Elvis Presley's Diamond-Encrusted Omega Watch To Be Auctioned Off

May 11, 2018
Originally published on May 12, 2018 12:40 pm

More than 40 years after his death, the King's legacy ticks on.

On Saturday, Phillips will sell an Omega watch once owned by Elvis Presley at an auction in Geneva, Switzerland. The watch was presented to Elvis by RCA Records executives in commemoration of his 75 millionth record sale. It features an 18K white gold case encrusted with 44 diamonds in its bezel. Originally retailed by Tiffany & Co. — whose signature appears below Omega's on the watch's face — it carries a custom inscription commissioned by RCA.

The inscription reads:

"To Elvis

75 Million Records

RCA Victor

12-25-60"

NPR spoke with Alex Ghotbi, head of sales for Phillips Watches in Geneva, about the story behind the watch and how it found its way to an auction more than 50 years after being presented to Elvis.

Ghotbi says Elvis liked his watch — he was photographed several times wearing it — but not enough to keep it forever.

Elvis was wearing the watch one day at a table in a Las Vegas casino when another man sat next to him. The man complimented Elvis's diamond-studded wrist piece and Elvis returned the compliment, remarking on the man's watch, a Hamilton with diamonds of its own.

And then, according to Ghotbi, "Elvis suggests that they trade watches, which they did."

Now, decades after that momentous trade, it will find a new owner at auction. Phillips estimates the watch will fetch between $52,900 and $106,000 on Saturday.

NPR's Ian Wren produced this story for digital.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELVIS PRESLEY SONG, "DONCHA' THINK IT'S TIME")

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

What do you get a person who has sold 75 million records for you?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DONCHA' THINK IT'S TIME")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Love me, honey. Tell me your mine. Don't you think it's time?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you're RCA Records in 1961 and the person is Elvis Presley, you get him a watch and not just any ordinary watch but an Omega watch decorated with 44 cut diamonds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEX GHOTBI: And on the back, there's an engraving that says, to Elvis, 75 million records, RCA Victor, December 25, 1960.

CORNISH: That's Alex Ghotbi reading the date Elvis Presley hit that 75 million sales mark.

KELLY: Ghotbi is head of sales for Phillips Watches in Geneva, which is auctioning off Elvis' watch tomorrow. Now, how the watch got into their hands is quite a story. Ghotbi says the king was fond of his watch, but, you know, sentiment only goes so far.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GHOTBI: One day, Elvis was in Las Vegas in a casino, and some chap comes up to him and sits next to him at the table. Elvis looks at his neighbor's wrist and compliments on his watch. The man in question also compliments Elvis on this watch which he's wearing, which is this Omega retailed by Tiffany and Co. And Elvis suggests that they trade watches, which they did.

CORNISH: Ghotbi says Presley got a Hamilton watch in exchange. Now, the heirs of the man who got the Omega are the ones selling it off at auction.

KELLY: The auction house estimates Elvis Presley's watch could fetch $50,000 to $100,000 tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD LUCK CHARM")

PRESLEY: (Singing) Come on and be my little good luck, you sweet delight. I want a good luck charm hanging on my arm to have - to have - to hold - to hold tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.