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How Elvis Measured His Success: With Watches


Of all of the swagger and magnificence that outlined Elvis Presley — the gyrating hips, the garments, the vehicles, the smirk of all smirks, that hair! — his assortment of watches in all probability didn’t elicit giddy screaming throughout teen-dom within the late Nineteen Fifties.

But “Elvis,” a brand new biopic of the singer’s life, celebrates all of it. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (with, one assumes, the identical panache that every one however turned the music and the dancing into characters in movies like “Moulin Rouge!” and “Strictly Ballroom”), the film is claimed to be a homage to a humble man whose love of gathering and buying and selling watches was usually neglected throughout his all-too-brief 42 years.

“Watches have been an emblem of his success and an enormous a part of his story, and he gathered extra useful watches as his profession developed,” stated Catherine Martin, the four-time-Oscar-winning costume and manufacturing designer for the movie, in a telephone interview from her dwelling in her native Australia. “They have been a standing image, and but Elvis traded and gave watches away. He would swap watches with strangers whose watches he admired. It was loopy.”

Ms. Martin, who is also a producer on the movie and is married to Mr. Luhrmann, stated she noticed Presley’s love of watches as important to telling his story: The approach he wore and picked up and traded watches displays the picture he created for himself as “the King,” however blended along with his folksy roots.

“Elvis was a fully iconoclastic dresser, and he was at all times accessorizing watches,” Ms. Martin stated. “He reinvented himself always all through his profession. We don’t consider him as surprising now, however within the ’50s it was like he was a member of the Sex Pistols.”

That radical transformation of Presley, played by Austin Butler within the movie, supplies a lot of the story line for “Elvis,” together with his tumultuous relationship along with his manager, Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who found the singer in 1955.

Watches are an ever-present, if not apparent, ingredient in most of the movie’s scenes, Ms. Martin stated, notably as a result of Presley at all times put a substantial amount of thought into how he wore and accessorized timepieces.

“Even within the 1968 TV particular, in his black leather-based outfit, he had a custom leather wristband made for a Bulova Accutron Astronaut,” she stated, referring to Presley’s well-known televised comeback live performance. “Numerous the watches he wore have been about technological fashion advances. He was at all times all for what the most recent watches have been.”

The watch that began all of it was one he owned simply as he was hitting it large: the triangular Hamilton Ventura, created by the American industrial designer Robert Arbib and referred to as the world’s first battery-powered watch. It turned a signature for Presley — displaying up in a gold model in his 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii” — and for the watch firm, which reintroduced the “Elvis watch” in 2015 to mark what would have been his eightieth birthday. (It additionally was seen in all four “Men in Black” movies.)

“It simply occurred that we didn’t find yourself with the ‘Elvis watch’ as a result of it’s such an iconic watch and so well-known that we didn’t need it to be a principal a part of the story,” Ms. Martin stated. “There is a lot extra to inform over 40 years. I don’t wish to deny that this watch was tremendous essential within the Elvis story, however watches have been on the whole.”

One instance could be the Omega Constellation he wore whereas stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960. Made of pink gold with a black “sniper” dial, it was one of many originals within the Constellation line. Presley later gave it to Charlie Hodge, a good friend and fellow musician.

Antiquorum auctioned the timepiece in June 2012, anticipating it to fetch $10,000 to $20,000; it offered for $52,500.

And there was a second Omega Constellation, given to Presley in 1961 by his report firm, RCA. The 33-millimeter white gold watch has a silver dial, with 44 spherical diamonds accenting the bezel, and a case again that’s engraved, “To Elvis, 75 Million Records, RCA Victor, 12-25-60.” Lettering beneath the Omega emblem exhibits that RCA bought the watch from Tiffany & Company.

Legend has it that Presley swapped it for a fan’s watch, and the fan’s nephew put the watch up for public sale with Phillips in 2018. It offered for 1.8 million Swiss francs (about $1.87 million at the moment), making it on the time the most costly Omega ever offered. The highest bidder: Omega itself, which added the watch to its museum assortment in Bienne, Switzerland.

One watch that was outstanding late in Elvis’s profession was the Rolex King Midas, which has an asymmetrical case with a large built-in bracelet and was designed by Gerald Genta, the identify behind such legendary watches because the Royal Oak and the Nautilus. Concert promoters gave the Midas to Presley in 1970 for performing six days of sold-out concert events, and it’s now on everlasting show at Graceland, Presley’s dwelling in Memphis, the place he died in 1977.

“The King Midas is a really uncommon form, and Baz occurs to personal one, so Austin Butler wore that within the film,” Ms. Martin stated. “Some watches have been borrowed or bought on-line. Some have been so useful that it was unimaginable to have them on set, so we had duplicates made.”

The topic of the movie, which premiered on the Cannes Film Festival final month, actually falls into the larger-than-life class that Mr. Luhrmann and Ms. Martin appear drawn to in filmmaking (like their 2013 model of “The Great Gatsby”).

“The character arc of Elvis is fascinating, as is the truth that he was a rare stylist who created his personal look,” Ms. Martin stated. “He turned tremendous well-known tremendous quick, and watches have been essential to him to point out that he had made it.”

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