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236: James Dean's Pocket Watch

Lot 236 View Catalog

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The lucky charm to which James Dean attributed his success was a watch. It is one of the most important personal artefacts of James Dean left in existence. gold-filled pocket watch was manufactured by Standard Watch ., which appears on the porcelain dial, with an Elgin movement (serial number 3071580). The cover bears James Deanís engraved initials. Dean made his debut starring appearance on the movie screens America in East of Eden he insisted on wearing his lucky pocket watch. Dean purchased the watch in late 1951, as a struggling young actor in New York. It was his first big purchase and he was proud of it - he had his initials engraved on the gold cover of the watch, and carried it in his pocket for luck while working in TV and plays. Within two and a half years Dean was spotted and called to Hollywood to meet the author of East of Eden , John Steinbeck. Upon Deanís arrival in Los Angeles, he visited his estranged father. Afraid his son would lose his lucky watch, his father gave him his own gold watch chain. Dean wore the watch, hanging from a belt loop, throughout the filming of East of Eden despite director Elia Kazanís protests. Not only did Dean attribute his success to the watch, but it also linked him to his father. His insistence would finally cause Kazan to relent and allow him to wear the watch, though he held firm that Deanís engraved initials be covered in close-ups. Deanís performance in the film would earn him his first of two posthumous Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globes. Dean gifted his lucky watch before his fatal car crash to a woman named Tillie Starriet. Dean had bonded with Tillie from the beginning of his movie career in L.A. Tillie, a Warner Bros employee, was older than Dean and acted as surrogate mother for the young 23 year-old actor and was the only person Dean would allow to prepare his hair for East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. Her letter attests to their closeness including last seeing him the day Dean was killed. As John Lennon said: ďWithout James Dean, the Beatles would have never existed.Ē is well known that a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe fetched over $1.2 million dollars, and that her wedding band sold for $772,000. But unlike Marilyn Monroe, James Dean left behind relatively few personal items from his short life of 24 years. His Porsche Spyder, with a standing offer of one million, was actually scrapped in Texas decades ago and will never be available for sale. Dean gave the red jacket he wore in Rebel Without a Cause to Sammy Davis, Jr.; Davisí widow has stated that she will never part with it. There is, however, Deanís watch - an item that personifies his place in time and contribution to us in film history like no other. The time on Deanís watch is still set at 5:43, the time Dean lost his life in the tragic car crash. Being as it was, so close and dear to Dean, this watch is as much an American cinematic and cultural treasure as one can find, the ultimate collectible of the 1950s. Being as it was, so close and dear to Dean, this watch is as much an American cinematic and cultural treasure as one can find, the ultimate collectible of the 1950s.Ē

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Estimate £30,000 – £35,000
Starting Bid £12,500

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7:30 AM - May 27, 2010


Paintpop Studios, Stables Centre
Hylands Park Chelmsford
Essex, CM2 8WQ
United Kingdom