Switzerland's Supreme Court is set to decide if a priceless watch given to John Lennon by Yoko Ono will be returned to the late Beatles legend's widow.

She claims the Patek Philippe 2499 was stolen by a since-fired chauffeur, while an unnamed Italian national says he legally purchased the item. "To me, if anything, the watch is just a symbol of how dangerous it is to trust," son Sean Lennon tells The New Yorker.

The Patek Philippe 2499 is an unusual artifact in that the company produced fewer than 350 of them between 1952 and the mid-'80s. Known as a perpetual calendar chronograph, the watch records time in a then-revolutionary number of ways, including seconds, minutes, date, day, month and moon phase. No other company had been able to fit all of those functions into a wristwatch before.

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Lennon was famously photographed by Bob Gruen while wearing the Patek during sessions for Double Fantasy, released just before he was murdered by a deranged fan in December 1980. Ono had given Lennon the watch for his birthday in October, paying around $25,000 at Tiffany – or around $100,000 today. A now-eerie description on the back reads, "(JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER, LOVE YOKO. 10 • 9 • 1980. N. Y. C."

She placed the Patek Philippe 2499 in a locked room of her apartment following Lennon's death, and it remained there for more than two decades. Estimates about how much the Patek would bring at auction range from $10 million to $40 million, according to The New Yorker.

Ono's long-time employee Koral Karsan was charged with grand larceny in 2007 after she accused him of a $2 million blackmail scheme. Karsan countered that Ono had sexually harassed him but ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge. He was sent back to his native Turkey after serving 60 days in jail.

Karsan reportedly took a treasure trove of stolen items with him. Many were later recovered from a storage room at a bankrupt auction house in Germany. "We think he was the thief," Martin Steltner, a spokesman for the state prosecutor's office in Berlin, told The New York Times.

Yoko Ono Didn't Know the Priceless Watch Was Missing

The Patek Philippe 2499, however, was still gone. "He took advantage of a widow at a vulnerable time," Sean Lennon told The New Yorker. "Of all the incidents of people stealing things from my parents, this one is the most painful."

Karsan apparently gave Lennon's watch away as collateral for a loan, according to The New Yorker. By 2013, the watch was under consideration for bidding on a new digital auction platform called Auctionata. The owner, granted anonymity in the court documents by German privacy laws, believed he rightfully owned the Patek – because an unaware Ono hadn't filed a missing report. Karsan also reportedly signed a notarized document stating that Ono gave him the watch as a gift in 2005.

The owner changed his mind and never publicly auctioned the Patek Philippe 2499. Instead, he found a private buyer and struck a deal in 2014 for 600,000 euros – or about $800,000. When the watch was subsequently submitted for another auction at Christie's Geneva office, a representative reached out to Ono's lawyer for confirmation. Only then did she learn the Patek was gone.

Legal action followed and the case has been winding through the Swiss judicial system. An appeals court has already affirmed a lower court's declaration that Ono is the "sole legitimate owner of the watch," but a new appeal took the case to the Swiss Supreme Court.

Swiss Supreme Court Will Decide the Rightful Owner

The Italian citizen who had the watch likewise maintains that it was not stolen. As the Patek languished in Christie's Geneva vault, he decided to file his own legal action in 2018.

Meanwhile, the person who'd originally tried to auction the Patek Philippe 2499 was found guilty in Germany of knowingly dealing in stolen goods. He was given a one-year suspended sentence, but only after admitting that the chauffeur's story about being gifted the watch "did not correspond to reality."

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That case has provided the legal foundation for previous lower-court rulings in Switzerland. A final ruling is expected later in the year.

"It's important that we get it back because of all we've gone through over it,” Sean Lennon told The New Yorker. Ironically enough, he's "not a watch guy." Lennon also admits to being "terrified to wear anything of my dad's. I never even played one of his guitars."

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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