Profiles in Time: Joe DiMaggio

On December 7, 2017, Joe DiMaggio’s 1947 Patek Phillipe ref. 130 will go up for auction. This watch is a 33mm slim, snap-back chronograph in 18k yellow gold with Breguet numerals. It still has the original bill of sale from December of 1948 and even without the history of the legendary slugger attached would fetch a hefty sum. The estimate is that the sale of this watch will fetch $150,000 – $300,000, making it one of the biggest watch auctions of the year.

An image of Joe DiMaggio's Patek Phillipe

Joe DiMaggio’s life and career embodies the American Dream. He’s an important figure in American history and culture as well as one of the country’s most outstanding athletes. Over the span of his thirteen year career as a center fielder, he helped the Yankees win nine World Series titles, and he still holds the record for his 56-game hitting streak back in 1941.

Joe DiMaggio: His Early Life

DiMaggio was first-generation citizen, born to Italian immigrants in Martinez, California. His father was a fisherman and had hopes that DiMaggio and his brothers would follow in his footsteps, but DiMaggio displayed an affinity for baseball at a young age. He would tag along with his brothers to the local sandlot baseball fields and quickly became a playground legend. In 1930, at the age of sixteen, he decided to drop out of high school and pursue baseball full-time.

His path to the Yankees wasn’t an easy one. He started by joining a modest local team. Even after leading them to the league championship, his only compensation was some equipment and sixteen dollars’ worth of team merchandise.

In 1932, one of DiMaggio’s older brothers signed to a team in the Pacific Coast League, the San Francisco Seals. Near the end of his first season, the team’s shortstop got injured. DiMaggio’s brother suggested him as a replacement, and he earned a spot on the team’s roster for the upcoming season.

Moving to the Yankees

DiMaggio spent three years with the Seals before the Yankees picked him up in 1936. In his first four seasons, DiMaggio led his team to victory in four consecutive World Series – he was the only athlete in the history of North American professional sports to win a championship in each of his first four seasons.

Shortly after DiMaggio’s record shattering 56-game hitting streak in 1941, he temporarily left the game to serve his country in the Second World War. He returned to the Yankees in 1946 and didn’t miss a beat. He led the team to yet another World Series win.

Following increasing pain and discomfort from years of wear and tear on his body, DiMaggio retired from the sport in 1951. In the years that followed, he remained an active public figure. During his retirement, he’s most well-known for his whirlwind romance with actress Marilyn Monroe, whom he married in 1954.

The Watch

To say that Joe DiMaggio knows something about loyalty is an understatement. The record setting baseball player devoted his entire career to one team: the New York Yankees. He also demonstrated that loyalty when it came to the watch he wore on his wrist. Perhaps it was because the Yankees gifted him his signature timepiece. His 18-karat yellow gold Patek Philippe Ref. 130J Chronograph circa 1948 is currently owned by a private collector. However, the iconic watch, along with more than 400 other rare timepieces, was recently showcased at a limited time event in New York City hosted by Patek called The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition.

Check out our Profiles in Time, like Muhammed Ali.


Image Credits: Header; Acme photograph, Flickr  – Center; Library of Congress

Updated 12/6/2017 prior to the Christie’s auction of Joe DiMaggio’s watch.

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