Having explored presidential cars last year, we started wondering about the watches worn by some of the most recognisable people in the world – and some of their choices might surprise you.
We begin with Barack Obama, who famously sported a relatively inexpensive Jorg Gray 6500, both before and during his presidency. The watch featured a stainless steel bezel, Italian leather strap and US Secret Service shield on the face. This was in reference to the fact that the watch was given to Obama by the agency as a birthday gift in 2007. He was pictured wearing it numerous times during his eight years as president.
He has also been seen wearing pieces from both TAG and Rolex pieces, but the $400 Jorg Gray appears to have been a firm favourite.
When John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president in 1960, he wore an Omega. Befitting the style that JFK brought to the White House, the model is a slim square and thin faced gold model with a leather strap and engraved “President of the United States John F. Kennedy from His Friend Grant” on the rear. The watch had been given to Kennedy by Grant Stockdale in early 1960 when he was a senator. The watch was acquired by Omega for $420,000 (USD) in 2005 and is now displayed in their museum in Switzerland.
He was also the recipient of a solid gold Rolex. It bore the engraving “To Jack. With love as always. From Marilyn.” Dated May 29 1962, Kennedy rather unsurprisingly never wore the watch and instructed close aide Kenneth O'Donnell to dispose of it. It sold for $120,000 in 2005.
From Kennedy's Omega, to Clinton's Timex
The 42nd President wore a model by arguably one of the most down-to-earth watch makers during his time in office, the Timex Ironman. Featuring a resin bezel and band, the watch was designed with outdoor sports in mind and echoed Casio's G Shock range for functionality and durability.
In contrast to previous American leaders, this watch could be bought for less than $100 and it caused some dissent when it was initially put on display in the Smithsonian Museum after he left office in 2001.
His successor, George W. Bush, continued the trend of affordable, American-made timepieces and, like Clinton, was regularly seen wearing Timex. His model of choice was a simple design with a white face and black strap. It was distinguished from the regular version with an American flag at the twelve o'clock position.
Rolex has featured heavily as a watch of choice for US Presidents, with Dwight Eisenhower being the first to officially wear a model from the Geneva-based maker. His solid yellow gold Datejust was engraved with five stars, to reflect his rank as a general, his initials and the date he was presented with the watch – 12-19-50.
Kennedy's successor also favoured a solid gold Rolex – this time a Day-Date model. Lyndon Johnson was the first president to be officially photographed in the Oval Office wearing this model and many associate this with the moniker 'The President', which is still applied to this model today. Rolex even used it during the 1960's in advertising campaigns.
Successive presidents including Ford, Reagan, Nixon and Trump have all favoured this model, which remains in production with a starting price of just over £29,000 for the yellow gold model with Presidential bracelet.
Of course, The President hasn't always worn a wristwatch. George Washington owned a pocket watch made by Jean-Antoine Lepine, watchmaker to King Louis XVI. He had asked fellow Founding Father Gouvernor Morris to find him a suitable timepiece in Paris and after several fruitless enquiries, a matching pair was acquired. Washington's was number 5,378 and it remained with the Washington family until 1935.
Abraham Lincoln's watch was another example of an American-made inexpensive model. The Waltham 'Wm. Ellery' was named for one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence and was popular with Union supporters. It also marked the start of a period where American watches were on par with Swiss manufacturers, and considered superior in terms of mass production, resulting in lower prices and better precision.
We now come full circle to the incumbent of The White House. President Biden has been known to favour Seiko models and an inexpensive model was seen on his wrist during his campaign in 2020. He also owns a Vulcain Cricket. Known as “The President's Watch” (not to be confused with the Rolex referred to previously), this piece has been gifted to presidents since 1953, when Vulcain gifted a watch to Harry Truman.
Biden was seen wearing his own model during his stint as vice president to Obama, however, and it has yet to be confirmed as to whether the tradition has been continued.
He has also been seen wearing Omega models (with the Seamaster being an apparent favourite) and even an Apple watch, but he switched to Rolex for his inauguration in January 2021, this time a Datejust 41 in stainless steel with a blue face. It is similar in appearance to the watch favoured by Ronald Reagan.
Biden's choice in watch is in contrast to his predecessor and we couldn't end our look at presidential watches without including the most controversial man to serve as president. Given his well-documented love of luxury goods, including solid gold fittings at properties and aircraft, it comes as little surprise that Donald Trump favoured a gold Patek Phillippe Gold Ellipse, a Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968 and of course a Rolex President, all of which he wore before and during his presidency.
At Lockton, we can't claim to have arranged insurance for many presidents (and we are sure that the Secret Service wouldn't take too kindly to us telling you, even if we did) but we do know how to make sure that your own watch collection is insured properly.
Whether you own a single piece or an extensive collection, we can advise you on the best way to insure your watches, enabling you to wear and enjoy them, safe in the knowledge that they are protected at all times.
Talk to us today to find out more.