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It’s a commonly-repeated trope: Muhammad Ali wore a Cartier Tank. And if the Heavyweight Champion of the World can wear a dainty dress watch, so can you.
But apparently, Ali also owned at least one other smaller, dressy watch: this vintage time-only Omega. It’s a simple, stainless steel Omega with a subsidiary seconds and silver dial.
This watch came up for auction at GWS Auctions in November of last year, an auctioneer that specializes in celebrity, royal, and other generally famous-people assets. Honestly, had I seen it then, I would’ve personally bid it up way higher than the $5,000 it sold for.
The watch is engraved Ali 10/30/1974 on the caseback. This is the date that Ali knocked out George Foreman in the iconic Rumble in the Jungle to become the World Champion for the second time.
According to GWS Auctions, the watch came from the estate of Louis "Booty" Beltrami. Booty Beltrami was a big sports fan and a longtime friend of Ali’s. Presumably, Beltrami gifted his friend Ali the Omega after he became World Champion for the second time. Here’s one anecdote on the pair’s friendship from Beltrami’s obituary (he died in 2016):
"His favorite quote was one that Muhammad Ali wrote for him on a picture," son Michael [Beltrami’s son] said. ‘Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth.' My Dad lived by that. That treasured photo was signed by Ali ‘To My Main Man,’ and dated Sept. 21, 1977.”
The watch came with a handwritten letter of provenance from Al Beltrami, Booty Beltrami’s nephew, who inherited the watch when his uncle died.
A watch with this kind of provenance — tied to one of the greatest figures (beyond just sports) of the 20th Century — is an important historical artifact, not just horological artifact.
With that, a huge congrats to whoever acquired Muhammad Ali’s Omega.
h/t to Charlie for the tip-off.
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