I’d like to share with you the contents of a very precious box. I’ll let you off the hook early by revealing that it does not contain a watch. It does, however, reveal a slice of someone’s life. Perhaps you’d care to accompany me as I explore the contents found underneath the empty case…
A Certificate of Origin, dated September 1953, for a watch described as having an 18kt. gold case, calendar and moon phases, on leather bracelet with gold buckle.
An instruction booklet for a Jaeger-LeCoultre reference 2904 calendar watch, in English. “Instructions for Setting the Jaeger-Le Coultre Calendar Watch to the right time and date”.
An invoice from Vacheron & Constantin, Geneve, dated 16 September 1953, for the same wrist watch as described in the Certificate of Origin. Price $156.00 or Fr. 665. Sold to Monsieur Costas Vasili Dedes.
A business card for Mr. Albert Leicht of V&C, Geneve.
A store card for Taillard Frères, Genève; Horlogerie-Bijouterie/Watches-Jewelry.
A dry-cleaning receipt for the occupant of room 209 at the Hotel Beau-Rivage, Geneva, dated 14 September 1953. You may be interested to know that two pairs of trousers were dropped off for cleaning.
A receipt from the concierge at the Beau-Rivage for the occupants for room 209. Two guests partook of a city tour and a trip on the lake, the cost of which was added to the previously documented laundry services. Vacheron & Constantin advertising at the bottom of the receipt suggests they maintained a boutique within the hotel.
A bit of internet searching revealed a wealth of information. Costas Vasili Dede, Gus to his friends, was born in Albania in 1905 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1933. He was employed as a waiter in 1942 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he eventually became a Sergeant.
In 1953, Mr. and Mrs. Dede flew to Geneva. I assume this was their honeymoon as their only son was born in 1955. Gus married a Greek woman, eight years his junior, by the name of Theofoni. From the 11thto 25thof September, their travel itinerary indicates passage via Trans World Airlines from Rome to Geneva, then to London and back to New York. The lack of flight records to Rome signifies they may have commenced their honeymoon with a journey by steamship.
It appears Gus and Theofoni worked hard and owned a restaurant. Unfortunately, a lawsuit brought years later by one against the other regarding the sale of this asset suggests they had an acrimonious separation. Regardless, some financial means were required for the marriage and subsequent trip.
Gus passed away in 1998 and is buried in Detroit. His wife followed two years later. Tragically, their son died at the age of 47, leaving behind a widow and two children.
In some small way I feel a connection with Gus. Having been a first-time visitor to Geneva recently and dined at the Beau Rivage (with Alex and Dan, among others), I can almost picture the city through his eyes and imagine how he felt the wind off the lake.
Now knowing a bit about Mr. Dede’s history, I also marvel at his choice of watch to mark the visit. I wonder why he decided on V&C out of all the horological treasures available, and why the sublime calendar model with moon phases in precious gold. Was it a reference 4560 as pictured in the Quarter Millennium auction catalog; the numbers are very close! Perhaps a 4240 or 4461. Certainly it had the caliber 485 manual-winding 17 jewel movement, which measured 12 ½ lignes. More investigations required!
It may be just a box to some, but to me it’s full of wonder.