There are several timepieces that claim the title of “President’s Watch”, such as Dwight D Eisenhower’s Vulcain Cricket and, of course, Lyndon B Johnson’s Rolex Day-Date. However, among the most fascinating are the watches that once belonged to President John F. Kennedy. A true style icon and inspiration to movie stars and fashion designers, JFK’s megawatt glamor has been matched by a few residents of the White House. Whether he wears chinos and a polo shirt while cruising a boat in the Hamptons or a Brooks Brothers suit for speaking in the Senate, the carefully cropped image of Kennedy has become a staple in the projection of American soft power.
When President Kennedy was sworn in on January 20, 1961, he was wearing an Omega Ultra Thin Ref OT3980. The rectangular Tank-style watch was a gift from his friend, then Florida Senator Grant Stockdale. On the back of the case, the dedication: “The President of the United States John F. Kennedy by his friend Grant”. It was actually given to him in 1960 as a show of confidence by Grant while Kennedy was still a presidential hopeful in the hotly contested US election against Richard Nixon. The watch now belongs to the Omega Museum in Biel, Switzerland, having been purchased by the manufacturer for $ 350,000 in 2005. The president’s wife Jacqueline, a Cartier Tank follower, described the watch as the “watch- thinnest and most elegant bracelet ”. in a letter to Grant and told him that JFK immediately used him to replace the “big little one” she bought him.
The Omega is matched in importance by the Rolex Day-Date that none other than Marilyn Monroe gave Kennedy for her 45th birthday. On the back of the case is the inscription “Jack, with love as always from Marilyn on May 29, 1962”. The actress reportedly gave the watch and an accompanying romantic poem to assistant Kennedy Kenneth O’Donnell to pass on to her boss. However, fearing that his wife would find out about their affair, Kennedy ordered O’Donnell in a note to “get rid of it” and the watch was ultimately auctioned off in 2005 to an anonymous buyer for $ 120,000.
It seems that time cannot diminish the legend of Camelot nor the cachet of the watches which were so intimately associated with it.
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