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Pocket watch owned by Italian chief of police who guarded the Pope offered for sale at Bonhams
The Patek Philippe 18ct gold manual-wind open-face watch belonged to Salvatore di Stefano, whose charges included Pope Paul VI and ill-fated Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A pocket watch that was owned by an Italian chief of police tasked with safeguarding a number of important public figures in the 1960s is to go under the hammer at the Bonhams Fine Watches and Wristwatches Sale in New Bond Street, London, on Tuesday 18th December.

The Patek Philippe 18ct gold manual-wind open-face piece (estimate £3,000 - £4,000) belonged to Salvatore di Stefano, who in the 1960s was in charge of ensuring the safety of, amongst others, Pope Paul VI and Aldo Moro – the Italian prime minister and president of the Christian Democracy, Italy’s majority party at the time.

According to Mr di Stefano’s family it was only very shortly after his retirement, on the morning of 16th March 1978, that Prime Minister Moro’s car was attacked by the ‘Brigatte Rosse’ terrorist group on the Via Fani in Rome. Firing automatic weapons, the terrorists killed the Prime Minister’s bodyguards and kidnapped him. A letter is believed to have been delivered to the terrorists from Pope Paul VI, but it was no to avail. On 9th May 1978, after 55 days of imprisonment, Moro’s corpse was found in the trunk of a Renault 4 in Via Caetani.

Leading consignments for the 18th December sale is an exceptionally fine and rare 18ct gold automatic ‘cathedral’ minute repeating Patek Philippe wristwatch that has never been worn and that is still sealed in its original packaging (estimate £250,000 - £300,000). The Reference 5079 represents one of Patek Philippe’s most complicated watch movements concealed within an elegant and deceptively simple case. It is also rare, having been made in only very small quantities between 2002 and 2005.

Other lots of interest include an 18ct automatic calendar centre seconds wristwatch made by legendary watchmaker George Daniels. Dr Daniels (1926 – 2011) was one of few modern watchmakers who could conceive, design and hand-make a complete watch from a blank sheet of paper to finished, ticking timepiece. As well as inventing the co-axial escapement device that drives a timekeeping mechanism, he created less than 100 pocket watches and wristwatches, each of which would typically involve 2,500 hours of work. This watch, one of only seven made in white gold, is estimated to fetch between £70,000 and £90,000 at auction.

Paul Maudsley, Director of the Bonhams Watch Department, said: “With more than 300 watches to choose from, the discerning collector is spoilt for choice at our December New Bond Street sale. We have 50 watches from a renowned German collector, with many of them featuring in the respected and popular watch book ‘Chronographs by Gerd-R. Lang and Reinhard Meis’. There is also a single-owner collection from Europe, including many sought-after makers, and a personal favourite of my own – the wonderful Patek Philippe Ref:2526 in white gold and diamond indexes, sold with its rare and original box.”

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