Phillips Presents Elvis Presley’s Diamond-Set Omega Wristwatch
The superb vintage Omega timepiece, formerly in the collection the King of Rock & Roll, will be one of the highlights of the Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN, taking place on May 12-13 in Geneva, at the Hotel La Reserve.
So often in the careers of great men and women of history, there came a point in time where they were told their talents were not sufficient to realize their dreams. In the case of Elvis Presley, these words came early and often – in the halls of his high school, early auditions, and in the failure of his earliest acetate albums – as he was told very clearly that not only could he not sing, but also the music that captured his interest had no real value.
The end of 1953 saw a dramatic change in attitudes towards Presley’s viability as a singer and performer, and by the end of the decade he was a musical phenomenon who electrified millions of attendees at his live performances and sold an unprecedented number of records under the stewardship of RCA Records, the record company he signed with in late 1955.
From the mid-1950s until his untimely death in 1977, Elvis had an indisputable role in creating the modern American musical landscape and the development of a unique youth culture. Elvis’ importance to the inception of rock and roll, and contemporary music as a whole, cannot be overstated. His image has transcended the categories of the music he played and the movies he starred in to become a cornerstone of modern pop culture. Depicted in every material form imaginable, his estate at Graceland remains a pilgrimage site for fans of his music
The recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee opened by RCA Records in 1957 remains open today, located in the historic Music Row. Elvis recorded many of his overwhelming number of hit records throughout the late 1950s and 1960s at the very same location.
As described in the accompanying authenticity letter written by Jimmy Velvet, the Founder/CEO of the Elvis Presley Museum, Velvet gives a firsthand account of how, in February 1961, at a charity luncheon and concert arranged by the record company with the Governor of Tennessee present, RCA Records presented Presley with a plaque commemorating the 75 million records he had sold worldwide. Elvis was likely the first artist in history to reach this impressive milestone.
Accompanying this plaque, which remains at Graceland, RCA Records also gifted Elvis this prestigious, 18-karat white gold and diamond Omega wristwatch, purchased by them at Tiffany & Co – the famed American luxury retailer. The 25th of February 1961 was proclaimed ‘Elvis Presley Day’ and the singer was made an Honorary Colonel by the Governor. The concert itself was an immense success, raising $51,612 for various Memphis charities and the Elvis Presley Youth Center in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi.
The perfectly preserved case back inscription reads: "To Elvis 75 Million Records RCA Victor 12-25-60"
Elvis is the second all-time best-selling musician behind The Beatles, and the best-selling individual artist, having sold in excess of 500 million albums. 1960 was a particularly eventful year for Elvis’ popularity, and Christmas of that year marks a peak in visibility and success. Having steadily released content recorded in anticipation of Elvis’ hiatus between 1958 and 1960 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, RCA Records was eager for Elvis to return to the studio. In March and April of 1960, Elvis recorded Elvis is Back!, released on April 8th, 1960, and then in October of 1960, Elvis recorded His Hand In Mine, released on November 10th.
On December 25th, 1960, Elvis had two well-attended movies in theaters, Flaming Star and G.I. Blues, as well as both the number one single in the United States, "Are You Lonesome Tonight" and the United Kingdom, "It’s Now Or Never." Research suggests that December 25th marks the actual date Elvis reached 75 million records, and RCA arranged the laudatory charity luncheon and concert not only to award Elvis for such a significant achievement, but also to reestablish Elvis as a performer.
The incredible provenance of this historic timepiece is furthermore confirmed by photos of Presley wearing the watch at the charitable concert that followed the luncheon, as well as certificates of authenticity from the Elvis Presley Museum. According to a statement made by the owner of the present lot, and part and parcel with Elvis’ modus operandi with his personal watches, the watch was given to the current owner’s uncle after he had expressed his admiration. Spotting the diamond studded Hamilton the admirer was wearing, Elvis proposed a trade, and they quickly swapped watches.
Elvis was known to give away his watches if someone expressed desire or admiration. Other watches owned or purportedly owned by him have come to auction in the years since the King’s death, either along with other Presley memorabilia or from the estates of subsequent owners. None, however, mark as great a moment in his career. Scholars largely agree the years up to 1958 and Elvis’ induction into the US Army as the peak of Elvis’ career, where his eminence as a musician, actor and pop culture icon converged to reach mass popularity and influence. Reaching 75 million records in 1960, after two years in the US Army, robbed of the chance to record and perform, was an incredible feat. Musically, the charity concert itself marks the re-entry of Elvis into the realm of live performance, a place where he was largely seen as masterful and in command, where he truly belonged as an artist and performer.
The watch is cased in 18k white gold, housing a manually-wound Omega calibre 510 stamped with the ‘OXG’ import code for the United States, which aligns with the ‘Tiffany & Co.’ signature under the Omega signature and applied logo. The bezel is set with forty-four brilliant cut diamonds, accenting slim, elongated hour markers and an elegant silvered ivory dial. Omega confirms its movement was supplied to their American agent at the time, the Norman Morris Corporation, and manufactured in 1958. The case was made by American case manufacturer Jonell Watch Case Company, Inc., located in Long Island City, New York, which supplied cases for Omega’s American distributors until at least 1965.
We are proud and thrilled to present the current lot that once belonged to the man who simply said, in response to questions regarding his popularity, "All I do is sing and dance a little." It is, without a doubt, a superb vintage Omega timepiece with one of the most fascinating provenances to ever appear on the market.
Elvis Presley's diamond-set Omega wristwatch will be one of the highlights of the Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN, taking place on May 12-13 in Geneva, at the Hotel La Reserve.