New US President = new watch craze. Ever since the Truman era presidential wrist watches have been a point of international fascination as millions look unto the leader of the ‘free world’ for style inspiration. DDW takes a look at the watches that commanded the White House from the 1950’s to today:
Harry S. Truman
“Give ‘Em Hell Harry” was no wallflower – he knew how to command a presence and make his voice heard. From forming the Marshall Plan to the UN, Nato, NSA through to ending WW2 with the Hiroshima bombings – Truman was a man with conviction and gravitas. He was revered internationally as an eloquent speaker and statesman. Perhaps as a consequence of this, he was also looked upon as the exemplar idealised man; astute, savvy, well read, well dressed, and decisive. It is no surprise that his choice of watch (although he had many, his favourite was Vulcain Cricket – given to him by the White House Press Photographer’s Association in 1953) garnered unprecedented attention and kicked off an obsession with Presidential watches.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ike was a Rolex man. In fact, whilst serving as the NATO Commander in Chief of Europe, Rolex gifted General Eisenhower with the 150,000th officially certified Rolex watch; a gold Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet. On the back, Rolex engraved 5 stars (for his position as General) and his initials; DDE alongside the date: 12/19/1950. Later on when Eisenhower was featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine, he wore the watch – causing a stir and a newfound association between the Datejust and the Presidency (the model is often referred to as “The President”).
As well as the Rolex Datejust, Eisenhower owned a Heuer in steel and a Vulcain Cricket (just like Truman).
John F. Kennedy
Famous for his effortless upperclass New England style, JFK was a true watch collector. Among his favourite pieces were his Cartier Tank given to him by his wife Jackie Kennedy for their fourth anniversary, his super-rare Patek Philippe desk clock and his square faced Omega given to him by Florida senator Grant Stockdale, when he was running for President.
However, perhaps his most famous watch was his 18kt yellow gold Rolex Day-Date given to him by Marilyn Monroe, with whom he had a torrid affair; it was engraved with the note “Jack – with love as always from Marylin. May 29th, 1962”.
Lyndon B. Johnson
After JFK’s death came Vice President Johnson’s turn at the helm of the White House, and with him – a return to the now traditional gold Rolex Day-Date “President”. Although he mainly wore the Rolex, he also owned a Vulcain Cricket like his predecessors and a Patek Philippe with the Golden Rule “Do Unto Others As They Would Do Unto You” printed on the dial, as well as a Hamilton Pacer.
Tricky Dicky loved his traditional Vulcain Cricket gifted to him by the National Watch Makers Association, so much so that when Omega offered Nixon one of the 1,014 gold Speedmasters created in honour of the Apollo 11 moon landing – he turned it down.
The 40th President of the United States was a straight shooting cowboy and he liked his watches reliable and classic. Reagan opted for a steel Rolex Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet – a staple of Commanders in Chief.
Media-savvy Bill Clinton knew that he was due to usher in a new era for America – one with business and technology at the forefront of reinvention. With his a Southern drawl and easy-going charisma he charmed voters and constituents into two successful terms in office and brought along with him a new perspective on the Presidential watch. Opting for casual “everyman” watches like the Timex Ironman (a $50 dollar watch) as opposed to a fancy Swiss timepiece, he reinforced this image. Later in his career however, he indulged in his love of watches – acquiring a Panerai, a Franck Muller, a Roger Dubuis, a Cartier, a Kobold and an A. Lange & Sohne.
George W. Bush
W. followed Clinton’s lead wearing a Timex quartz watch during his time in office. One key distinction however was that it was a chronometer with a bold American flag under the twelve o’clock hand position.
As a young Senator Obama sported a TAG Heuer Series 15000 which he then swapped for a Jorg Gray model JG 6500 when he became President (a reportedly a present from the Secret Service, complete with their logo imprinted in bold on the reverse). During his second term Obama was also seen wearing a Highgear Enduro, a New Balance sports watch, and a perhaps more surprisingly – a Fitbit Surge.
Donald J. Trump
Never to be accused of being understated, the Don has been seeing wearing expensive timepieces whilst in office, including a gold Rolex Day-Date, a Patek Philippe Ellipse and a Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968 in pink gold.
As we prepare for the transition between Presidents Donald J. Trump to Joe Biden in 2021, we look forward to what new chapter in US President watch history this will bring. So far, Biden is known as an Omega Speedmaster lover, having worn one during his tenure as VP under Obama. If worn as president, this would finally bring the long-awaited (un)official Presidential seal of approval to the Speedmaster that Nixon turned down.