Timebloid Watches of USA Presidents
On the wave of persistent emotions after the elections in the United States, we inspect what, apart from the political program, was on the wrists of the former and current presidents of the world’s leading country. We present a rich selection of presidential watches, from very modest timepieces that are only a time measuring device, to much more sophisticated watches, telling about the owner much, much more…
The perverse fortunes of presidential watches have written many chapters in the history of the United States. Let’s pick 1962, when John F. Kennedy received a gold Rolex Day-Date from Marilyn Monroe, with the intimate engraving – “Jack, with love as always, from Marilyn.” This gift was extremely inconvenient for Kennedy to show a closer relationship with the actress, so he immediately passed it over to his right hand, Kenneth O’Donnell with the note “get rid of him”. The watch fell into oblivion for many years, finally reaching $ 120,000 at an auction in 2005.
Undeniably, watches on the wrists of politicians are an extremely delicate subject. The ones perceived by the public as improperly expensive, can definitely end a promising career, or at least severely damage the owner’s image. Therefore, in technically all countries, except perhaps former members of the Soviet Union and nations closer to hard dictatorship than democracy, heads of state choose this garment very carefully, knowing the possible consequences of awkward choices. Due to the fact that in the USA we have a hot time of changing the tenant of the White House, we allowed ourselves to trace the history of the presidential wrists of this unique country in the world. Due to the fact that in the case of many illustrious names of American presidents, such as Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln, we only have museum notes regarding their pocket watches, we will start our list from much more modern and much better documented timepieces and owners.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Let’s start with the 32nd president of the United States – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a politician whose two out of four terms of office fell in the difficult times associated with the uncertain time in the world during the Second World War. The Roosevelt had several interesting timepieces, the most unusual of which is definitely the Movado with the Tiffany & Co signature with a triple calendar, worn at the Yalta conference, among other occasions. The watch, engraved with a personal dedication, was a gift to the president from his son-in-law, who had previously received it as a Christmas present in 1944.
The second noteworthy watch of the president was a richly decorated pocket timepiece with a minute-repetition and a skeletonized dial from the old, now defunct Geneva watch manufacturer – A. Frankfeld. The timepiece, with the beautifully engraved initials FDR, is also a gift to Roosevelt, this time from Cuba’s former minister of education, Dr. Boldana.
The next president on our list is Roosevelt’s successor – Harry Truman. Also in his “collection”, if we can use such an expression at all, we can find some very interesting examples that the most interesting presidents’ timepieces always come from more or less official gifts. The first model that caught our attention is the 18 carat gold Universal Tri-Compax. This chronograph also experienced important historical moments, as the engraved inscription on the reverse says – it was worn by Truman at the 1945 Potsdam conference that definitely ended World War II. The watch was also visible on his wrist during the signing of the US participation in the Korean conflict in 1950. Harry Truman also started a peculiar tradition with a different watch model when in 1953 photographers from the photo reporters association at the White House presented him with a Cricket model by Vulcain. Since then, many presidents have received and worn this model with a mechanical alarm, and the brand itself grew its marketing on the wave of ” the watches of presidents ” slogan. Truman probably also owned at least one watch from Vacheron Constantin. This is the Chronometer Royal, ref. 6108 as evidenced by the documentation in the manufactory’s books tells us, but there is no photo confirming such a timer on his wrist.
The president, whose relationship with watches can be described as very close, was undoubtedly Dwight Eisenhower. Before his “job” in the oval office, as a famous general in 1945, he purchased a steel Heuer chronograph, and a year later, thanks to this purchase, he was pictured in an advertisement of this brand for the Masson family watches and jewelry shop.
Another watch that Eisenhower liked was the aforementioned Vulcain Cricket. There is a funny story connected with it, when the mechanical alarm of this timer rang exactly during a press conference full of reporters, where the president announced higher tariffs for goods from Switzerland, including especially watches. In addition, due to such a close relationship with Vulcain’s creations, the president was on another advertisement for this manufacturer, clearly confirming the slogan “watches of presidents”.
Eisenhower is also the first president, seen very often with a gold Rolex. The Datejust model was given to him directly from the manufacturer for the release of the offically certified chronometer number 150,000. Also asked about the desire to personalize the donated model a bit more, the president requested an engraving with five stars symbolizing his general status, and his initials DDE.
John F. Kennedy
The aforementioned Kennedy introduced youthful freshness and charisma to the American presidency. Apart from the controversial Rolex from Marilyn, JFK’s most famous watch is the Omega dress piece, a gift from his friend Grant Stockdale. This timepiece, donated in 1960 before the presidential election, already had the bold engraving “President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, from his friend Grant”. The watch actually predicted the future correctly, so Kennedy wore it for his presidential inauguration in 1961. This piece of history is now in the collection of Omega itself, bought for 350,000 at a Guernsey’s house auction.
Another watch JFK received from an important woman in his life was a round Cartier that his wife Jackie gave him for their fourth wedding anniversary in 1957. In those days, Cartier outsourced pretty much all the dress watches that were not part of the Tank line from other manufacturers. There is a reasonable claim that this particular model was made by Vacheron Constantin. It was also the watch with which Kennedy ended his life too soon during the Dallas shooting attack. The timepiece was removed from his wrist in the hospital and given to his wife, who then gave it to JFK’s longtime secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. The subsequent history of the watch is not fully disclosed, it is only known that it is now in a private collection.
