As Presidents’ Day approaches here in the United States, we at WatchTime decided it would be a great time to revisit our piece on watches worn by American presidents over the years. Scroll down to see the list we’ve compiled of notable wristwatches and pocketwatches belonging to past (and current) commanders-in-chief.
George Washington carried a pocketwatch made by Jean-Antoine Lépine, watchmaker to King Louis XVI. The watch, a large, simple, keywound watch with a virgule escapements, was numbered 5,378. It remained in Washington’s family until 1935.
Fourteen U.S. presidents have been Freemasons and at least one of them, Warren G. Harding, had a watch to prove it. He carried a so-called “Masonic watch,” a particular type of watch in which Masonic symbols, such as an hourglass, a compass, and a masons’ square, were used as hour markers. Masonic watches had cases in the shape of another Masonic symbol, the equilateral triangle. These watches always incorporated a picture of the Masonic All-Seeing Eye, or Eye of Providence. On the Harding watch, this eye is on the watch’s caseback, along with a picture of King Solomon’s Temple. The watchcase is marked “Hiram Watch Inc., 14K, No. 145.” The movement is signed by Waltham.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt wore a calendar wristwatch with the name “Tiffany & Co.” on the dial and a Movado movement inside. He also owned a minute-repeater pocket watch from the Geneva-based A. Frankfeld company.
Harry S. Truman owned a Flying Officer’s Chronograph made by the Swiss firm Gallet. The watch, which had a rotating bezel enabling the wearer to read the time in time zones around the world, was given to him in 1939 by two members of his senatorial staff.
When he took the oath of office on January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy wore an Omega Ultra Thin (Reference OT3980) given to him by the Florida senator Grant Stockdale. The caseback bore the inscription “President of the United States John F. Kennedy from his friend Grant.”
Lyndon B. Johnson owned a Vulcain Cricket, as did both Truman and Eisenhower; Vulcain presented a Cricket to each of them. Johnson wore his in a 1964 photo on the cover of Newsweek. He wrote a note to Vulcain’s president thanking him for the watch. “I value it highly and feel somewhat less than dressed without it,” he said.
Gerald Ford was in office during the digital-watch craze, which reached its full frenzy in the mid-1970s. Fittingly, he wore a digital: a Hamilton Pulsar (the Pulsar brand is now owned by Seiko). In a photo in the Washington Post, he is shown wearing the watch during the 1974 Congressional hearings on his pardon of Richard Nixon.
During his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama wore a TAG Heuer white-dial, quartz model from the Series 1500. (This is according to TAG Heuer aficionado Jeff Stein, who has examined many photos of Obama wearing the watch.) In the summer of 2007, Obama switched to a large Jorg Gray chronograph with a black dial given to him on his birthday (Aug. 4) by three members of his Secret Service detail. The watch bears the Secret Service seal.
This article was originally published on October 27, 2012, and has been updated.