What watches have previous Presidents worn?

How horological have the previous Heads of State been?

Tomorrow, the 45th President of the United States will be revealed. After months of campaigning and billions of dollars, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will win the votes needed to get into office.

Trump, who has closed the gap in polls over recent days, could clinch victory, but is he the sort of man America wants at the helm? That striking hair(piece?) may be the businessman’s most iconic style statement, but his sheer ostentation and pomposity can also be seen elsewhere: on his wrist.

Trump’s timepiece, predictably, bears his own name. After launching the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection watch in 2005, it has been one of the only watches seen on the businessman-cum-politician’s wrist.

But what about the watches of Presidents past? Does Trump’s timepiece suggest he is unfit to follow the horological heroes that came before him, or have previous Heads of State shown just as questionable a taste in wristwatches?

Franklin D Roosevelt - Movado Triple Calendar

Although he spent much of his time in office wearing various pocket watches – FDR was the first President to adopt a wristwatch. This, a gold 14k Movado triple calendar, was the President’s final watch, and was made in 1944.

A reported re-gift from the politician’s son-in-law, the watch has stepped turtle-shaped lugs, a single subdial, and measures just 34.5mm across.

Harry S Truman - Gallet Flying Officer

Two members of Truman’s Senate staff gifted the politician his watch before he became President. However, worn on a tan canvas strap, it became dear to Truman, and he wore it for years to come.

The Flying Officer was part of the Gallet Clamshell line, which were first designed as waterproof chronographs. The watch, whose caseback is secured by four screws and features round pushers, was the first wristwatch to tell world time – Truman would simply have to use the bezel to set the home time city as he travelled the globe on diplomatic trips.

Dwight D Eisenhower - Rolex Datejust

The first President known to own a Rolex, Eisenhower was offered a gold Datejust by the watchmakers as a gift. The timepiece was the company’s 150,000th officially-certified chronometer and the President gladly accepted it.

Eisenhower’s Datejust was engraved with five stars – to signify his ranking as a 5 star general – and his initials, as well as the date ’12-19-1950’ upon which he received the watch. The President also occasionally wore a Vacheron Constantin given to him by a group of Swiss civilians in 1955.

John F Kennedy - Omega ‘Ultra Thin’

The most famous watch worn by JFK is the Omega ‘Ultra Thin’. Given to the President by his friend, Floridian businessman Grant Stockdale, Kennedy received his signature timepiece before he became President. Stockdale, however, predicted victory, and had the back engraved ‘President of the United State, John F. Kennedy’.

Omega bought the watch back in 2005, for $350,000, and it is currently in their collection.

Lyndon B Johnson - Patek Philippe Reference 2526

Johnson is the only President definitively known to have owned a Patek Philippe. The Reference 2526 was the model in question, and had been ordered, in 18k yellow gold, through Tiffany and Company.

Fitted with a bespoke gold Tiffany bracelet, LBJ had a mantra of sorts printed onto the fragile cream enamel dial: ‘Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You’. The watch, the first automatic Patek, also featured the famed calibre 12-600.

Bill Clinton - Timex Ironman

Labelled ‘an unsightly blemish’ and ‘wrist gargoyle’ when he wore it to his inaugural ball in 1993, Bill Clinton’s Timex Ironman was the first digital watch to grace the wrist of a President.

Now residing in the Smithsonian Museum, the watch caused a great stir at the time, offending many watch lovers. And it’s not hard to see why.

George W Bush - Timex Indiglo

Not much better than Clinton’s efforts, Bush wore a Timex Indiglo during his time in office – a watch that cost around $43 new. With a white face and black numerals, this is as basic as it gets.

Bush’s Timex did, however, show the American flag at the 12 o’clock position – and the watchmaker has subsequently released a gold-plated version of the timepiece based on the President’s own.

Barack Obama - Jorg Gray Chronograph

For President Barack Obama’s birthday in 2007, the Secret Service gifted the politician a Jorg Gray timepiece with the Secret Service logo on the black dial.

With a black leather strap and white stitching, this steel watch confused collectors for a long while, until one watch enthusiast with a keen eye identified it. As a result, the relatively small Jorg Gray brand expanded exponentially, and launched 6,500 ‘Obama’ watches.

Further Reading