Putting fakes aside, however, how do we view the relationship that a watch that is no longer entirely “original” has with its own provenance? Essentially, if Theseus had a watch and we replaced some parts of it, is it still Theseus’s watch?
As always, these things are highly subjective. Biebuyck notes: “The identity of the watch is fundamentally tied to the case number, so you know that if part of a watch has been recased, you have a strong argument that it’s not the same watch, because that’s the part that touches your skin.
“Beyond that, within the movement, you have the plate and the bridges that make up the crux of the movement. If any of that is replaced, you've got a question around the identity of the watch. Finally, the dial – that’s the thing that you look at all day, every day. It’s of paramount importance that it remains. So, you really need those three things in place to support the fact that you’re still talking about the same watch.”
In some instances, these replaced parts can make up the entirety of a watch’s provenance, and is arguably part of its journey. Pereztroika believes that “restoring” the watch to its original state in this case would be inappropriate. “For instance, there is one [Rolex] Single Red Sea-Dweller that is no longer a Single Red example, and this watch belonged to Philippe Cousteau Sr., the son of Jacques Cousteau,” he says. “When Philippe participated in SEALAB 3 – although the project was cancelled as someone died when they were setting up the habitat – he was scheduled to be one of the aquanauts on the project, and because of that, he received one of these Single Red Sea-Dwellers. At some point, he probably gave the watch to Rolex to be serviced, and they replaced the dial with a slightly more modern Double Red dial, and this must have happened around 1971 or 1972, when they were making these dials.