Howard Hughes Patek Philippe Ref. 1463 Up At Auction

Editor’s Note: Since publishing this article, serious doubts as to the provenance of this watch, namely its purported ownership by and link to Howard Hughes, have been raised.  Christie’s auction house has, thus far, refused to answer our questions on the matter.  Despite the serious doubts that we raised directly with Christie’s, they auctioned they watch to a buyer who paid a whopping $254,000. I  strongly recommend you read our additional coverage (links at bottom of this post).

Here’s a vintage watch that caught my eye — it is a Patek Philippe Ref. 1463, owned claimed to be owned by the famous U.S. aviator, entrepreneur, movie producer — and billionaire — Howard Hughes (b: December 24, 1905 – d: April 5, 1976).  It will be auctioned on June 16, 2010 by Christie’s.  Its value is estimated at $150,000 – $200,000.  Reportedly, this is the first time that this watch has been offered for sale to the public.  It was originally produced by Patek Philippe in 1949 and sold October 11th, 1950 (to an unknown party presumably to Howard Hughes).

I, for one, am utterly fascinated with Howard Hughes.  Hughes was a man of great intrigue, excitement, passion and mystique.  His exploits and achievements were numerous and include, for example, Oscar winning films (from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s), flying around the globe in 91 hours (in 1938), creation of the giant “Spruce Goose” aircraft (which couldn’t even really fly), ownership of TWA airlines (in the 1950’s and 60’s), living and owning several casinos in Las Vegas (1960’s) and many other wild and crazy business and pet projects.  Sadly, Hughes went off the proverbial “deep end” late in his life and spend most of his final years living reclusively and battling severe paranoia and obsessive-compulsive habits.

Thankfully, though, he is mostly known for his positive achievements, many of which live on today including for example the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for biomedical research and science education.

You can read and see more of Howard Hughes’ Patek Philippe Reference 1463  on the Christie’s website.

As for Howard Hughes, I recommend Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald Barlett and James Steele.  I read this book a couple years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness

  • Paul B. Winn

    I became one of Hughes’ personal secretaries in 1957. Hughes was notorious for NOT wearing a watch and for not carrying any money. He never wore a watch when I was around him – he was always asking me for the time. I seriously question that this watch was owned by Hughes. If it was, it would have been placed in his private vault with his other belongings and would have been included in the inventory I made of that vault after Hughes died. The only scenario I can imagine is that Hughes had the watch purchased as a gift for someone. What proof is there that the watch was ever owned by Hughes? It’s pretty common for someone to claim that something was once owned by Hughes in order to increase its value. I would be extremely skeptical about this watch without a provable valid record.

  • Paul B. Winn

    By the way – you are correct about the authentic Hughes biography – by Barlett & Steele. You will find me mentioned in that book.

  • Don Woolbright

    Dear Mr. Winn, I appreciate the response to said watch, and the insight you lend to this story. I believe this watch to be authentic and owned by the reclusive Mr. Hughes. I cannot dispute the assertion whether Mr. Hughes wore watches or not. I will defer to your expertise. What i can lend to this conversation is insight relayed to me. This particular watch was a gift given to my father sometime in 1968. What many do not know is that Mr. Hughes had extensive surveilence done on his own employees. My father Don Woolbright was recruited in the mid 60’s to do surveilence for an unknown employer. Later identified as Howard Hughes. My father was retained for work in Los Angeles and Vegas. Mr Hughes was very concerned that those that worked for him had other agendas. After one extensive report whereas my father coined the phrase “an organization within an organization”. Mr. hughes was very pleased with my father’s report. My father Don Woolbright always stayed at one of Hughes safe houses awaiting instructions. It was there that this gift was forwarded to with a note from my wrist to yours. Many thanks Howard. My father worked for Mr. Hughes in other capacities. What many dont know is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetuated on the american public. The romaine breakin. This was Mr. Hughes at his best. It was at this time Mr Mahue had been terminated. He along with TWA, and other entities were desperately trying to suepoena Mr. Hughes private papers. My father Don Woolbright was commisioned with the task of retrieving what Hughes wanted. There are numerous reports of Mr. Hughes drug induced stupor. Yet on this occation Howard was sharp and active. Almost giddy over the details. Mr. Hughes personally instructed A 2by4 christmas card given to him by president Nixon to be purloined. Romaine breakin? I think not. More like a knock on the door. A handshake and then get to business. The breakin was masterminded and perpetuated by Howard Hughes himself. this watch had been a gift 6 years prior. Mr. Hughes was a genius and the truth 40years later is still to be revealed accurately

