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Fashion

What American presidents wear on their wrist

From Obama to Reagan, GQ reveals the watches world leaders wear

Does the watch maketh the man? Of course not. But the other way around? Well, perhaps we’re on to something. A large part of the glamour and appeal of a watch comes via an association with a remarkable person or moment in time. In watches, as in life, it’s who you know that counts.

Call it the oldest marketing trick in the book but “celebrity endorsement” remains the alchemy by which a very nice watch transforms into an icon. Think of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, which recently fetched $17.75 million at auction. Similarly, in terms of marketing, the fact that Buzz Aldrin wore an Omega Speedmaster when he stepped onto the moon will be etched into horological history for all time – the moon watch.

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The watch a president chooses to wear should be packed with symbolism and romance. Rolex was the first brand to get its watches onto the wrists of world leaders. To commemorate its 100,000th watch mark, Rolex offered prime minister Winston Churchill a Rolex Datejust, who asked for it in rose gold and his family crest etched onto the back. Not long after, President Eisenhower received a yellow-gold Rolex Datejust to mark the brand’s 150,000th watch. While Kennedy did not wear a Rolex, he was reportedly given a Datejust by Marilyn Monroe with the words “Jack, with love as always, Marilyn” engraved on the back. And around the time Lyndon B Johnson appeared in Time magazine wearing a Day-Date Perpetual Oyster Chronometer was when it became known as the “Rolex Presidential”. At the other end of the political spectrum, Che Guevara wore a Rolex Submariner, a fact the brand made use of in its “Time for a revolution” advertising campaign.

Rolex lost favour in the White House as political gift giving came under greater scrutiny. Ronald Reagan was the last president to wear a Rolex in the White House, while Bill Clinton only started after he stepped down from office. Obama was often seen in a $350 Jorg Gray 6500 (no, we’ve never heard of it either) and was also recently spotted at a basketball game with a Fitbit Ionic on his wrist.

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Which leads us to Donald Trump. Whatever it is that King Midas had, Trump has the opposite. Trump loves anything that smacks of wealth in the dumbest, most obvious status-seeking way possible – and then renders it cheap and nasty merely by his association. He even lent his name to a line of quartz watches in 2005 called the Donald J Trump Signature Watch Collection, which consisted of rip-offs of famous designs such as the Tag Heuer Monaco sprayed in gold with the word “Trump” slapped across the face.

Amazingly, Trump’s personal watch collection is pretty modest and actually quite tasteful (we’re betting he had a well-dressed assistant pick them out for him): he’s been seen with a Patek Philippe Ellipse, Rolex Day-Date and wore a Vacheron Constantin Ultra-Fine 1968 during the 2016 election campaign. Even so, we doubt that these venerable brands will be making advertising featuring Trump any time soon.

Now read:

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