Jan 25 , 2021
In Tupelo, Mississippi, shortly before dawn on January 8, 1935, in a two-room house built by her husband and her brother-in-law, Gladys Presley gives birth to twin sons. The first, Jessie Garon, is born stillborn. The second, Elvis Aaron, is born alive and healthy. Elvis would be their only child.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Elvis grows up within a close-knit, working class family, consisting of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all live near one another in Tupelo. There is little money, but Vernon and Gladys do their best to provide for their son, who is the center of their lives. They move from one house to another in Tupelo. Elvis attends the Assembly of God Church with his family, and the music and preaching register deeplywith Elvis Presley. Childhood influences include black blues-men in the neighborhood and country music radio programs enjoyed by his family.
In October 1945, ten-year-old Elvis stands on a chair at a microphone and sings "Old Shep" in a youth talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, held in Tupelo. The talent show is broadcast over WELO Radio. Winning fifth prize, Elvis receives $5.00 in fair ride tickets. This is one of the first public musical performances for Elvis Presley as a child.
So maybe it was because of this modest upbringing that once Elvis had made it, he lived a much more oppulent life - the girls, the cars, Graceland....and watches.
Here we will take a look at 5 watches worn by Elvis at various times throughout his career.
THE TIFFANY OMEGA
The first watch in question is an 18k white gold Omega with just three hands and applied stick markers, but with a bezel set with 44 brilliant cut diamonds to add some sparkle. Underneath the Omega logo at 12 o'clock, you'll find an additional printed signature from Tiffany & Co., which is where the RCA executives chose to purchase this watch for Elvis. Amplifying the American connection, the caliber 510 movement is properly stamped with the "OXG" import marks and the case was made in Long Island City, New York, by the Jonell Watch Case Company.
The biography “Elvis” by Dave Marsh includes images of Elvis himself wearing this watch
The back of the watch has a charming "18K GOLD" engraving between the top two lugs, and an additional commemorative engraving that reads: "To Elvis / 75 Million Records / RCA Victor / 12-25-60." While the ceremony at which he was presented with the watch took place in February 1961, Christmas 1960 was thought to be the date when his sales actually crossed the 75,000,000 mark.
Photo: Courtesy of Phillips
The story goes that despite it being a gift, Elvis traded the watch with a man he met in a casino for a similarly diamond-encrusted Hamilton after they had complimented each-others timepieces.
The nephew of this lucky fellow put the timepiece up for auction with Phillips in Geneva in 2018, and was the beneficiary of the $1,812,500 (all in) that the watch sold for at auction to Omega, no less than 18 times more than its estimate of $50-100,000.
THE OMEGA CONSTELLATION
While the Tiffany Omega is probably the most known Omega in the king’s collection it was not the only one. In the late 1950’s he wore a black face Omega Constellation that he later gifted to his longtime friend Charlie Hodge.Charlie Hodge, a successful musician himself, became a close friend of Presley during their time together when both were serving in the US Army, stationed together in Germany between 1958 and 1960. The two struck up a lasting chemistry, and their friendship would endure until the King’s death, with Hodge a faithful and loyal aide and counsel and member of the famous 'Memphis Mafia', even residing in Graceland for 16 years. Presley’s Omega Constellation regularly drew admiring comments from his friend, and eventually Hodge was made a gift of the watch as a token of their bond.When the watch was auctioned by Antiquorum in 2012 it came with a letter by Hodge stating its authenticity. Antiquorum put the estimate between $10.000 and $20.000. The watch finally sold for $52,500. Antiquorum actually sold it twice as it came up for auction again in December 2014 where the hammer fell for the considerably lower price of $37,500.
Elvis Presley’s Omega Constellation. Inset photos, left to right: the watch’s caseback; Private Elvis Presley wearing the watch; Charlie Hodge (on the left) with Elvis and an unidentified sailor
THE ROLEX KING MIDAS
It wasn't just Omega watches that caught the eye of Presley. Various sources indicate that Presley also owned a sizable number of Rolex watches, but it is hard to pinpoint which ones. Jake from Jake’s Rolex Watch Blog tells a very interesting story of the Rolex King Midas model back in 2008.
According to Jake, Elvis wore a limited edition Rolex King Midas (Model Reference Number 9630) which Rolex only made 1000 examples of, and of which Elvis was given number 343. The King Midas at the time was the most expensive Rolex money could buy. As a reference, in 1970 a Rolex Day-Date retailed for $1,825 and the King Midas retailed for $2,500.
This very, very rare limited edition Rolex King Midas was given to Elvis as a token of appreciation for playing 6 days of sold-out concerts in 1970 at the Houston Astrodome Livestock Show & Rodeo. The back is engraved and reads "To Elvis Presley From The Houston Livestock Show Officers 1970."
The Limited Edition Yellow Gold Rolex King Midas on top of Elvis & Priscilla Presley's wedding bible. Photo courtesy of Jake's Rolex Watch Blog.
The Rolex King Midas is pictured above with matching trademark custom Sunglasses. His custom 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Colt 45 is pictured on the left. Photo courtesy of Jake's Rolex Watch Blog.
THE HAMILTON VENTURA
The Hamilton Ventura was in 1957 the first electric watch – it could well be termed the grandfather of quartz watches thanks to its battery-powered energy source – and its futuristic shape made it cool to look at. Maybe it was the shapes of the day – shiny chrome fenders on cars, imaginings of what the future would look like - that endeared it to Presley so much. The watch is commonly known as 'The Elvis Watch'.
The triangular shape, which is still a characteristic of the watch today, was created by industrial designer Richard Arbib, a man who had designed products for the likes of General Motors, Century boats, and Eureka vacuum cleaners among others.
Elvis on the set of Blue Hawaii in 1961 wearing the Hamilton Ventura
He wore it in the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii, as a product placement by Hamilton. Presley loved the Ventura so much that he actually bought other variants later. He also often gifted them to his friends and bandmates. Hamilton managed to purchase one of the later models the king wore at an estate auction a while ago for their collection.
Elvis Presley’s Hamilton Ventura purchased in 1965, now part of the brand’s own museum collection (photo courtesy Hamilton International Ltd)
The Hamilton Ventura was re-issued in 1988. There are now many Ventura iterations, including the Elvis80 Auto, a timepiece celebrating what would have been Elvis’ 80th birthday on January 8, 2015.
THE CORUM BUCKINGHAM
Our final watch is maybe the less well known brand of our selection. The Corum Buckingham was something a bit more more lavish than the previously mentioned models. This 18K solid yellow gold watch, made around 1960 was another one of his favourites.
A photograph of Elvis Presley with Tom Jones in which Elvis can be seen wearing the watch. Picture credit: JAT Publishing/ Joseph Tunzi
He wore the watch regularly until he gifted it to one of his close friends and employees; Richard Davis. According to the story Elvis took the watch off one day and gave it to Davis. He told him something was wrong with the back. When Davis flipped timepiece, he found the following inscription on it: “To Richard from E.P.”
Picture credit: JAT Publishing/ Joseph Tunzi ; Antiqorum Auctions
The watch, with an accompanying letter by Davis and photographs of Presley wearing it was auctioned in 2016 by Antiquorum. The price estimate was between $10.000 and $20.000. The sale exceeded the estimate, selling at $22.500.
It was later put up for auction again by Sworders in November 2020, with an estimate of £40-50,000 ($55-68,000) but failed to sell.
So there we have it - a snapshot of the many watches worn throughout the career of Elvis Presley. I'm sure there were many more, and maybe we'll do another blog on the subject again one day. Let us know any suggestions you would like us to include.
Thank you very much...
Elvis has left the building.