On July 16, 1951, Little Brown and Company, a publisher, released a now famous novel called ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. It’s a story about two days in the life of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield after he has been expelled from prep school. Confused and disillusioned, Holden searches for truth and rails against the ‘phoniness’ of the adult world. He ends up exhausted and emotionally unstable. The protection of innocence, especially of children. For most of the book, Holden sees this as a primary virtue. It is very closely related to his struggle against growing up. The book has done very well – about one million copies are sold each year, with sales of more than 65 million books. Also, the book was named by ‘Modern Library’ and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. However, with all of its success – several stalking cases, some of which have led to shootings, have all been tied to the book including: the 1989 murder of Rebecca Schaeffer, a 21-year-old actress whose death led to a passage in California legislation aimed at preventing stalking; the 1981 assassination attempt on the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan; and the fatal December 1980 shooting of John Lennon, the legendary Beatles front man and songwriter turned peace activist.
Earlier that year, in the summer of 1980, Lennon undertook a boating trip from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda – 650 miles east of North Carolina. During the journey, his yacht encountered a prolonged severe storm. Most of the crew became quite ill except Lennon, who was eventually forced to take the yacht’s wheel alone for many hours. Those hours had the effect of both renewing his confidence and making him contemplate the fragility of life. As a result, he began to write new songs.
He’d taken a break from any music since the birth of his son, Sean, but his renewed energy resulted in recording sessions at New York’s ‘The Hit Factory’, starting on August 07th, 1980. The demos produced dozens of songs, more than enough to fill an album. During recording, Lennon celebrated his 40th birthday, it was his son Sean’s 5th birthday too, and John was gifted several presents from his wife, Yoko Ono. On that October 9th day, the thoughtful gifts included a knitted tie that she made herself for him, an American flag tie pin made from rubies, sapphires and diamonds too she purchased from Tiffany & Co. In addition, she also hired an aircraft pilot to skywrite a message in the sky above the Dakota, their apartment located in New York City’s Upper West Side. The message read ‘Happy Birthday John and Sean, Love Yoko’.
While photographed that day, John is seen proudly wearing his new neck tie and pin, together – along with a watch on his left wrist. A Swiss luxury Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph watch. The only photo captured with him wearing this watch.
The Patek Philippe 2499 is one of the world’s most sought-after watches. With only 349 units produced in history – an average of nine pieces per year – over the 35 years in production from 1950 to 1985. The 2499 exhibits both singularity and exceptional craftsmanship. The watch features a striking design that incorporates round chronograph pushers, applied baton numerals, an outer second’s division and a sapphire crystal. The reference also contains a unique large diameter case, for the period, at 37.6mm. The importance of this watch was affirmed, in 2018, when Sotheby’s sold a yellow gold Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 at auction for $3,915,000 USD. A day earlier, Christie’s also sold one, at auction, for $3,234,905 USD. The Sotheby’s auctioned watch was made in 1952 and retailed by Asprey of London in 1956. The Christie’s watch was purchased, in the early 1960s, in Caracas, Venezuela, by the late father of the consignor of the watch.
Was John Lennon’s watch a birthday gift that day? It does look like he’s proudly holding up his wrist, in the photo, to display his watch too – with his other gifts. The fact that he might wear this manor of watch, at all, is kind of bizarre, since Lennon was the ultimate peace-loving hippie but, by 1980, he was starting to look a little more clean-cut and contemporary. It was 1980, after all, and men’s style was moving away from the ’70s free loving vibe, anyway. Either way, his upcoming fashion sense we’ll never know as his illustrious career which, at the time, was still growing was cut short by Mark David Chapman when he murdered Lennon, shooting him 4 times in the back, outside Lennon’s apartment, two weeks after ‘Double Fantasy’ was released – robbing us of his musical genius. Chapman did not flee the crime, he remained at the scene reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ until he was arrested by police.
What became of John Lennon’s Patek Philippe? That remains a mystery, as well.