Profiles in Time: Eric Clapton and his Watches

Eric Clapton emerged from humble beginnings to become one of the most valuable and influential guitarists in the world. He’s the only artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times—once as a solo artist and twice more as a member of the bands the Yardbirds and Cream. Over the course of his fifty plus year career, Clapton’s awards include an impressive 18 Grammys, the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and the British order of chivalry for his impact on the arts and music.

Eric Clapton and His Guitar

Clapton first fell in love with the guitar at age sixteen. However, it was also here that he uncovered another, less charming love—alcohol. His fondness for alcohol eventually led to his expulsion from school and turning to his music pursuits full-time.

Throughout the 1960s, he was in and out of several bands, including the Yardbirds and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. He never stuck with one group for more than a year or two. In 1966, he teamed up with a bassist and drummer to form the band Cream, which catapulted him into international stardom.

However, Clapton’s stint with Cream was short-lived as well. They broke up after only two years. In 1970, he formed Derek and the Dominos, but the band’s debut album was a commercial failure. Clapton had reached his limit, fell into a depression, and succumbed to his vices—this time, heroin.

The Solo Career

After battling addiction for years, Clapton returned to music and launched a successful solo career. But in the background, he was still struggling with alcohol addiction. It was not until 1987 that Clapton completed the twelve-step program with Alcoholics Anonymous—he’s been sober ever since.

With his sobriety, Clapton has finally been able to revel in his talent and success. In 1998, he founded the Crossroads Centre for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. To this day, he continues to record music and tour.

A Notable Watch Collector

In addition to being a musical legend,  Eric Clapton is also a legendary watch collector. His collection primarily consists of Patek Philippe and Rolex models, both modern and vintage.  Over the years, portions of his collection went to auction to benefit the Crossroads Centre.

Two of his most notable timepieces were his platinum Patek Philippe Chronograph Perpetual Calendar and his Rolex “Oyster Albino” Cosmograph Daytona. These particular models are both extremely rare. His Chronograph Perpetual Calendar was the only one in a private collection—the other is on display in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. His “Oyster Albino” Cosmograph Daytona 6263 is one of only four models to receive this categorization. He auctioned the Patek in 2012 and the Rolex in 2015—both watches broke records. The Patek sold for $3.6 million and the Rolex sold for $1.4 million.

Clapton’s skillful guitar work is pure artistry. It’s no surprise that such a virtuoso in one medium would have a deep admiration and respect for another, like the fine art of watchmaking. In addition to being a Rolex collector, Clapton has also been featured in Rolex ad campaigns. One of the most memorable features the slogan, “Styles change. Soul doesn’t.” —a motto that fully embodies the essence of Clapton’s breadth of work.

Check out other Profiles in Time, like Johnny Cash.

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