  • Paul B. Winn

    Mr. Woolbright: The above story makes no sense at all in light of the fact that Woolbright made an attempt to extort $1 million for the Romaine Street documents. If he had been employed by Hughes – or anyone connected with Hughes – he would have been adequately paid and the last thing on earth he would have done is try to get an additional $1 million. I know exactly how the Hughes communication system worked and how absolutely impossible i would be for Hughes to contact anyone without his staff knowing about it. How on earth would Hughes contact your father without having someone locate him and advise Hughes how to contact him? Too many holes in this story. I have talked about this to Kay Glenn, who was closest to Hughes and in charge of the staff that worked with Hughes. Kay says he will testify that there is no truth at all to this story – as I will also. Kay is the one who knew all the expenses that were made by Hughes. Remember, Hughes had no way of doing things like giving a watch to someone without having arrangements made for the bill, etc. Kay says Hughes NEVER gave a give to a man – to ladies, yes, but not to a man. If you have the note supposedly from Hughes, I would like to see it. I don’t think it ever really existed. Your Dad may have told you these stories, but you of all people should know what his reputation was for truth and veracity. His record speaks volumes about his character and the likelihood that this story is just another scam.

  • Don Woolbright

    Dear Mr Winn: I find it interesting that that you claim it is impossible that my father worked for Mr Hughes and that this watch could not of been given as a gift since Hughes only gave watches to woman. You stated Kay Glenn and yourself would testify to that opinion. I humbly ask that the both of you do so. Also since credibility is at stake, please produce those meticulous records.
    On other blogs you mention the meticulous records kept on all of Hughes activities. Payroll , sleep,eat phone calls etc. It would certainly be embarrasing should these allegations prove to be fact. What i have done sir, is request every inch of the way for the watch to have due dilligence done. I first went to the Henry Stern Co to ascertain the authenticity and to request due dilligence on the Patek Philippe 1463. I requested extensive research to prove my claims. The watch was purchased in 1949 by the Spaulding jewelry Co in Chicago. Sold in 1950. Henry Stern was unable to garner the documentation as Spaulding went out of business in the 80’s. I find it hard to fathom historical documentation such as this doesnt still exist. I requested all evidence be uncovered, Fingerprints,Spaulding files, docs,etc. When the records are recovered proving this is in fact Howard Hughes watch, How will you marry what you have proclaimed to reality. Truth is, you really have no idea if this is Howards watch or not. In fact, what Howard did while alive was mostly out of your scope. Only after Mr Hughes passed did you completely know at all times what Mr Hughes was up to. I appreciate that you take on the mantle of exposing all the frauds. Over the past 40 years your standing has increased a thousand fold in regards to what you knew of Mr Hughes activities. Embellishment is the word that comes to mind. I stake my reputation that this is Howard Hughes watch. Will you do the same that it isnt?

  • Paul B. Winn

    I already have. I did not say that “Hughes only gave watches to women.” Read carefully. I said Kay Glenn told me Hughes never gave a gift to a man – only to ladies. I said “gift” not “watch”. Your statement that only after Hughes passed did I know completely at all times what Hughes was up to. Everything that Hughes did in all the years that I was there was coordinated with Operations (where I worked and where Kay Glenn was our supervisor) and a record kept of all the calls Hughes made and the calls he took. We had the locate files so if Hughes wanted to contact someone the aide with Hughes would call Operations to get the locate information. I am absolutely confident that you cannot substantiate in any way that Woolbright ever worked for Hughes in any capacity. Kay Glenn had to approve all expense accounts for everyone who worked with Hughes, approved all bills and invoices for payment and no checks were cut without Kay’s approval. Kay says Woolbright never worked for Hughes. It’s interesting to me that you have not mentioned that you have any check stubs or income tax records, etc., to verify your statements. When I’m gone, my kids will have my files with that kind of information in them. They can choose to toss or keep them. You have not even mentioned that you have the so-called note supposedly provided with the watch. “From my wrist to yours” implies that Hughes had worn the watch from the time it was purchased until it was allegedly given to Woolbright. Kay Glenn was with Hughes from the 1940s and was his closest confidant. Kay says that Hughes never owned or wore a watch. I spent most of the year 1961 working directly with Hughes in Rancho Santa Fe, California. I know he did not have a watch when I was with him. Kay spent more time with Hughes than anyone else, and he says Hughes never had a watch and wanted it known that he had neither a watch nor money on his person at any time. I certainly have nothing to gain here – you, however, appear to have a great deal to gain if this watch is sold to someone who pays extra money because they believe it was once owned by Hughes. Kay Glenn certainly has nothing to gain here, either. I know what I know from personal experience, not because somebody told me. My experience with Kay Glenn is that he is absolutely honest and trustworthy. I also have the same reputation, as a result of which I testified as a witness in much of the litigation which ensued after the death of Hughes. How can you make the statement that in fact, what Howard did while alive was mostly out of my scope. You have no idea or knowledge of what I did. I hope you have more proof than just “staking your reputation” that this watch ever had any connection to Howard Hughes. I submit that the burden of proof rests with you, and so far you have produced nothing tangible.

