This is a guest posting by Nick Gould, that was published on March 4, 2020. Nick researches and writes about the history of watches, and has gained fame in the watch community as a “watch spotter”. Most recently, Nick provided the definitive identification of the Patek Philippe Reference 5205G annual calendar watch worn by Chief Justice John Roberts, during the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. Follow Nick on Instagram, HERE.
For many years, Heuer enthusiasts have studied a September 1946 advertisement stating that General Dwight Eisenhower wore a Heuer chronograph. The advertisement has always been a mystery – run by the Rio de Janeiro jeweler Casa Masson, it shows a head-shot of General Eisenhower, with the headline “Precisao e Confianca” (precision and trust). The advertisement includes the Heuer shield with the statement “in his victorious campaigns, his famous chronograph” (usou em suas vitoriosas campanhas o seu famoso cronografo). It shows a three-register chronograph with a white dial, but there is no information about the watch or about how and when General Eisenhower might have acquired or worn it.
The mystery deepens, as Heuer enthusiasts have never discovered or published any photographs of Eisenhower wearing a Heuer chronograph or identified the particular model he owned. How did he come to acquire it? Was this chronograph issued to General Eisenhower by the United States Army or had he purchased the watch on his own?
I was researching another person, who I never thought of as associated with General Eisenhower, when I came across a picture of Eisenhower wearing a customized Hamilton timepiece featuring the members of his family on the dial. Eric Wind has written about this particular timepiece previously and mentioned that no photographs had been found of Eisenhower wearing the watch. With this newly-found discovery, I decided to do some digging to see if Eisenhower had indeed owned a Heuer chronograph as featured in the Casa Masson advertisement.
The problem in searching for photographs of Dwight Eisenhower wearing his watches is one of abundance. Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in World War Two, and President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, with the result that a simple search in Getty Images yields over 10,000 images, while the Associated Press image library offers another 3,600 choices. Beyond photographs of General Eisenhower, we find photos of many things that have been named after him, from aircraft carriers to office buildings.
In this instance, however, I had some good fortune, narrowing the search to a date range of 1945 and 1946. Since the year of the advertisement was dated 1946, it occurred to me that it was highly likely Eisenhower acquired the watch sometime from 1942 through to 1946. After going through (only) about 300 images, I hit pay dirt and found the money shot images! Eisenhower had indeed worn a Heuer chronograph during his service in World War Two, and with a few more clicks I was able to identify the model and execution with full precision.
In a photo from January 1946, we see Eisenhower testifying before the United States Senate Committee on Demobilization. His hands are resting on the top of a table, with the angle of his wrist being perfect for the photographer to capture not only his facial expression, but the dial of his watch in full detail. The watch is unmistakable – a three-register chronograph, with a black dial and Arabic numerals, with thick radium used on both the dial and the hands. The pushers are round, rather than rectangular or oval, indicating that the chronograph is a waterproof model.
In another photo of Eisenhower at this same Senate hearing, we see a different view of the watch, in this instance showing one of the lugs, rather than the dial and hands. This photo is most valuable in establishing the exact reference number / model of the watch.
Heuer sold two varieties of three register, waterproof chronographs in the 1940s, the Reference 346 and the Reference 2447. The Reference 346 is powered by the Valjoux 71 movement (14 ligne) and has rounded lugs; the Reference 2447 uses the Valjoux 72 movement (13 ligne) and has angular lugs.
This second photo of Eisenhower testifying at the Senate hearings shows that the lugs are angular, not rounded, confirming that he is wearing the Reference 2447 chronograph.
The last detail required to determine the exact execution of Eisenhower’s watch comes in a photo taken in 1945. Eisenhower attended a dinner on May 15, 1945 in London, and a photograph shows his chronograph clearly enough that we can see a tachymeter scale around the edge of the dial, in addition to the Heuer logo at 12 o’clock.
Put these three photos together, and we have identified General Eisenhower’s chronograph in full detail – a Heuer Reference 2447, NR (with the “N” indicating a black dial and the “R” showing the use of radium), with a tachymeter scale on the dial. The chronograph is waterproof, with round pushers and a screw-back.
The Reference 2447 chronograph first appeared in a brochure published by Heuer in 1943. This reference would continue in production throughout the 1940s and 1950s, with the 2447 reference number being used for the Carrera, when it was introduced in 1963. The use of the 2447 reference number for the Carrera makes sense, as the Carrera was also a three-register waterproof chronograph with angular lugs, that was powered by the Valjoux 72 movement.
As we might expect, the watch identified in these photos of General Eisenhower is very similar to the one featured in the 1946 advertisement from Brazil. Both are the Reference 2447, Heuer’s three-register, waterproof chronograph with angular lugs. Key differences are that Eisenhower’s watch features a black dial, with radium hands, while the chronograph in the advertisement has a white dial with sword hands. We can imagine that in this era, neither Heuer nor the retailer Casa Masson had the full selection of drawings or photographs to be used in advertisements. So even though Eisenhower wore a chronograph with a black dial, the Casa Masson advertisement shows one with a white dial.
With some additional searching, I found a colour photograph dated June 19, 1945 of then General of the Army and Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, sitting for a portrait during a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria. We can see the Heuer chronograph on his wrist, with the black dial reflecting the light, a strong contrast with the tan color of Eisenhower’s uniform.
With the color photograph, we see one additional detail of the Heuer Reference 2447 NT — the black dial has a glossy finish and the marking on the dial are gilt. Not a bad looking watch, for a soldier to be wearing in wartime. It would be functional on the battlefield, but elegant enough to wear in the Waldorf Astoria.
Another photograph dated December 11th, 1945, shows Eisenhower wearing the Heuer chronograph, talking to President Harry Truman in the White House.
It has been interesting to research and to precisely identify the Heuer that General Eisenhower wore during his service as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Eisenhower planned and had responsibility for the Allied assault on the coast of Normandy in June 1944, the liberation of Western Europe and the invasion of Germany. As suggested by the advertisement run by Casa Masson in September 1946, if ever “precision and trust” were important in a watch, it was with General Eisenhower and his Heuer Reference 2447 chronograph.
See the OnTheDash Gallery of Reference 2447 chronographs, HERE.
See the OnTheDash Gallery showing the Reference 2447 NR Tachymeter chronographs, HERE.
In February 2014, Eric Wind published a posting on Hodinkee covering all the President’s watches. This posting has been updated over the years and remains the definitive reference on the subject.