Gordon Bethune is auctioning off an amazing collection of watches consisting mostly of Patek Philippe and Rolex with some Vacheron Constantin in the mix. There are many opportunities to own one of Bethune’s pieces as he collected everything to from the affordable to the dream. And we know how important provenance is in determining value through our discussion of the 4 Q’s. Of the 70 watches in his collection, Bethune has chosen to auction 50 of his best, with proceeds of the top 5 lots going to his favorite charities: The United We Care Employee Relief Fund; The United Scholarship Fund; and, The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
So who exactly is Gordon Bethune? He is in fact a very compelling guy, and someone you can learn a lot from, especially in terms of running businesses. He is credited with one of the biggest turnarounds in history. To get a window into Bethune’s collection, it provides perspective to get an overview of his illustrious career.
Bethune has been a go-getter from the very beginning. He tried to enlist in the Army to avoid school when he was 16 only to be turned down. When he was 17, Bethune convinced his mother to sign the papers enabling him to join the Navy. Only, after testing him, the Navy found he had an aptitude for fixing electronic and mechanical systems on jet planes and back to school Bethune went courtesy of the government. Though Bethune wasn’t thrilled with having to go back to school—the reason he entered the services in the first place, he did as told. He retired from the Navy as a full Lieutenant. So you know he quickly was a superstar there.
Next came the airlines, where Bethune rose up the ranks quickly, doing stints at Braniff as Vice President of Engineering and Maintenance and at Piedmont as Vice President of Operations. From there he went to Boeing as VP/General Manager of customer services, running one of their airplane factories that built 737 and 757 airlines.
Up to this point Bethune had a formidable record, but it was at Continental Airlines that Bethune did what might have been seen as the impossible. He turned that ailing and several times bankrupt company around through smart strategy and keeping his eye on the ball. Perhaps the most astute thing he did was institute an “all for one and one for all” mentality. If the airline didn’t succeed then no one got paid or a bonus. Everyone had skin in the game. If the airline succeeded then everyone benefited, from baggage handlers and people working in reservations all the way up to management. Bethune also instituted an open door policy; all could have access to him by walking in his office or through a phone call. He meant it when he said anyone and everyone could reach him. He never forgot what it meant to be at the bottom.
While Bethune was leading Continental as CEO, Continental achieved one of the most legendary success stories ever. The airline received more awards for customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates than any other airline. Fortune magazine also named it one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for six years running!
Bethune gives more insight into his love of watches and his collecting philosophy in our video below. Don’t miss it! We will bring more watches to your attention that we think are key offerings in another post.