The decision for a watch is a special challenge for heads of state, because every detail is viewed with suspicion by the public – and interpreted accordingly. A luxury model can quickly make a bad impression and stand for inappropriate enrichment and greed. An inexpensive, more reserved variant, on the other hand, can send a positive message to the people – or even be called tasteless. Nowadays, watches are no longer as popular among politicians as they used to be. However, the watch age is far from over and many politicians had or have their absolute favorites. If you take a look at the wrists, you will see that there are some true stars of the scene who accompany important historical moments. The icon of the sixties-eight, Ernesto Che Guevara, for example, wore a Rolex Submariner on her wrist. The sturdy but elegant Swiss watch reliably stood by the revolutionary through the class struggle. Below we will give you the most iconic examples of important statesmen and their special relationship to fine timepieces – both in the present and in the past.
Undisputed champion: Vladimir Putin
If one thinks of politicians and clocks, one probably first thinks of Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin – and rightly so. Putin’s collection is estimated at a total value of over 450,000 euros. His versatile collection includes exclusive watches by A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain and Patek Philippe. A turbograph with tourbillon, chronograph and rattrapante function, as well as a perpetual calendar by A. Lange & Söhne, a Blancpain Aqua Lung Grande Date and a perpetual calendar from the Grande Complication series by Patek Philippe are just some of his unique treasures. Putin is not only known for his watches, but also for his unusual way of wearing them: the statesman always has them on his right wrist and even set a trend among the Russian elite a few years ago. In addition, he is said to have given Blancpain timepieces to a few happy citizens on his tours. But his impressive selection of elegant classics has also brought criticism to the head of state. With an annual income of around 140,000 euros, Putin should not be able to cultivate such an opulent lifestyle, according to the astonished opposition. Possibly the watches were partly gifts – but this would also be a delicate matter for the politician.
The European time zone
The British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) put his life on Breguet. He was particularly fond of No. 765, also known as “Turnip”, a pocket watch with flyback chronograph and minute repeater. His own grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill, had ordered the watch with yellow gold case and white enamel dial in 1890. The Tournip stood by Churchill in good times and bad and can now be admired at the Imperial War Museum in London. For the 2017 movie “The Darkest Hour” with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, Breguet even rebuilt the clock, albeit in a slightly modified form: The case was narrowed and the technology reduced. And then there’s Italy: when Silvio Berlusconi was still in office, he liked to display his Vacheron Constantin – with a value of about half a million euros.
This makes the watch one of the most expensive in the world. But before his political career, the former prime minister had already made a name for himself in the industry for decades and was considered to be as wealthy as few others. So investing in the Vacheron Constantin Partimony Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar was no big deal for the Italian. If you take a look at France, one thing stands out when it comes to watches: Nikolas Sarkozy is known to be a true connoisseur of watches. Among his favourites are a Patek Philippe 3940G, a Girard-Perregaux 1966 and a Rolex Daytona with a black dial. The former president has a great taste for high-quality timepieces – and a correspondingly exquisite collection. The French brand Lip may also be familiar to many watch fans. The company has had a decisive influence on the history of the entire watch industry: the “GDG” model from 1952 already adorned Charles de Gaulle’s wrist. The ex-president of France is said to have loved Lip’s watches. In 1958 even a version was named after him. The timepiece with its cushion-shaped case, dome glass and sublime hour-markers is sure to delight all vintage fans. In the year 1990 the model was fundamentally revised. Now the timepiece houses a fine movement from Ronda, a Swiss brand. But modernization has also found its way elsewhere: A high-quality genuine leather strap and the contemporary Blitz in the logo and on the clasp were added. On this occasion, Générale de Gaulle certainly looked down from above and was delighted with the stylish continuation of the special design. Former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer had to live to 79 years before he came to his famous golden Rolex. The wristwatch was a gift from Switzerland that a messenger from Rolex founder Hans Wildorf handed over to Adenauer in September 1955. Even his name was engraved on the back of this elegant piece of jewellery.
An agency photo taken on 19 April 1957 proves that the timepiece had certainly impressed him. The picture shows the former German politician at his desk, the sleeve of the suit rolled back so far that the watch is clearly visible. Understandable – it would be a pity to hide the noble Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust in eighteen-carat yellow gold. A treasure to be proud of, especially when you’re a man who’s done such immense service to your country. 44 years after Adenauer’s death, the Rolex, including the original case and Hans Wilsdorf’s personal letter, was auctioned at a Geneva auction house. The value was previously estimated at around 66,000 euros – but the fine timepiece was sold for a proud 142,000.
Luxury in the USA
Important US-American personalities have always had a great love for luxurious timepieces. John F. Kennedy used Omega watches during his lifetime. Otherwise, the 35th President of the United States also liked to choose Cartier: in 1957, his wife Jackie gave him a fine Cartier tank for his birthday. On the caseback of the watch was engraved his initials, the family coat of arms and the wedding date of the two.
Folk favourite Barack Obama is known for his good taste in fashion. His style is imitated by many fans. He also proves his stylistic confidence with fine accessories: Before his office as US President, he preferred to wear a TAG Heuer 1500. However, the model series is no longer produced today as it has been replaced by the Aquaracer collection. After taking office, Obama probably decided on a more down-to-earth companion for strategic reasons, which he had received as a gift from his bodyguards: a special model by Jorg Gray with the US Secret Service logo on the dial. After Obama was seen with the watch on his wrist, the model was immediately sold out at Jorg Gray – style doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. The current US President Donald Trump has always liked to stand out from the crowd. No wonder, then, that he also tried his own thing when it came to watches: the successful entrepreneur and politician had already launched a watch collection under his own brand some time ago. But the success failed to materialize. Now he prefers to return to proven classics, including a Patek Philippe Ellipse with blue dial and a Rolex Day-Date, both in yellow gold.
This post is also available in: German