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  • Condition Report

  • Description

    View our Conditions of Sale.

  • Manufacturer: Omega
    Year: 1968
    Reference No: 145.012-67 SP
    Movement No: 25’008’312; movement additionally stamped OXG
    Model Name: Speedmaster Professional
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 321, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Omega bracelet, endlinks stamped 516, max length 210mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Omega deployant clasp, reference 1039, no. 13, stamped 4.67
    Dimensions: 40mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and bracelet signed.
    Accessories: Accompanied by Omega Extract from the Archives confirming production of this watch March 15th, 1968 and subsequent delivery to the United States.

  • Catalogue Essay

    His story begins in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma right before the dawn of World War I, in 1913. His mother names him after Ralph Waldo Emerson, with the hopes that he will one day become a poet. In his formative years, he experienced the death of his father at the age of three, the disappearance of the vibrant Black neighborhood in Tulsa known as Greenwood, which he passed through on his way to a better life in Gary, Indiana. Greenwood was wiped out when he returned to Oklahoma a few months later, razed to nothing by the ravages of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1925.

    He endures the hardships of the Great Depression, a single mother raising him and his younger brother in Oklahoma. With the elemental guidance of his namesake always with him, he immerses himself in literature as diverse and varied as Mark Twain, Herman Melville, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Dostoyevsky, Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot (a later direct inspiration for the novel that would define him), and Richard Wright. Speaking later in life about his childhood love of literature, Ellison says, “And always, I was the hero. I identified with the hero. Literature is integrated. And I'm not just talking about color, race. I'm talking about the power of literature to make us recognize again and again the wholeness of the human experience.”

    In 1933, he hops on a train to Alabama, to the renowned Tuskegee Institute, admitted for lack of a trumpet player in their celebrated orchestra, where he studies for three years before departing to New York City in order to earn money to complete his studies. He never returns. Instead, he is immersed in the culture of Harlem in the 1930s, the dynamic and thriving unofficial capital of Black America at the time. He meets Langston Hughes, arguably the most successful Black author of the era, who inspires him to write his first short story (and coincidentally, introduces him to his wife). After a short stint in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, he sets to work on creating Invisible Man - his masterpiece. it would eventually become known as a genre-defying bildungsroman, a literary encapsulation of the American sociocultural experience so profound and perpetually relevant that even now, sixty years after its publication date, it is still widely read the world over.

    He begins work on Invisible Man in 1945 and it takes him seven years to complete what would be the only novel published during his lifetime. In a small country house in Vermont and in an apartment in the Diamond District in Manhattan, he works on a typewriter, encouraged, sometimes sternly, by his indefatigable wife Fanny. Upon publication, it becomes an instant success. The Canadian-American author and critic, and later friend of Ellison, Saul Bellows, wrote immediately after its release in 1952, “it is tragi-comic, poetic, the tone of the very strongest sort of creative intelligence.”

    Time and time again, we turn to Invisible Man to better understand our present and ourselves. Ellison encompasses not only the Black experience in America, but the American experience itself – the problem of invisibility is not the provenance of one race or culture. The dilution of reality that runs through Invisible Man only serves to make those important moments more visceral. The magnitude of his impact on American literature, culture, and even the arts, cannot be understated. For example, renowned contemporary artists such as Kerry James Marshall created important paintings inspired by Invisible Man, with the ideas of visibility and invisibility in society influencing his artwork. Ellison sought to transcend the narrow definition of what he was supposed to be writing and who he was supposed to be writing for.

    Reading Invisible Man with the added lens of a watch enthusiast, watches, clocks, and time are clear motifs appearing throughout the novel. Used as props during key narratives, they are detailed with such nuanced understanding that it’s clear that Ellison was familiar with and perhaps even intrigued by timekeeping and timekeepers. Later in the novel, after receiving Brother Tarp’s leg shackles from his prison sentence, the narrator muses on this unlikely yet deeply poignant gift:

    “I looked at the dark band of metal against my fist and dropped it upon the anonymous letter. I neither wanted it nor knew what to do with it; although there was no question of keeping it if for no other reason than that I felt that Brother Tarp’s gesture in offering it was of some deeply felt significance which I was compelled to respect. Something perhaps, like a man passing on to his son his own father’s watch, which the son accepted not because he wanted the old-fashioned timepiece for itself, but because of the overtones of unstated seriousness and solemnity of the paternal gesture which at once joined him with his ancestors, marked a high point of his present, and promised a concreteness to his nebulous and chaotic future. And now I remembered if I had returned home instead of coming north my father would have given me my grandfather’s old-fashioned Hamilton, with its long burr-headed winding stem.”

