I’ve been watching Barack Obama and his watches for nine years now (since August 2008), and this is the day I’ve been waiting for. You see, it’s been clear to me that former President Obama is a “watch guy”, having worn at least six different watches over this period. But despite his enjoyment of watches, we knew that he had to play by the rules, and one of these rules is that a sitting President of the United States cannot wear an expensive watch. Once a President becomes a “former President”, however, the rules change. And not only do the rules change, but with book deals and speaker’s fees, the former President’s watch budget may improve considerably.
The Watch for the White House
So we had Bill Clinton famously wearing the Timex Ironman running watch while serving as President, and soon after he left the White House, his collection improved dramatically, with watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, Panerai, and A Lange & Sohne, among others. Then there was the day that he bought 13 Shinola watches, to give the Detroit economy a bit of a boost.
Yes, this is what happens when a President who is a “watch guy” leaves the White House, is a little bit out of the spotlight, and a little bit “in the money”, perhaps for the first time. (Read about Bill Clinton’s watches, HERE.)
President Obama’s White House Watches — Five for Just Under $800
And so for these last nine years, I have been watching Barack Obama — when he was President Obama — wear the TAG Heuer watch that he has owned since the early 1990s ($400), the Jorg Gray “Secret Service” chronograph that was a gift for his birthday ($00.00), two plastic watches from New Balance and High Gear (exactly $155 for the pair), and finally the Fitbit that appeared in March 2015 (then Fitbit’s top-of-the-line model, at $249.95). That’s the line-up folks – five watches, which he seems to enjoy wearing, and he could buy the whole collection for around eight “Ben Franklin” bills ($800).
We have considerable evidence that Mr. Obama is a legitimate “watch guy”. First of all, he owns multiple watches and wears them on different occasions. The Jorg Gray “Secret Service” watch became his everyday watch, but there were the occasional sightings of the TAG Heuer Series 1500, usually for special occasions (for example, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and giving the State of the Union message). Three sports watches is not so exceptional, but moving to the Fitbit was clearly a statement about Obama’s image and the importance of exercise. And then there was the time that he went off track, during a visit to Parkville, Missouri, to browse through a vintage watch shop. Yes, it always seemed clear that the Commander in Chief enjoyed nice watches, and even some not-so-nice watches.
From the day this pursuit started, I have been pondering two related questions—How long would Barack Obama, the community worker from Chicago who rightfully positioned himself as a man of the people, wait to buy his first “real watch”? And most interestingly, what would this new watch be?
Spotted — Barack Obama’s First Post-Presidential Watch
All this is answered with recent photos showing former President Obama, along with Joe Biden and Prince Harry, attending the Invictus Games in Toronto. (The Invictus Games are Prince Harry’s adaptive sport event for injured, ill and wounded servicemen and women and veterans.) You can read about Mr. Obama’s attending the Invictus Games HERE.
There they were, sitting in the front row, dead center, and former President Obama struck his usual pose – blue oxford shirt; sleeves rolled up just above his wrists; his watch clearly visible on his left wrist.
The internet offered numerous photos of Obama attending the Invictus Games, and it proved fairly easy to find some good images of the watch. From there, it took about two minutes to identify the watch – Rolex crown on the top of the dial and the word “Cellini” in script across the bottom of the dial got me to Rolex’s page for the Cellini line of watches.
From there, we were a few seconds away from identifying President Obama’s new watch, to the exclusion of all others – It’s a Rolex Cellini Time, in 18 karat white gold, Reference 50509.
Cellini is a relatively small line of watches, and the “Time” model is distinctive as a “three-hand” watch. That’s right — no date; no second time zone; no moon phase display; just three hands for the hours, minutes and seconds. The watch is a traditional round shape and, at 39 millimeters across the dial, would be considered mid-size by today’s. And the price — $15,200, although the “street price” seems to be in the $12,000 range.
Full specifications for the watch are shown below.
The Perfect Watch for Barack Obama.
A friend of mine is a community leader here in Atlanta. For most of his career, he has worn a variety of Swatch watches. All very stylish, all very humble, and definitely not the kind of watches that will create a stir when meeting with local politicians, civic groups or donors. Just Swatches, with most of them probably costing between $50 and $100. For his 60th birthday, my friend and his wife decided that he “needed” a nice watch, a fine watch, a real watch. But still, it had to be a watch that would go under the radar. Their choice, a little over two years ago — a white gold Cellini watch. A few days ago, I happened to ask him how many times colleagues or work associates had noticed his watch, and his answer was quick and authoritative, “Zero. And that’s the way I like it.”
So too, I believe that Barack Obama has made a fantastic choice of his first “nice” watch. The style is clean and strong, but it is devoid of any bling or fancy features . . . not even a date window. The white gold will look like stainless steel to most of the millions of people who will see the watch. And as important as any other feature of the watch — it doesn’t look like a Rolex. Not the well-known look of the Submariner, Daytona or Date-Just, and far from the massive lump of gold ironically known as the “President”. Just a simple three-hand watch, for the community organizer from Chicago. Kind of like my humble but stylish friend, the community organizer here in Atlanta.
Watching Obama’s Watch — The Fun is Just Starting
As the unofficial watcher of President Obama’s watches, life was kind of quiet. Yes, there was the excitement of his switching from the High Gear plastic running to the New Balance plastic running watch, but really, how exciting was that? Yes, we could try to figure out when President Obama wore the Jorg Gray Secret Service watch [most days], and when he wore the TAG Heuer Series 1500 [for special occasions], but again, not especially exciting watching these two watches for eight years.
Today is exciting, however, for a couple of reasons. With the acquisition of the Rolex Cellini Time, we have confirmation that Barack Obama is really a watch guy . . . something we has suspected for the last nine years is now confirmed. And now that he is the “former President”, we can hope that Barack Obama will enjoy acquiring some interesting watches from time to time. The Cellini is a fantastic start to a collection of nice watches, so we will be watching more intently than ever as Mr. Obama enjoys one of the great benefits of leaving the White House . . . being able to enjoy some great watches!
We’ll be watching!!
Specifications for the watch are as follows:
- Reference — Rolex Cellini Time, Reference 50509
- Case — 39 mm, 18 carat white gold, polished finish
- Bezel — Double bezel, domed and fluted
- Dial – White
- Winding Crown — Flared screw-down winding crown with Rolex emblem
- Crystal — Domed sapphire crystal
- Water Resistance — Waterproof to 50 metres / 165 feet
- Movement — Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding, Calibre 3132 (manufacture Rolex)
- Precision — minus 2 / plus 2 seconds per day, after casing
- Functions — Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Stop-seconds for precise time setting
- Oscillator — Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring. High-performance Paraflex shock absorbers
- Winding — Bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor
- Power Reserve — Approximately 48 hours
- Bracelet – Black leather strap, with 18 carat gold buckle
- Certification — Superlative Chronometer (COSC + Rolex certification after casing)
- Price — $15,200
Thanks to Farkas Arpad, who spotted former President Obama’s new watch, and asked about it on Twitter.