The widow of Sir Edmund Hillary is unlikely to be investigated for putting up one his treasured watches for auction overseas.

June, Lady Hillary, sent Sir Ed's collection of Rolex watches, including a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, to a Swiss auction house last weekend, incensing Sir Ed's children by his first marriage, Peter and Sarah Hillary, who took legal action to stop the sale.

On Friday the High Court in Auckland granted them an injunction requiring Lady June to withdraw the watches from sale.

The Oyster Perpetual watch, presented to Sir Ed after his successful assent of Mt Everest in 1953, had protected status under the Protected Objects Act.

This meant that it could not be taken out of the country without authority from the ministry.

Ministry for Culture and Heritage chief executive Lewis Holden said today its focus was on getting the watch back because of its heritage and historic importance to New Zealand.

"We haven't given any consideration at this stage to any prosecution...

"Our focus is simply on requesting that Lady June do her best to get the watch back to New Zealand."

The ministry became aware of the family row over the watches last week and took legal advice before declaring the watch to be a protected object.

It was understood Lady Hillary was not aware that the watch could be protected and might need a certificate to be taken out of New Zealand.

The watch was presented to Sir Ed after he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to climb the world's highest mountain, the 8848-metre Mt Everest, in 1953. It was expected to fetch up to $25,000 at the auction.

Lady Hillary's decision to sell her late husband's collection of watches and give other away items from his estate without consulting Sir Ed's children infuriated them.

Peter Hillary said last week that under his father's will he and Sarah owned the watches and other items that Lady Hillary had given away.

The items were of great significance to his family and to New Zealand and it "very sad" he and his sister had been forced to take court action to stop his stepmother from going ahead with the sale.

"There have been a number of very significant items from the Ed Hillary collection that do belong to Sarah and I, that have been disposed of inappropriately."

- NZPA