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James Dean’s “Lucky Charm” pocket watch is being auctioned by Antiquorum on June 22 in Hong Kong. Dean referred to the keyless gold-filled Elgin pocket watch as his lucky charm, since he acquired it in New York in 1951 just as his acting career started to take off. The chain was a gift from his father after they reunited for the first time after many years. Dean flaunted the timepiece in the 1955 film East of Eden, wearing it prominently dangling from his belt loop. “It is an unusual way to wear a pocket watch, a real style statement,” says Antiquorum’s president and CEO Evan Zimmermann.
After Dean’s star had risen years later, he gave the watch to Tillie Starriet, a former Warner Bros. employee whom he called “Mom,” as a token of appreciation for her support throughout his career. The pocket watch, which is estimated to sell for between $5,000 and $10,000, is accompanied by the original fitted box, the chain, lamp pendant and documentation attesting to the piece’s provenance.
“It definitely will be going to a fan or a collector of James Dean memorabilia,” says Zimmerman, who adds that Dean’s everlasting mystique would be hard to achieve today as celebrities post every detail of their lives on Twitter. “People still have great interest in James Dean,” he adds. “And there are so few items from his life because he lived such a short life.”
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