Graceland Auctions Two Watches Bought By Elvis Presley
Graceland was the celebrated home of Elvis Presley for more than 20 years. Today, it is a museum of the game-changing rock-and-roll singer’s life. But that doesn’t mean it is a static entity; Graceland is a vibrant memorial to the King of Rock and Roll – and it even periodically stages auctions of memorabilia.
In honor of what would have been the King’s 81st birthday on January 8, Graceland is putting on an auction of some significant artifacts with 126 lots going under the hammer.
Included in this auction are two interesting watches once purchased by Elvis Presley.
Even without having gone through the hands of the King, this lot would be a worthwhile purchase as a genuine interesting artifact from the history of horology: the Omega Time Computer was one of the first digital watches ever produced in Switzerland, and it also has the distinction of being the first Swiss watch with an LED display.
The Omega Time Computer displays the hours and minutes as well as the seconds in ruby-red digital numerals upon pressing the button on the side of the case. A magnetic key for setting and adjusting the time is hidden within the clasp of the metal bracelet. To set or adjust the time, the key is placed on two contact points on the case back.
Quartz Caliber 1600, accurate to within five seconds per month at the time of its manufacture, powers the watch, which is TV-shaped from the front but round from the back.
The stainless steel case and bracelet is gold-filled (heavily plated) with 80 microns of 14-karat gold.
Elvis Presley often purchased watches as gifts, and this particular item comes from a cache of 30 that he purchased from “his” Memphis jeweler Lowell Hayes on August 30, 1974.
In late 2015, as I was researching my story on Elvis Presley’s watches for the annual Hollywood Reporter watch supplement, I spoke with Jerry Schilling, one of Presley’s closest confidantes (a member of the so-called Memphis Mafia) and the author of Me and a Guy Named Elvis.
“He was the first guy I knew who had a digital wristwatch . . . a leading-edge one,” Schilling told me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “He definitely wore it, but I don’t think it was one of his favorites. I think it was a trendy thing that caught his eye as something new. He always liked new, leading-edge types of things.”
This particular example was one that had been gifted to another member of the Memphis Mafia: Charlie Hodge became part of Presley’s close-knit entourage in 1970 and also worked as a roadie of sorts, a producer for his television shows, and as an all around gopher (like all of the Memphis Mafia). He also provided backup vocals and guitar work on records and at performances.
Hodge lived at Graceland for 16 years until 1977, when the singer passed away.
This Omega Time Computer, which is in working order, exhibits a special engraving on the stainless steel case back: “To: Charlie From: E.P.” Its high estimate is $6,000.
This lot once again underscores how generous Presley was with people he enjoyed and how often he gave the gift of time. This time it was a cache of five 14-karat gold manual winding Baume & Mercier wristwatches, one for each member of the gospel music group, the Imperials: Terry Blackwood, Roger Wiles, Jim Murray, Joe Moscheo, and Armond Morales.
On the final evening of the performances starring Presley and the Imperials at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, the King presented each member a personally engraved timepiece. This example comes from Armond Morales, one of the founding members and the only original member to still be in the group to this day.
The inscription on the back of the gold watch reads “To Arman from Squirrly E.P.”
Note that Morales’ first name is misspelled as is “Squirrely,” a nickname that originated in the rehearsals for the thirty-day residence during which Presley apparently goofed around a lot.
The watch was likely worn very little and shows only minor signs of wear. It is estimated to hammer at $15,000 on the high end. I am particularly enamored of its 14-karat gold Milanaise bracelet, a true mark of taste.
Bids can already be entered via the Invaluable auction site.
UPDATE from January 8, 2016: The price realized for the Omega Time computer was $3,750, while the Baume & Mercier did not meet the reserve.