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Barack H. Obama: The Watch Doesn’t Make the Man

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 12 July 2017

A while back we generated quite the discussion with our French article “Votre montre : Celle qui en dit parfois très long sur vous…” The moral of that story: no matter what watch you’re wearing, it’s the man who defines the watch, and not the other way around.

It just so happens I have a fine example to illustrate this point. A former U.S. President whose two terms were marked with great accomplishments and even greater resistance from the opposing parties. A man who took care of business with incredible elegance and self-control. A man who fought with conviction and, shall we never forget, with class. Too easy right? I’m obviously speaking of Barack Obama.

Barack H. Obama: When the Man makes the Watch

Reggie Love, Obama’s personal aid and “surrogate son” from 2007 to 2011, explains that when Obama gets mad, there’s no raising of voices or making threats or rash decisions of any kind. No, no…it’s more the complete opposite. Then man goes eerily silent, as if to gather his thoughts in a controlled and collected way, before he drops a hard line. The line usually blows everyone’s wigs off, but the way he does it is smooth as honey. Hats off, whether we agree with his ideologies or not.

Now, unlike many other heads of state, you didn’t and will never see a fancy Patek Philippe, Rolex, or Blancpain watch on Obama’s wrist. Here is look at Mr. President’s watches during his two terms. And if you were wondering about it…yes, he’s definitely one-of-a-kind.

Obama’s “Secret Service” Watch

The most famous, functional, and whose story grants him absolute coolitude, is a Jorg Gray 6500 offered to him by members of the Secret Service in 2007. All of a sudden, the piece wasn’t so “secret” anymore. The chronograph was seen, shot, and filmed on the president’s wrist at several public occasions.

Barack H. Obama: When the Man makes the Watch

Rugged, good-looking, accurate and no nonsense…right up Obama’s alley. A Californian-based brand, made in China with a dependable Japanese Miyota Caliber OS-20 movement, this piece has a $400 value. No, there aren’t any zeroes missing.

The Tag Heuer Era

Before the famous Jorg Gray 6500 chronograph, Obama had another watch, a 2-tone Tag Heuer Series 1500 dive watch that he began wearing in the early 90’s with a brown leather strap when he was a Law professor at University of Chicago. It became his daily watch for a good 10-15 years until he was offered the Jorg Gray 6500.

Barack H. Obama: When the Man makes the Watch

Obama’s Tag dive watch, Quartz operated and worth about $575 at its release, was actually a step up from his previous watch from his Harvard Law student days, an unidentifiable but clearly inexpensive plastic Quartz watch. Something we’d never think to see on a President’s wrist…and yet.

A “thing” for sports watches

During his presidential years, Obama would be seen with his Secret Service watch most of the time with the occasional guest appearance by his Tag Heuer diver. Nonetheless there would be one constant throughout his life: the sports watch.

I’m not talking about a Speedmaster, a vintage Submariner, or any other nice chronograph ready for underwater action. No, no…I’m talking about a plastic Highgear Enduro Compass, Made in China. Principle functions, however, do include digital compass, 24-hr chronograph, timer and alarm. Naturally. All of this at a great value of $80. What’s interesting here is that even with this plastic thing on his wrist, the man remains classy as always. The man makes the watch, not the other way around.

Barack H. Obama: When the Man makes the Watch

From around 2012, another sports watch would walk into the picture, namely, a plastic New Balance N7 with a bright red inner inner bezel and built-in heart rate monitor. This $75 newbie would replace the Highgear Enduro Compass.

Barack H. Obama: When the Man makes the Watch

The watch Obama currently wears is also a sports watch. Since 2015, photos showed Mr. President wearing a Fitbit Surge, a.k.a. the ultimate fitness super watch. At $250, we finally have something that breaks the $100 price point! Unbelievable…

Barack H. Obama: When the Man makes the Watch

Let’s not ignore the pink elephant in the room any longer. Obama clearly has a “thing” for sports watches on the side. And it’s not all that irrelevant seeing that he grew up in Hawaii and is a fan of water sports. It is indeed this Barack that’s reflected on his wrist.

When the Man makes the Watch: Extreme Cases

Whether he’s wearing a piece with a Quartz movement, or an inexpensive sports watch, Obama is still the same man with poise and a million dollar smile that can light up a room. His kind of presence demands respect…with or without a Rolex on the wrist. The U.S. President and an $80 watch, the DalaÏ-Lama and a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar with Minute Repeater…great men will never cease to amaze us.

At the risk of sounding trite, perhaps we should pay more attention to those we admire, whether they are relatives, friends or presidents, then to what they wear. Although it’s probably easier to buy the same costume or the same watch as our hero, to resemble them from afar, than to recreate his achievements or fight for his convictions. I’m exaggerating a bit maybe, but you get the idea…