  • Don Woolbright

    Mr Winn; I have in previous posts deferred to you whether or not Mr Hughes wore a watch. It is not relevant. Why? It doesnt change whether the watch was given. Mr Hughes was an excellent manipulator and i believe him to be an honest man. Can one tell a white lie, from my wrist to yours and not really wear the watch? Dont know? couldnt say? The ;pertinant question, is this Howards watch? The Spaulding Co is the entity that can rest this case. Due dilligence will reveal this too be H.Hughes watch. If this turns out to be the case. I am most interested in hearing your contrived backpeddaling on how this watch came into our family posession in 1968.

    • watchin u

      you got paaaiidd Donny boy..who cares what they think…you know the truth

  • Russell (GoJu)

    What a wonderful story unfolding. Mr Winn has my vote for credibility. Proof of course will be in the supporting documentation/records.

  • David

    Phew! And there was I just about to splash out a few hundred thousand. Back to the Timex for me.

  • Desert Smurff

    You should have seen his backpedaling after he admitted that he retrieved Jean Peter’s appointment book from the LV tv site house. When the question was raised about it, he then claimed it was someone else’s. I think the credibility of Mr. Winn is best questioned by his use of the screen name IMZGR81, (I am the great one). Obviously the man is and always has been a religious fanatic and a megalomaniac, as show by his own opinion of himself. Such a person is very likely to have in his personal possession a number of Hughes effects, especially those he would consider most valuable. You should read carefully all the history of posts on Geoff’s web site. They both conspire together to try to diss anyone else who claims any knowledge that they don’t sanction of Howard. Come to think of it, they are the High Priest and Priestess (you figure who is which) of the religion of Howard. rofl

    • Russell

      I was wondering how you and Don explain away the misspelling on the buckle of the watch. This call into question as to whether the watch is even genuine manufacture let alone a watch that might have once belonged to Howard Hughes.
      If (in your opinion) Paul & Geoff are Priest and Priestess then how do you describe yourself and DW? Pimp and Pimpess?

      • Kyle

        Regarding the misspelled buckle, Christie’s states: “The misspelling is common with buckles from this period. At the time, Patek Philippe’s US distributor, the Henri Stern Watch Agency, used a local vendor make the buckles who accidentally misspelled the company name as “Patek Phillipe”. Lot 134 in [the June 16] sale, a Patek Philippe Reference 1579 manufactured in 1951, also has this same misspelling on the buckle.”

        • Desert Smurff

          [This comment has been edited by the Administrator. Posts of any comments that are defamatory, abusive, profane, obscene, lewd, vulgar, hateful, or threatening will be removed.]

          • Russell

            The introduction by Don and Desert Smuff of the the ‘red herrings’ and unnecessary metaphors distract from the real issue; which is very straightforward. The issue is Provenance; and no evidence has been displayed to substantiate the claim that HH once owned this watch. It is an easy matter to scan documents and attach the images, so let’s see them. Especially the ‘From my Wrist to Yours” note (in high resolution).
            I suppose the response to my suggestion will be that the new owner now has these documents and therefore Don cannot scan them and post the images – Alas, that would be so convenient/predictable?
            Christie’s reputation is at stake so why won’t they post anything that could clearly substantiate the claim and settle the matter.
            All of this can be achieved by displaying ‘facts’ and without derogatory remarks regarding other protagonists in this ‘debate’ and especially so, because the characters of the players is not of any real concern, even though we might form our own opinions based on the language used and the lack of skill in the use of the English language in particular.

