Al Capone's Patek Philippe pocket watch just sold for $230k

A diamond-studded timepiece fit for a ganster

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On October 8, 175 items from the estate of Al Capone were auctioned off. One of the biggest lots among them was Al Capone’s Patek Philippe pocket watch, selling for $229,900 (including buyer’s premium). It’s a huge result for a legendary timepiece, especially considering the auction house estimate of $25-50k.

Capone’s Patek pocket watch is platinum with 90 single-cut diamonds on the case to form his initials, AC. The lot description provides further that the watch isn’t working and the dial is turning a yellow/tropical color. Oh, and it’s missing the minute hand.

Still, no bother. In a world where provenance is one of the most valuable things a watch can have, this gangster’s timepiece certainly has it, coming from one of the world’s most infamous tax evaders. The watch was passed from Capone and his wife Mae to their son Sonny, and eventually to Sonny’s daughters (Capone’s granddaughters), who are the ones who put up all the items in the estate sale.

"The items that generate the most interest are the ones that you think of as synonymous with a gangster figure like Al Capone, his guns and his fancy flamboyant jewelry," Brian Witherell, the consignment director for Witherell’s the auction house that held the sale, told Reuters of the estate auction.

Witherell’s wrote further in its description of the sale:

The estate of Al Capone survives as an undisturbed time capsule. When he passed in 1947 his widow, Mae Capone, moved into the guest quarters and their Palm Island mansion remained a shrine until she sold it in 1952. To that end the select heirlooms, offered through Witherell’s, passed from Mae Capone to their only child Sonny Capone and then to his daughters. 

Until the 2019 publication of Diane Capone’s book, Al Capone: Stories My Grandmother Told Me, the Capone heirs lived a life of relative obscurity in Northern California. Now that they are no longer anonymous, the time has come to share their stories and release the family heirlooms to the public.

Other Capone timepieces

Al Capone’s Patek pocket watch may have been the biggest timepiece at the auction, but it wasn’t the only one. While Capone’s Patek was certainly fit for a gangster kingpin, his son Sonny had a handful of watches that were, well, fit for the son of a gangster:

  • Sonny’s Gold Elgin pocket watch. Witherell’s says that “By oral tradition, Barbara Capone mentioned it was used by Sonny Capone at shooting events.” Lot sold for $4,325.

  • Sonny’s Longines pocket watch. Perhaps my favorite of the bunch. A Longines chronograph pocket watch with an “NRA regional championship” fob attached. Sold for $8,470.

  • Sonny’s white gold Elgin pocket watch. Pure Art Deco, the caseback is also engraved with an elk’s head. Sold for $5,143.

  • Mae Capone’s platinum Jacoby wristwatch. A small, beautiful platinum wristwatch with diamond bezel and a manual movement that looks to have been gifted by Sonny to his mother. The caseback is engraved inscribed, Sonny / To / Mother / Xmas / 1937. Sold for $20,570.

  • Sonny’s Mimo 8-day wristwatch. An Art Deco 8-day wristwatch by Mimo, gifted to Sonny from Val and Ralph Capone (Ralph was Al’s brother, and Val his wife, who divorced him in 1938). Engraved on the caseback, Merry Christmas / Sonny / From Val and Ralph / 1931. Sold for $4,538.

Finally, the top lot of the sale was Capone’s “favorite” automatic .45 caliber gun, which sold for $1,040,060. It’s funny, the auction was highlighted by guns and jewelry; a century later, gangsters like Capone are still attracted to the same. The more things change, I guess.

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