Philanthropist Cathleen Smith talks time, love and her awe-inducing watch collection.
Smith wearing an 18K yellow-gold Verdura watch.
Ask Cathleen Smith why she loves watches and she quickly answers it’s because “time is the most precious thing we have.” After losing her mother at a very young age, the nurse, philanthropist and former model has amassed a stunning collection of timepieces. Says Smith, “The first truly special watch I owned was made for the Shah of Iran’s sister. It’s a custom Omega bracelet watch with a 40-carat citrine, and diamond and gold links. I lost my first love, Tommy Lasorda Jr., in 1991 and went to nursing school in his honor. That watch was my graduation gift and a reminder of the time we shared.” Since then, Smith’s collection has grown to include pieces by Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels, as well as her summer go-to, a white enamel and diamond snake watch. Her favorite piece, however, is a bespoke Verdura acorn watch engraved with “You can have anything, but not everything.” The timepiece took two years to make and was the last watch Smith’s recent late husband, Buddy Bresciani, gave her. A combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, Infantry Lt. Bresciani moved to Atlanta so that he could live in a place where the military is respected—and he was the reason Smith moved to the city as well.
Her collection of Bulgari timepieces
Smith’s love for her husband is apparent when she speaks of him, and she doesn’t hesitate to attribute all her charity work to him. “He was a rare breed—the kindest and most generous individual,” she says. Bresciani is also the reason Smith’s watch collection has grown, as, during their marriage, the couple commemorated each year with a timepiece. These watches, along with Smith’s vintage jewelry, will eventually be auctioned off, with proceeds going to charity. Fittingly, one of the organizations to benefit will be Canine Companions for Independence, which provides free service dogs for people, including wounded veterans.
A grouping of Smith’s collection (including, from left, a custom acorn watch engraved with “You can have anything, but not everything,” a one-of-a-kind 18K yellow-gold hinged ebony cuff set with a vintage Verdura ray-style watch clip circa 1941, and a classic Verdura pineapple watch) sits next to a photo of her late husband, from whom she was gifted many of her most coveted watches.
The newest piece in Smith’s collection is a malachite watch from the 1970s with lion heads all over it. Though much of her collection comes from Vicki Kullijian of V. Rose Designs in Los Angeles, Smith’s local hunting ground is Scott Antiques Market (3650 & 3850 Jonesboro Road SE), where she sources pieces from the vintage dealers that exhibit there monthly. There’s no question that the watches in her collection are beautiful. However, for Smith, even more, they honor the memories of the time spent with her husband.
Photography by: Patrick Heagney