    Not only did Ellison understand the connotation of hereditary significance watches can have – keeping in mind Ellison’s own father died when he was quite young – and the emotional weight they can carry, he could speak of specific watches eloquently and descriptively.

    As a man apart from time, “aloof” like one of his idols Faulkner, he endured criticism for not conforming to what is expected of him. After the success of Invisible Man, he spends time lecturing both nationally and internationally, writing short stories and critical essays, and humbly accepting the gamut of literary distinctions. He is an avid musician, particularly jazz, and photographer – a Hasselbad to be exact – a dog enthusiast, a cigar aficionado. His home on the Upper West Side overlooking Riverside Park is filled with African idols, framed prints, thousands of books and clippings. He wears impeccably tailored suits and tuxedos, and a well-groomed moustache. On his wrist, beginning in the summer of 1968, an Omega Speedmaster reference 145.012-67 – the present lot.

    Though we were unable, through our research, to ascertain whether Ellison received this Speedmaster as a gift or purchased it himself, we do know that shortly after the watch was delivered to the United States in 1968, as the Omega Archive Extract confirms, Ellison was interviewed and photographed in Riverside Park wearing the watch. He would wear it for the remainder of his life, even when the top chronograph pusher had fallen off. The Speedmaster would be present on his wrist, often slipped under the cuff of a nattily tailored suit, paired with the curl of cigar smoke, for the next twenty-five years, until his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994.

    After the death of his wife in 2005 and the presumed disbursement of the rest of the Ellison estate, the watch would eventually be sold at a small auction house in Long Island City in 2016, where it was purchased, unexpectedly, by the current consignor who was merely looking for an all-original example of the reference, rather than a monumental and historical wristwatch. Only the introductory lot text, listing its provenance as from “The Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust,” and the missing pusher, which matched some blurry images of Ellison wearing the watch, gave any clue that this watch was indeed Ellison’s.

    Enlisting the help of renowned journalist Michael Clerizo, eventually the consignor located, deep in the Ralph Ellison Archives kept at the Library of Congress, copies of Ralph and Fanny Ellison’s insurance statements where the exact serial number of the watch had been consistently recorded. Armed with this indisputable provenance, Phillips is now humbled and honored to present the cherished Speedmaster of an icon of American literature.

    The watch is crisp, though the dial has experienced minor aging that is typical in these references. The consignor carefully serviced the watch, where only the movement was cleaned and adjusted, a period-correct chronograph pusher installed, and the gasket and crystal replaced to ensure water resistance. The original crystal, in fact, accompanies the watch. Otherwise, it is in its original state of preservation as purchased from the auction house, almost exactly as it had been worn by Ellison for the twenty-five years it was in his possession.

  • Artist Biography

    Omega

    Swiss • 1848

    Omega's rich history begins with its founder, Louis Brandt, who established the firm in 1848 in La Chaux de Fonds. In 1903, the company changed its name to Omega, becoming the only watch brand in history to have been named after one its own movements. A full-fledged manufacturer of highly accurate, affordable and reliable watches, its sterling reputation enabled them to be chosen as the first watch company to time the Olympic Games beginning in 1932. Its continued focus on precision and reliability ultimately led their Speedmaster chronograph wristwatch to be chosen by NASA in 1965 — the first watch worn on the moon.

    Key models sought-after by collectors include their first, oversized water-resistant chronograph — the reference 2077, early Speedmaster models such as the CK 2915 and 2998, military-issued versions of the Seamaster and oversized chronometer models such as those fitted with their prestigious caliber 30T2Rg.

    View More Works

138

Ref. 145.012-67 SP
A culturally and historically important stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with tachymeter bezel and bracelet, formerly owned by Ralph W. Ellison

1968
40mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and bracelet signed.

Estimate
$10,000 - 20,000 
CHF9,300-18,500
€8,900-17,700
HK$78,000-156,000

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros

Head of Watches, Americas

+1 (212) 940-1293

[email protected]

 

The 2021 New York Watch Auction

New York Auction 11 - 12 December 2021