There are several replica timepieces that lay claim to the title “the president’s watch”, such as Dwight D Eisenhower’s Vulcain Cricket and, of course, Lyndon B Johnson’s Swiss made copy Rolex Day-Date. However, among the most fascinating are the watches that once belonged to President John F Kennedy. A bona fide style icon and inspiration to movie stars and fashion designers alike, the megawatt glamour of JFK has been matched by few White House residents. Whether he was dressed in chinos and polo shirt while sailing a boat in the Hamptons or a Brooks Brothers suit to deliver an address to the Senate, Kennedy’s carefully cultivated image became an essential element in the projection of American soft power.
When President Kennedy took the oath of office on 20 January 1961, he wore an gold case fake Omega Ultra Thin Ref OT3980. The rectangular Tank-style watch was a gift from his friend, the then Florida Senator Grant Stockdale. On the case back is the dedication: “President of the United States John F Kennedy from his friend Grant”. It was actually given to him in 1960 as a show of confidence by Grant when Kennedy was still a presidential hopeful in the closely fought American election against Richard Nixon. The best 1:1 copy watch now belongs to the Omega Museum in Biel, Switzerland, after it was bought by the maker for $350,000 in 2005. The president’s wife, Jacqueline, a devotee of the Cartier Tank, described the watch as the “thinnest, most elegant wristwatch” in a letter to Grant and told him that JFK immediately used it to replace the “chunky little one” that she bought for him.
The Omega is matched in importance by the champagne dial replica Rolex Day-Date that none other than Marilyn Monroe gave Kennedy for his 45th birthday. On the case back is the inscription, “Jack, with love as always from Marilyn May 29th 1962”. The actress was said to have given the watch and an accompanying romantic poem to the Kennedy aide Kenneth O’Donnell to pass on to his boss. However, fearing his wife might find out about their affair, Kennedy instructed O’Donnell in a note to “get rid of it” and the watch was eventually sold at auction in 2005 to an anonymous buyer for $120,000.
It seems that time can not diminish the legend of Camelot nor the cachet of the watches that were so intimately associated with it.