An Omega Speedmaster Owned by Ralph Ellison Is Coming Up for Auction

The reference 145.012-SP from 1968 was worn for nearly 25 years by the author of Invisible Man.

ralph ellison speedmaster lead

Cool dive watches, chronographs and complicated pieces are seemingly a dime a dozen at auction — indeed, nearly every product description from one auction house I can think uses the words "rare," "significant," or "important" seemingly without any sense of irony, utterly diluting this terminology to the point of near meaninglessness.

That being said, there are lots that are indeed "important" beyond their reference numbers, of which the following is one: a mid-1960s Omega Speedmaster owned by none other than Ralph Ellison, acclaimed author of Invisible Man. Though Invisible Man remained the sole novel published during his lifetime, this pivotal work concerning the Black experience in the United States made Ellison one of the most well regarded literary giants of post-War America.

ralph ellison
Ellison with cigar and Speedmaster.

It's unclear whether this Speedy was purchased by the author or gifted to him, but the watch is clearly visible on Ellison's wrist in numerous photographs from 1968 onwards, until his death in 1994 from pancreatic cancer. It was later sold at a small Long Island auction house in 2016 where it was purchased by the current consigner, who was seemingly unaware of its provenance. It was eventually confirmed via insurance statements that listed both the reference number and the serial number that this was indeed Ellison's Speedmaster.

Were this any "ordinary" ref. 145.012-SP on its matching bracelet, Speedy aficionados' ears would certainly prick up — this was the last Speedmaster to be powered by the famed caliber 321 hand-wound movement. However, this being the watch of such a prominent American writer in such "honest" condition — the dial retains its uneven aging and includes its bracelet, etc. — the stakes are much higher. (Purists will rejoice that although a period-correct replacement chronograph pusher has been sourced to replace a missing original and the watch's gasket and crystal replaced, the original crystal is included with the sale. Interestingly, Ellison continued to wear the watch with only one pusher after the original was lost.)

case back
Case back.
caliber 321
Cal. 321 movement

Phillips is giving the Ellison Speedy a $10,000-$20,000 estimate — however, we can confirm that Omega itself will be bidding on the watch in the hope of featuring it in their museum in Biel, Switzerland, almost guaranteeing quite a show on auction day (December 12th.)


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