Is this Beatle guitarist George Harrison’s watch? To make that assessment, know that John Lennon thought 15-year-old George Harrison was too young to join the Quarrymen. “After a month of Harrison’s persistence, during a second meeting, he performed the lead guitar part of the instrumental song Raunchy on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus,” wikipedia.org reveals, “and they enlisted him as their lead guitarist.” The year: 1958. Or was it? . . .
That is the question when considering whether or not this Elgin Lord Elgin Shockmaster belonged to Beatles lead guitarist/singer/songwriter George Harrison.
If Wikipedia is right – that Mr. Harrison’ decided to share Mr. Lennon’s and Mr. McCartney’s musical journey in 1958 – the Shockmaster’s caseback engraving tells us this timepiece is a fake. A gift to another George Harrison from “the boys” down at the factory?
In the watch’s favor, there is considerable debate about the date and circumstances of that fateful first meeting. beatlesbible.com:
George Harrison claimed the first time he saw the Quarrymen was at the Wilson Hall, opposite the bus depot in Garston, Liverpool. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the date was most likely 6 February 1958.
However, accounts vary. Author Barry Miles noted the date as being the group’s booking at the hall on 7 December 1957. Conversely, Quarrymen drummer Colin Hanton recalled being introduced to the young guitarist on 13 March at the Morgue Skiffle Cellar. Harrison’s mother Louise, meanwhile, claimed they met in a local chip shop.
FWIW, britannica.com also goes with 1957. So let’s say a teenage Harrison had joined forces with Lennon and McCartney by Christmas 1957. Or was at least thinking about it. Would Lennon and McCartney have pooled their limited financial resources to buy Harrison a gold-filled Elgin Lord Elgin to help seal their partnership or bribe him into becoming a band mate?
The working class Lennon and McCartney were nothing if not well-mannered. And an engraved watch would certainly be a way to bond Harrison to the nascent group. And Lennon loved watches. So the idea that this is George Harrison’s gold-filled Elgin Lord Elgin Shockmaster is well within reason.
If so, I’m sure Mr. McCartney would remember. I’m also sure that it’s unlikely that anyone would go to the bother of faking a “George Harrison” Elgin Lord Elgin Shockmaster and sell it on eBay alongside a brace of beat-up vintage Elgin’s for $125 (and free shipping).
That’s how a screen-cap-challenged artist by the name of Larius Hallar says he came to own [what he claims to be] George Harrison’s watch. (Sample of Mr. Hallar’s work above.) After speaking with the 41-year-old Californian about his discovery, he doesn’t sound like a forger to me. Not that I know how a forger sounds . . .
Mr. Hallar says he shopped the three eBay watches to replace an Elgin that crapped-out on him. He saw the engraving on one of the eBay images and pulled the trigger.
Since discovering the watch, he’s faced plenty of doubters. In defense of his purchase’s provenance, he submits the above photo of Mr. Harrison wearing an Elgin. The Elgin? That’s the claim.
Just so you know, the Elgin Lord Elgin Shockmaster is a pretty cool timepiece. Some of the 14k gold versions are particularly spiffy, what with their curved case, sine wave dial decoration and flared shoulders.
I can’t find a model on eBay or Etsy that matches the timepiece claimed to be George Harrison’s. I did discover that you’d be hard pressed to spend more than $600 on a pristine vintage Shockmaster. And that its ancestor – the Elgin Shockmaster pocket watch – is available for $185 (mechanical condition unknown).
Obviously, the real money’s in the Lord Elgin Shockwave’s alleged early association with George Harrison and “the Boys,” not the watch itself. How much dosh would the Elgin Lord Elgin Shockmaster be worth if it is an engraved gift from John and Paul? Hundreds of thousands? A million? Who knows.
Mr. Hallar said he emailed Mr. Harrison’s son offering to return the watch to the family – and received no reply. He now plans to sell it, perhaps at auction. Without a proper photograph or testimony from Mr. Harrison’s survivors (especially Mr. McCartney), Mr. Hallar’s Harrison Elgin will have trouble finding a big auction house willing to represent it.
Provenance, price and future aside, am I the only one creeped out by the idea of wearing any dead celebrity’s watch? I get owning a famous watch and not wearing it. Strapping on an expired famous person’s watch strikes me as karmically risky, in a Christine kinda way. But then Mr. Hallar is an artist. And just maybe, a very, very lucky one.