  • Paul B. Winn

    Mr. Woolbright: I have nothing to prove. Only you do. You have staked your reputation on the validity of your claim. Unfortunately, it is not your reputation that matters. Rather, it is the reputation of your father, and therein lies the problem.

  • Hughes Researcher

    I feel it’s strange that when someone questioned Winn and Schumacher’s veracity, they got deleted. This has the feel of a mob hanging of the watch owner.

    I have been reviewing all the Hughes effects available to the public and have encountered a strange situation.

    Someone, (“a high ranking military officer of the Bush Administration) has been testing Hughes articles for DNA. Swearing people to secrecy and not letting anyone see the results). Hints have been made about the CIA and Military Intelligence.

    Russel is obviously Kyle under another name.

    Is this a con being fostered, a cover story, or a real issue??? Who knows???

    Three questions arise:
    1. Why military people be interested in Howard’s DNA???
    2. Who has enough juice to get Geoff to remove my earlier references to this situation from his blog???? Even more interesting! Wonder if the REAL CIA and Military Intelligence would be interested???? Now where did I put their email addresses!!! Gonna shine a little light on this mystery!
    3. I have noticed a very vigorous “information management” design when any information is fronted about Howard Hughes that is absent in anyone else I’ve researched. There is more at play here than just native curiosity! Did you know that Geoff deleted the first question from this blog submitted to him? What are they trying to hide??? Then Geoff lent his support to this blog! My question is, do you two have the same paymaster??? Now of course this honest observation will be deleted! You never have the chance to defend yourself when the censors are running the show.

    • Russell

      Thank you for the compliment but I am not Kyle in disguise – not really sure what the point of that would be. As far as I know, Kyle and I are continents apart – at least geographically speaking. However, I would not be surprised to discover that with regards to integrity, honesty, justice and decency we have similar views.

      With regards to the editing of the message from ‘Desert Smurff’ I suspect this was because the comment had nothing to do with the matter under discussion. I received an email with the contents of that post; and in order to settle this aspect of your concerns I will paste it here:_
      “Author: Desert Smurff
      And what dog do you have in this fight, Russell? Are you another of the reps of the religious discrimination bunch who take the birthrights away from newborn babes???? Kinda like Herod and Pharaoh??? Remember? They both justified infanticide in the name of national security???? lol”

      Given the context in which I display this message, I expect that there is no need to edit it out now. I hope that Kyle agrees and accepts the post.
      As you can see, the message from DS is basically irrelevant doggerel – IMO.
      Relevance though, seems to an issue in this blog.
      There are two pertinent words that appear in posts in the blog – namely, “Paranoia” & “Con”.
      I would suggest that some of your concerns could be paranoid and I only say that because I know that I am not Kyle and I know the reason for removing irrelevant and rude remarks – which you have now seen.
      The latter word “Con” is of course what all this is about. The evidence that we have seen with regards to statements by two people who are known to have worked with HH, DO support the notion that a confidence trick is being conducted by DW and associates.
      In my opinion, what now remains, is for Christie’s to accept that they may have been ‘conned’ and draw this matter to the attention of the recent buyer. In fact they are bound to do so and even though Kyle has indicated he will drop the matter I will not.
      Why? Because I am a collector and provenance is a matter of importance to me and the general public has respect for names like ‘Christies’. We buy from them in good faith. They, therefore are duty bound to settle this ‘indictment’ entirely and demonstrate transparency, so that we can continue to buy items in good faith.

  • James

    H.R., I have no clue why you are posting here. From the moment you started, I became lost. The subject of this story and thread is whether or not this Patek is genuinely from Howard Hughes (and for me, whether or not the watch is authentic). So, let us stay on topic, shall we?

    AFAIAC, this watch is bad voodoo. I question whether it was ever in H.H.’s possession. And I also question if Christie’s can be trusted ever again. I hope someone from Christie’s is following this: (1) they need to fire whoever “authenticated” the watch and recruit someone that researches claims as interesting as this. And (2) accept that based on opinions in this thread, the might lose credibility in the watch world.

    For me, Christie’s was just written-off.

  • Howard Researcher

    The point was, the person you are relying on who worked for Hughes, is under suspicion of being involved in the Romaine breaking.

