The President and Watches

With the State of the Union address just around the corner I thought it would be good to talk a bit about one thing the political pundits are sure to ignore while the president is speaking in the House chamber; his watch.  Full disclosure, I was a government major in college, so its likely no coincidence that my first content piece here is about the intersection of watches and politics.  That said, a watch says a lot about a person, including the watch worn by the most talked about man on the planet

The Watch

The watch the president will be wearing on the 12th is a Jorg Grey quartz chronograph.  You can certainly be forgiven if you have never heard of Jorg Grey, they are a small brand based in California, more of a “fashion” brand perhaps.  If you want your very own presidential watch it will cost you about $270 on Amazon (sure Obama’s has the seal of the secret service on it, but who would notice the difference). So what does this watch say about the man?  It says he is a politician.

Prior to becoming president Obama wore a Tag Heuer.  Obama is not the first President to compromise his horological interests for the sake of politics.  George W. Bush wore a timex indiglo throughout his presidency and Bill Clinton (now a rather serious watch enthusiast) was known for his rubber timex ironman.

Clinton and his Ironman watch


What’s so wrong with wearing a nice watch?

In a word, politics.  The President of the United States is the most scrutinized person in the world and one of the most polarizing figures in the country.  A nice watch to some is just a pleasant personal indulgence, something fun to look at and show to friends.  To CNN and Fox News and the rest of the political watchers a nice watch says things like “elitist” or “un-american” or “Part of the 1%”

As an example, Bill Clinton purchased 14 Shinola watches last year after a visit to their factory in Detroit.  Now, Shinola’s are not overly expensive, but the ~$7,000 total purchase drew quite a bit of negative media attention to him and his wife, who is certainly not looking for bad press these days.  Ironically, Bill Clinton owns a number of watches who’s MSRP is well over the price he paid for all 14 of the Shinola watches, but of course he bought those after he was president (and before his wife wanted his old job)

Obama’s watch has a few key characteristics that have proven central to the wrists of presidents since the beginnings of media punditry:

  1. Its affordable: Despite Obama’s considerable personal wealth (he made over $5 million from his book sales) a high end watch would not play well with middle america.
  2. Its American:While technically the movement, case, and dial are likely manufactured elsewhere, Jorg Grey is an American brand
  3. It was a gift from the secret service: The secret service presented this watch to Obama as a gift and it carries their seal.  Hard to criticize a man for showing appreciation for the gift of those protecting his life

I’m not one to say if the President is in fact an Amateur Horologist himself, but if he is he need only suppress his watch desires for 11 more months.  For now at least, regardless of his personal wealth, Obama will have to wear the watch the people would want him to wear, regardless of his.

It’s not all bad news for the President

As I alluded to when talking about Bill Clinton, its not all bad news for watch enthusiasts who also happen to be the President of the United States.  In fact, things get pretty good for former presidents in the timepiece department (and I imagine in most departments).  Bill Clinton is perhaps the most notable of the former presidents/horology enthusiasts.  Bill has amasses quite a collection, including Panerai, Jaeger le Coultre, and A Lange und Sohne (thought those might sadly see very little wrist time for a while).  George H.W. Bush wears a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar presented to him as a gift by the company.

Bill Clinton wearing a JLC master compressor during a Daily Show appearance

So what watch will Obama wear when he leaves office?  He may go back to the Tag he wore for almost a decade, or maybe he will stick with the Jorg Grey for sentimentality’s sake.  He may also take advantage of a gift given to a number of presidents and wear a Vulcain cricket president alarm (so named because Eisenhower wore it as president).  He has another 11 months to figure it out, I’m sure he doesn’t have too much else to think about.

But what about other world leaders?

Ah, for that you all will just have to wait for a future article…to be continued



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