Watches - Feature Article

The watches of a Leader- can you really tell a lot about a man from his watch?

It is often said that you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes, but one can argue the same can be said about the timepiece he chooses to wear. You see, its not just an item to tell the time by, it is much more than that. It is a portal to our inner feelings and those we want to project at that particular time; why do people wear more luxurious watches at the weekend or less so when they are travelling to less desirable areas? The watch is a reflection of power and how the wearer chooses to be seen, exactly the same as wearing designer clothing or driving the most expensive cars. So how does this relate to presidents you may ask? Well presidents or leaders of countries have to be seen in a particular way to accumulate votes and the confidence of the people, or some don’t as the following piece will explain. What better time to talk about world leaders than now?

Lets start with a watch rather than a person, the Rolex Day-Date. Introduced in 1956 the Day-date has carried the moniker ‘President Watch’ since Lyndon B Johnson was the first president to wear it in his time in office in the 1960’s and has proved a popular choice with leaders of the world ever since. Rolex themselves even used the links to the White House in their advertising campaigns of the 60’s. This watch hasn’t finished it’s significance here it has more to offer, scandal even. This was the watch given to JFK by Marilyn Monroe on that famous evening in 1962, on the very same evening she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ she also gifted an 18ct gold Rolex Day Date with the inscription ‘Jack, with love as always from Marilyn’. Hastily given to a presidential Aide this watch was hidden away, until it resurfaced at auction, complete with a love letter in 2005. If you are looking to invest in a timepiece fit for the presidents, look no further than the Day Date. We have a modern offering from 2018 under the reference W007759 or something more vintage under the reference W007627 from 1987.

Donald J Trump, whatever you may think of him, he is certainly not one to shy away. His watch collection enforces this point. Gold is a prominent theme in the collection of Trump, perhaps showing his desire for money, power and the need to be recognised. He has a yellow gold Rolex Day Date, a yellow gold Patek Philippe Ellipse and a Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968 in pink gold. What impression does this send, as the leader of a country with its fair share of poverty and disparity of wealth? It sends an impression of success and accomplishment, maybe to enforce his thoughts of being the worlds’ best businessmen and leaders and encouraging others to see the same thing. We mustn’t forget that Trump also produced a line of watches under his own name. The Donald J Trump signature collection was a line of twenty or so watches, introduced in 2005 and discontinued in 2006 it wasn’t his best business venture.

Possibly the polar opposite of Trump, both in terms of political standing and more importantly watches is the president elect Joe Biden. Quite possibly it was the time he spent as Barack Obamas Vice President that influenced Bidens watch collection; the former POTUS was often seen wearing a Jorg Gray chronograph valued at a few hundred dollars that was given to him by the Secret Service. Joe Biden’s watches of choice are a variation of Omega models, he is known to have at least two Seamaster Diver 300 models and a Speedmaster. The Speedmaster, interestingly enough, is the Hesalite model that is the most accurate modern reproduction of the model worn on one of Americas proudest days; July 20th 1969, the day of the Moon landing. Now the fact that these watches are in steel presents a differing view to that of Trump, a more man of the people, approachable personality maybe? Steel watches are much more readily available, and Omega is always stocked, even with their most popular pieces, creating no illusions of grandeur. If the space race and being more understated is your thing, on our website we have an Omega Speedmaster from 1995 under the reference CH-V25359.

Its not just the American presidents that have a particular liking for timepieces, our very own Winston Churchill used to carry an extremely intricate pocket watch nicknamed ‘The Turnip’. This Breguet pocket watch features a minute repeater and a split seconds chronograph, encased in solid gold with a white enamel dial. Some may say this is equally as brash as trumps gold day date, and in some ways they would be right. It was a similar time of poverty and troubles when Churchill was Prime Minister, but the pocket watch, by design is to be used and rarely seen. Of course there were the tell tale sign of the pocket watch chain, but no one could see what was attached and therefore the beautiful and somewhat valuable No.765 Breguet was as understated as a modern day Timex. If you like the idea of carrying a pocket watch, we have a beautiful example from world renowned watch house A Lange & Sohne from all the way back in 1912. This can be viewed under the reference COM2181.  

Now onto somewhere a little further afield. Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, who was a major figure in the Cuban Revolution. He was also a big Rolex fan. In fact, he was known for wearing two of their models simultaneously on the same wrist, now you may say this is no outlier in the watch world, look at Nicholas Hayek for example. The difference is Guevara apparently wore his two Rolex’s to ensure military precision in timing and in case one watch failed, another theory is that one was set to the time in Havana and one to the time in Moscow. Either way it is not as an advertising campaign. But what does this say about Guevara as a leader of men? He and his party had a general dislike for excess wealth, inequality and favoured more of a ‘we are all in this together’ ideology, yet he is wearing not one but two Rolex’s. Whilst it could be argued that the cost of these watches were different in the time, it is still an overt expression of wealth and stature. Interestingly the whereabouts of Guevara’s GMT is known; it was removed from his wrist by CIA operative Felix Rodriguez and is still in his possession today. We have a reference 1675 Rolex GMT master, the same reference as given to Che Guevara by Fidel Castro, for sale under the reference COM1640.

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