Man’s reunion with $10K watch he lost on Aspen Mountain is glimpse of the lost-and-found life
While the main function of a watch is to keep time, for Barry Gustin, his watches are a symbol of the time he’s spent with his wife of 38 years.
So when the doctor from Berkeley, California, lost one of his prize possessions somewhere on the 675 acres of Aspen Mountain during the holiday break, he quickly wrote it off as a good 27-year run with the watch he got for his 40th birthday.
On a ski-bum trip during the holidays that included a stop in Aspen, Gustin went to check the time while on a lift and realized his Italian-made Bulgari watch, which can go for either side of $10,000, was gone. He spent the rest of the day backtracking his runs, but to no avail. Depressed and despondent, Gustin said he gave up.
When called his wife to let her know of the unfortunate events, the couple on their first ski trip to Colorado got a taste of one of Aspen’s long known characteristics. When he called Carolina, she was shopping at Souchi on Mill Street and was let in on an Aspen mantra.
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“Suzi the owner said to me, ‘Don’t worry. Everything in Aspen shows back up. Tell him to have faith,’” Carolina recounted recently while the couple was driving back home.
The two have traded watches for years in lieu of wearing wedding rings, Barry said, and that made it especially hard for him. And, this timepiece was a part of a milestone birthday more than 25 years ago.
The next day Gustin was back out at Ajax and had all but given up on finding the equivalent of a needle in the haystack. But when he got to the top, he made a quick run through the ski patrol hut on the off-chance someone turned it in. Nope. However, the patroller made a call down to the ticket office at gondola plaza. Yep, we got it.
“I’m a good skier, and I top-to-bottomed it,” Gustin said of the 3,267-foot vertical drop from the hut to the base. “They said some guy walked in and smiled and said, ‘I saw something shiny and found this on the slopes. I hope the fella finds his watch.’ And he left without giving his name or number.”
Even though the watch quit working after its time in the snow, the couple went out to celebrate its triumphant return. But it doesn’t end there on their introduction to the ways of Aspen.
Bulgari watches, made for nearly 140 years in Rome, are very delicate and need a trained watchsmith.
He stopped by The Aspen Goldsmith shop on Cooper Avenue mall and met owner Frank Heger, who has a pretty solid history with the timepieces. Heger has been running the mom-and-pop shop for 25 years in Aspen. But before that …
“He said ‘we don’t have a Bulgari operation here, but guess what? About 30 years ago I used to work for Bulgari and I know how to fix it and it will last forever,’” Gustin said. “Two hours after that I came back and the watch was perfectly repaired.”
Aspen Goldsmith shop manager Cynthia Jankowski said they hear stories like that often, and “people like to tell us the story of their watches. He was a lovely gentleman and we’re really glad we could help out.”
These kinds of reunion stories, while certainly not to the monetary extreme, are commonplace at the four Aspen-area mountains.
In December 2017, a man who was skiing at Ajax lost his money belt and $10,000 it contained under the Ajax Express lift and a ski instructor found it and turned it into the liftie, who gave it to ski patrol.
Marty Ames, who works in Aspen Skiing Co.’s guest services and along with two others helps reunite people with their lost items, said it can be a fun challenge to try to find the owners of phones, “swapped skis” (those taken accidentally because they look similar), hearing aids, wallets and other oddities that get away from skiers and snowboarders on the mountains.
“We are all a bunch of old ladies and get so excited when we have a big score like that,” she said. “It’s amazing what people lose.”
Ames spent more than 30 years working and leading senior services for Pitkin County and enjoys working with people. Now retired, this is her fourth season helping the lost get found. The biggest thing she said people need to remember is to ask if an item has been turned in.
“I get a real kick out of helping people,” she said. “We have so many people who hug us when they find their phones and other things. We’ve gotten flowers and European chocolates. … We really get such a kick out of their reactions.”
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