Sotheby’s stunning sale in London on Sept. 29 may be called Rock & Pop, but some of the most covetable items are actually jazz-related, as our exclusive preview reveals. The coolest collectible in the sale is without a doubt a c.1978 solid 18k gold Rolex Oysterquartz Day-Date Ref. 19018 owned by Jazz great Oscar Peterson. Estimated at a $12,400 – $18,700, it features an elegant black dial and comes with its original box and green leather pouch. Called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, Peterson, who died in 2007, released over 200 iconic recordings and won eight Grammy Awards.
Peterson was a well-known watch collector and a longstanding client of Chronometrie Beyer in Zurich, Switzerland, where he purchased the Oysterquartz, an important model in Rolex history. He sported the watch many times in concerts and there are many photographs of him wearing it. His wife Kelly Peterson notes that Peterson, who rotated pieces from his collection to be worn onstage admired the Rolex most of all “for its beauty and its functional reliability.”
Also on offer is another of Peterson’s elegant accessories, an 18k two-tone gold braided Dunhill Rollagas lighter, given to the pianist by Ella Fitzgerald, with whom he recorded Ella and Oscar in 1975, and engraved on the underside with the initials “OP”. The Rollagas was made famous by the likes of Elvis Presley, Noel Coward and Sean Connery who used on on-screen as James Bond. Peterson’s personal example is estimated at $15,600 – $23,400.
“During one of his many nightclub performances with his Trio of Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, Oscar was playing a lightning-fast solo when he noticed a woman at the front table take a cigarette from the package and search for a lighter,” Kelly Peterson recalls. “Without losing a beat and maintaining the solo (and speed) with his left hand, he reached into his right-hand pocket, removed his lighter, smiled, and lit the woman’s cigarette. In the background Ray Brown just shook his head… which made Oscar smile even more broadly as he proceeded to finish the tune.”
Another super-cool lot in the Sotheby’s sale is a collection of every record album to feature artwork by Andy Warhol – 58 LPs in all – dating from 1949-1990 in their original sleeves. The two most important and iconic of them, The Velvet Underground and Nico from 1967 and Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones from 1971, are signed by the artist. Estimated at $46,800 – $78,000, Warhol’s designs encompass a wide range of musical genres, from classical to jazz to spoken word recordings alongside release from the likes of Debbie Harry, Diana Ross and John Lennon.