see some wrist time but for the most part it will be kept safe in its present condition.
I think this is the right thing to do. The listing was correct, this is a museum condition piece and I certainly wouldn't want to be the person to put the first scratch on the case in nearly seventy years.