What it's Worth

In 1952, Bulova watch company was one of the leading manufacturers of affordable – indeed fine – timepieces in America. In fact, it is often written that in the 1940s and ’50s, they were one of the biggest advertisers of any product of any kind in the U.S.! 

Today, few Bulovas are considered highly desirable, as they made fairly mundane watches for the masses. There are a few designs that stand out – like certain Art Deco masterpieces of the 1930s and military watches of the 1940s – but even these only bring $50 to $200. 

What’s It Worth - Experience A Glimpse Into Our World’s History  

These past few weeks have been pretty exciting at Hess Fine Art as we’ve been getting ready for our big fall arts, sports, important silver and autograph auction. 

A few months ago, we boasted about our “robust watchmaking department” with two Rolex- and Audemars Piguettrained watchmakers on staff, and discussed the Rolex President (owned by Paul Stanley of KISS) that we were asked to repair. 

Land watches are typically characterized as chronographs and alarm watches. Chronographs at one time were used to time sporting events – most often, horse races and auto races. Any chronograph, working or not, is worth at least $100 and some vintages such as Omega, Breitling and Longines, bring in $500-$2,000 – in steel, and more in gold – even if they don’t work. 

It’s been said that millennials aren’t interested in diamonds, but I haven’t found that to be the case. While statistics indicate that they prefer to shop online, diamonds are one of the few items that should never be purchased sight unseen — even experts don’t do that. Why? Because a diamond’s visual impact can vary considerably due to the tiniest differences in cut or polish. 

It’s been said that there is a fine line between promotion and advertising. In some languages, the words “propaganda” and “advertising” are the same word! 

Nevertheless, promotion of a store or a brand has great “worth.” We were very honored when Seiko asked our store to be one of the original four in the entire U.S. to be authorized dealers for Grand Seiko, a particularly expensive segment of the brand that includes some of the finest watches in the world. Grand Seiko timepieces start at $4,000 — and we have actuallly sold some limited-edition gold ones for $25,000. 

Have you ever heard of a stomacher? Stomachers were very popular in the Georgian time period (circa 1730-1830), and continued into the early 20th century in some circles. 

We’ve only seen a few stomachers in our 25 years in business, but last week, a local antiques dealer came in with a rather nice one. Stomachers are sizable pins to adorn the lower torso, hence the name. They are also called placards or plackets, and are meant to cover the mid-to-lower torso on fancy gowns. 

 ... and sometimes a woman’s touch can be firm. As we have discussed in the past, valuation is legally variable. Retail, wholesale, fair market and liquidation value are all legal definitions with differing results. 

Recently, a woman came into our St. Petersburg store to obtain a valuation for her jewelry. The reason was sad, and one of the least favorite parts of our business. A divorce was underway and her attorney had advised her to get a valuation so the couple could untangle their finances and end their marriage.

Over the past 20 years, identifying genuine diamonds from non-genuine has become a landmine of possible tragedy or disappointment. The reason you need to know your jeweler is because there are so many variations of diamond misdirection, scams, and confusion. In the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, all you had to worry about were fraudulent certificates from less-than-stellar labs. 

The collecting community has fixated on Rolex and Patek Philippe as the most collectible watches – however, one comparatively overlooked, highly collectible watch is the Omega Chronograph. 

In the past 10 years, scholars have been able to identify short runs and odd variations of this stainless steel Speedmaster Professional that are worth as little as $800 and as much as $50,000. It takes a real expert to know the subtle differences because they often look identical at first glance.