    I think the watch probably once “belonged” to Hughes. The provenance establishes the father as having been involved in a series of break ins of Hughes properties. Some kind of deal was made to avoid prosecution with the CIA since they wanted their memos, etc on the Jennifer project back. This watch was probably either a gift from someone to Hughes (that got stored at Romaine) or a gift for some high ranking military official or politician. Hughes keep such things on hand. Hughes’ wrist hurt when he wore metal objects and he also didn’t like having things to get his digits or hands caught when working. He would never have wore an expensive watch as he was paranoid about getting held up.

    Evidently the buyer may know a lot more than you do, especially if he has an inside track about the untold story of the warehouse break in (High ranking military official, former CIA manager, or politician in the loop). The LAPD commented that the robbery was without a doubt an inside job. Several walking safes were broken into. My personal theory is that it was an inside job by Gay, Hendley and Davis to create a plausible story of Howard’s will disappearing. The accused Will Lummins of destroying it but it may still turn up.

  • Paul B. Winn

    I assume that I am “the person you are relying on who worked for Hughes” and I certainly am not, nor have I ever been under suspicion by anyone of being involved in the Romaine Street burglary. I have used my own name throughout, whereas “Howard Researcher” is hiding behind anonymity. It is a good thing, because to wrongfully accuse someone of a crime is actionable – clearly slander. “Hughes Researcher” had best remain anonymous!
    “Howard Researcher” can think and speculate all he wants to. I was there and I know what I know. Two of the aides to Hughes at the time he was at the Desert Inn are still alive and will further testify that Hughes had no contact with Woolbright. The woman who was in charge of the records for the Hughes Tool Company is still alive, and at 91 is as sharp as she ever was. I spoke with her the other day and she also says it is preposterous to state that Hughes ever had any connection with that watch.
    Hughes had no way of buying anything except through those around him. He couldn’t even write a check, he had no cash, and he had no credit card. All his expenses were (1) paid by someone around him who put the expense with receipt on an expense voucher, or (2) arranged for the purchase and a bill was sent to Hughes Productions where it required the approval of Kay Glenn before it was sent to accounting for payment.
    Where “Hughes Researcher” gets his information about Hughes’ wrist hurting when he wore metal objects and he didn’t like having things to get his digits or hands caught when working is beyond me – perhaps he has vivid dreams. I worked personally with Hughes, and knew all the people who worked personally with Hughes and that statement is made up of thin air like most of the other unverified statements “Hughes Researcher” makes.
    It has been almost 40 years since the Romaine Street burglary and I sincerely doubt that the large group of people indicated by “Hughes Researcher” are still trying to solve it. If they are, they have yet to interview me or ask me question one. I suspect that the statute of limitations ran out some time ago; however, after the trials involving the charges against Woolbright, I doubt much attempt has been made to investigate it further.
    As far as the CIA and the Jennifer project, there was only one memorandum stolen which related to project, so “they wanted their memos…back” simply is wrong – as is most of the static being sent out by “Hughes Researcher”.
    I am even more convinced now that I have spoken to additional people that the sale of this watch was based upon incorrect information claiming some connection to Hughes. I do not hide behind some hidden identity and I am extremely distrustful of anyone who does.
    I cannot begin to guess why “Hughes Researcher” continues to cast aspersions and make foolish statements.

    • Robert Dawson

      What was the make and model # of the 19 inch color television set that Howard Hughes owned?

  • Rational Observer

    Wow, you people seem very petty and are very inclined to hang onto the past. You come off as very pathetic.

  • Ed_hird

    Howard Hughes certainly left his mark in many ways. To read ‘Howard Hughes the Tortured Aviator’, click on

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  • Kyle

    Bad behavior by one does not justify bad behavior another. This blog is first and foremost about watches — not Howard Hughes.

    As I noted elsewhere, there are many questions which could help shed light on the provenance of the watch which, unfortunately, remain unanswered.

  • Kyle

    If you disclosed your identity then maybe someone here or on the other blogs you comment on would consider taking you seriously. Until then….

  • Hughes Researcher

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a skunk by any other name would smell as rank! If the logic is sound, then the name is immaterial, unless the writer wants platitudes (which I don’t) or the reader wants vengeance (which I’d rather avoid). Don’t worry, you’ll know my name in time and be proud that I commented on here! lol

  • Edwin Becker

    It’s been three years….. So what’s your name? Did anyone ever provide any evidence?