With the next hero of our ranking, we go deeply into the future, until the 90s, where Bill Clinton held his two terms. An exceptionally rich of personal traits president, whose real achievements in politics were almost entirely covered by the moral scandal with Monica Lewinsky. On watch ground, the president very skillfully balanced, wearing extremely modest Timex Ironman timepieces while in office, and developing his collection well after the end of his presidency.
We just had to wait for him to become “ex-president” and shortly after that on Clinton’s wrist you could see a very wide range of exclusive watches from brands such as Audemars Piguet, A. Lange Soehne, Panerai, Jaeger LeCoultre and of course Vulcain. Below, the extraordinary, platinum Grosse Langematik Gangreserve by Lange, made in only 100 copies for Wempe, celebrating the centenary of the Chronometerwerke Hamburg.
President Clinton is also a big fan of playing the saxophone, below with that instrument, wearing a no less banal timepiece. This time it’s the Jules Audemars Chronograph from Audemars Piguet in rose gold.
In our ranking, the time has undoubtedly come for a breakthrough politician. The first black president – Barack Obama, brought a charisma and freshness to this office, comparable only to the young Kennedy. The 44th resident of the White House is also one of four US presidents awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize, which Barack received just few months after taking the office. This fact clearly confirmed that his electoral message of ‘Hope’ meant not only new hope for America, but also for the world. Obama, as an absolutely outstanding speaker, has repeatedly attracted crowds during his speeches. Thus, there were thousands of photos from these gatherings based on which watch enthusiasts interested in his wrist could fully examine what the president is wearing at the moment. At the beginning of his presidency, the watch that most often appeared on Barrack’s wrist was a modest Tag Heuer diver – 1500 Series Two Tone, which Obama wore for practically the entire decade from 1997 to 2007.
In August 2007, on the occasion of his 46th birthday, Barack received a gift from Secret Service agents – a large black chronograph from Jorg Gray brand. The timepiece with the Japanese movement had the Secret Service logo on the dial and has since become the watch most worn by Obama.
Barack, as a very active president, a great fan and adept of basketball, was also seen very often with a quartz model – Highgear Enduro Compass, and as befits the President of the USA, he was given the Vulcain Cricket to fulfil the tradition.
In 2016, the president, who was not given any chances at the beginning of the election, moved into the oval cabinet. Donald Trump, an eccentric billionaire and real estate mogul, won voters hearts with the slogan “make America great again”. On the subject of watches, despite such a huge fortune, Trump has never been seen with spectacular timepieces. He invested more money in cars and, of course, in real estate. Surprisingly, in 2005 he launched his own line of watches under the name of the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection. They were very dubious quartz models, which Donald himself never wore in public. So let’s focus on the more sophisticated side of the timepieces seen on his wrist after taking office. Well, the most frequently seen exclusive watch at Donald’s wrist is Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra Fine 1968, a very elegant dress watch with a square case.
Another classic is the presidential gold Rolex Day-Date, whose bracelet has earned the venerable nickname “presidential” due to its popularity with heads of state.
Trump also has experience in buying and auctioning watches. In 1999, Antiquorum & Tourneau auction house ran “Famous Faces” auction with watches owned by famous faces from the world of film, sports and politics. One of them was former President Ronald Reagan and his modest Colibri watch. Trump won this bid for a final price of $ 7,000. Unfortunately, there is no photo documenting the later wearing of this piece. At the same auction, Donald’s watch was also auctioned. We are talking about the gold Universal Geneve Senna Chronograph, named after an outstanding Formula 1 driver. Finally, the watch was sold for $ 6,000.
The last hero of our post is, of course, the winner of the last elections in 2020 – Joe Biden. A veteran of American politics for over 30 years, he was known mainly as vice-president during two terms of Barack Obama, but he was strongly overshadowed by a very charismatic president. The media began to attract attention only when there were rumors about his potential run in the elections in 2020. Biden, as the absolute opposite of Trump in every field, also focuses on modesty and reliability when it comes to watches. The first timepiece, which very often appeared on his wrist during election rallies, was the diver – Omega Seamaster, a James Bond watch from 1995 when it was presented by Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007. A hero who in a classy way saves the world from bad people? Biden probably would not deny this analogy, especially during the election campaign.
Another Omega worn by Joe is the iconic Moonwatch – the Omega Speedmaster in steel and the timeless black dial. Here clearly displayed on the cover of the American InStyle magazine cover shoot.
As we mentioned, Joe is rather a laid back dude without a need for extravagant timepieces. Therefore another watches that were spotted on this wrist were quartz Seiko 7T32-6M90 with gilded bezel and Tissot T-Touch on a rubber strap
A specific sign of the times is the fact that Biden very often shows up with Apple Watch, even at very official and solemn meetings. So we could see Smartwach on his wrist during a very formal occasion of awarding him the highest civilian decoration in the USA – the Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by his longtime.