Among the watch collecting community, the subject of presidential watches is a topic which frequently arrises. Even the very first President of the United States, George Washington, had a pocket-watch which has become a very important part of his legacy. His choice of watch was a quarter repeater, which would chime the hour, followed by the number of quarter hours, since the last hour. Thomas Jefferson’s choice was an extravagantly decorated, unbranded pocket-watch, which was purchased from George Chatterton, a jeweller from Springfield, Illinois. The movement of this piece curiously featured crude engravings with messages of support for the President, from a presumed watchmaker, Jonathan Dillon. Although these pieces have become icons in the watch community, there are perhaps none as broadly appreciated as those affiliated with the late 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.
JFK sailing in the 62ft Presidential Yacht, Manitou.
The watch was presented to Mr. Kennedy, ahead of his election, by his close friend Grant Stockdale; a Floridan businessman who would go on to serve as the United States Ambassador to Ireland. According to a letter addressed to Mr. Stockdale from Jacqueline Kennedy, JFK was so thrilled to receive the elegantly thin watch, that he immediately removed a ‘chunky watch’ Jacqueline had gifted him, replacing it with the Omega. The watch would accompany Mr. Kennedy to his inauguration ceremony, featuring prominently in one of the most iconic images of the evening, published by Life Magazine.
The watch itself is an Omega ‘Ultra Thin’ cased in 18kt gold, containing an incredibly slim 2mm calibre, manually wound movement. The watch had been personalised with an engraving on the case-back, stating “President of the United States John F Kennedy from his friend Grant”. The affectionately nicknamed ’Stockdale Watch’ watch was honoured by Omega in 2005, when they created a series of just 261 pieces which were dimensionally identical to the original.
After the tragic death of JFK, his watches found their way into various hands, many of which into the personal collection of Robert White. A man who had vast collections of cars, motorcycles, watches and JFK related items before his death in 2015. In 2005, the watch was submitted for auction with Guernsey’s in New York City, where it was ultimately acquired by the Omega Museum for the astonishing sum of $350,000. With the latest trend of presidents appearing ‘relatable’ to the average Joe, this tradition extravagant president’s watches has all but vanished; quite a shame.
We would like to extend our thanks to the good men at the Omega Museum for opening their doors to our camera’s and questions. We very much recommend that you take the trip to Biel and see the collection with your own eyes.