In August 2008, when Barack Obama was a candidate for the Presidency, a friend at TAG Heuer called me and said that people in the company had heard that Obama was wearing one of their watches.  Because it was an older model that was no longer in production, she enlisted my help in identifying the watch.  Over the next nine years, I watched President Obama’s watch on an ongoing basis and published several postings on the subject.  This page presents those postings, in chronological order.

1. Barack Obama’s Watches

Posted on September 25, 2008

Watch collectors are different. We watch movies, read magazines, and study videos — not for the usual type of entertainment, not for the intended content — but to see which watches the stars and celebrities are wearing. Whether we are looking for Steve McQueen with an “orange hand” Rolex, trying to identify Jerry Seinfeld’s vintage Heuer Autavia, or seeing whether Paul Newman is wearing a “Paul Newman”, we focus on the watches.

So in the United States, in the year 2008, it is not surprising that there is a new subject of such intense horological focus. In September 2008, the most photographed and filmed person is no longer Tiger Woods with his TAG-Heuer (as he is recovering from knee surgery), and it is no longer Michael Phelps (as the Olympic torch has been doused). Rather, the most photographed person in the U.S. of A. in September 2008 seems to be the Democratic nominee for the U. S. Presidency, Senator Barack Obama.

So which watch does Barack Obama wear? That seems like a simple enough question. No sooner had he hit the campaign trail, in early 2007, than the “watch guys” started studying the photos, trying to identify his watch. And he was an easy study. With an image for being somewhat casual, and summertime tours through the Southern states, he often rolled up his sleeves. And when he rolled up his sleeves, the watch freaks saw a big, stylish watch . . . not the usual plastic Timex or Casio, so popular among those running for office (or in office), but a large, light-dialed sport style watch.

But what was this watch? The discussion forums came alive. Most experts saw a light-dialed TAG-Heuer sports watch . . . probably either a Series 1000 or Series 2000 . . . one of the common quartz watches of the mid-1990′s.

Then suddenly, something strange happened late in the year 2007. In the place of this rather common TAG-Heuer, the experts spotted a huge black Panerai; others saw a black-dialed Carrera re-issue; and still others saw a Royal Oak, something that Governor Schwarzenegger might wear.

[Above — President Barack Obama greets a man in the crowd after addressing the Labor Day celebration in Detroit, Mich., Sept. 5, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)]

Wow!! Could this be true? That rather than switching from the TAG-Heuer to the nondescript Timex or Casio, Senator Obama was actually stepping up his horological game? Could it be that he had gone from Wal-Mart to Wempe? What would the pollsters say? What would McCain say? Could this man of the people, the law professor and community organizer, be wearing a high-end Swiss watch? What would the Japanese say? Suddenly, the watch guys began to spread the rumor that Obama was also a watch guy!

This webpage will explore the mystery of Senator Barack Obama’s watches. Which watches has he worn? When did he wear each of them? Why did he switch from the simple three-handed sport watch to the massive three-register black chronograph? And what does this mean for the future of democracy in America?

As is so often the case, upon closer inspection, things are not as they first appear to be . . .

2. Barack Obama’s TAG-Heuer Watch

Posted on September 25, 2008

A careful examination of the available photographs suggests that Barack Obama wore a TAG-Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone Divers watch, from the early or mid-1990′s until late 2007. Over this period, this seems to have been his “daily wearer”, the one and only watch that he wore over this period of 10 or 15 years. Of the thousands of photos of Senator Obama that we find on the internet, from Google to Flickr to Getty, the following are some favorite photos that capture the spirit of Senator Obama and his watch.  [You can click on any of these images, to see a larger image.]

The photo above is from September 17, 2006, and shows Senator Barack Obama campaigning for Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat, from Iowa) in Indianola, Iowa. [Here is a close-up view of the watch.]

The photo above was taken on March 4, 2007, at Brown Chapel AME Church, in Selma, Alabama, as Senator Barack Obama was waiting to address a crowd gathered for the commemoration of the 1965 Voting Rights March.  [Here is a close-up view of the watch.]

In addition to these favorites, here are some “quickies” . . . photos showing Barack Obama, on the campaign trail, with his trusty TAG-Heuer, all along the way.  We see Obama chatting with supporters at the diner

signing an autograph,

and addressing the crowd . . .

Obama seems to have worn his TAG-Heuer every day, as his campaign got underway.

The TAG Heuer Series 1500 Watch

Barack Obama’s TAG-Heuer watch is a Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver (as shown in the catalog page below). TAG-Heuer introduced the Series 1500 watches in 1991, after the Series 1000 watches had been discontinued. The Series 1500 watches were intended to sell at the price point below the Series 2000 watches, and some of the catalog pages shown below emphasize the “value” of the Series 1500 watches.

In this era, TAG-Heuer was marketing its watches and chronographs as “professional sports watches”, with an emphasis on diving watches and chronographs. The Series 1000, 1500 and 2000 watches were described as being “first and foremost functional pieces of diving equipment”. Consistent with this positioning, the watches featured water resistance to 200 meters, screw-down crown, double safety clasp, unidirectional turning bezel, sapphire glass, and luminous pointers.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Senator Obama’s watch, which sets it apart from other TAG-Heuer chronographs of the period and makes it easily recognizable in numerous photos of Obama, is the raised triangles on the bezel. The bezel has these raised triangles at 00-10-20-30-40-50, with numerals at 5-15-25-35-45-55. On the Two-Tone model, these raised triangles are gold-tone, as is the crown. The steel model (shown below) has these raised triangles, but they are steel, rather than gold.

Some facts about the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver:

  • The Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver was available in three sizes — the Full-Size (sometimes called “Oversized”), the Three-Quarters (also called the “Mid-Size”), and the Womens. The Series 2000 watches were avaliable in a fourth size, between the Three-Quarters and the Womens, with this fourth size called the “Unisex”.
  • Obama’s TAG-Heuer is either the Full-Size model or the Three-Quarters (Mid-Size) model; these two watches are identical, other than the size of the case.
  • When introduced in 1991, the Series 1500 Two-Tine Diver in the Full-Size model was Reference 955.706G, and the Three-Quarters (Mid-Size) model was Reference 955.713G. When TAG-Heuer changed its numbering system (around 1994), the Full-Sized model became the WD-1121 and the Three-Quarters (Mid-Size) model became the WD-1221. (Yes, it does seem odd that the smaller watches had the larger reference numbers.)
  • The dials on the Series 1500 Two-Tone Divers were a distinctive “granite” color throughout most years of production. This watch was produced with a white dial only in the final period of production (circa 1998).
  • When introduced in 1991, the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver sold for $625 on the bracelet or $575 on the leather strap.

The Series 1500 continued in production until around 1998, when the series was discontinued. Here is a 1995 TAG-Heuer catalog that shows several of the Series 1500 models. (Compare the Series 1500 watches to the Series 1000 or Series 2000 watches shown in this 1990 TAG-Heuer catalog.)

The watch shown below appears to be identical to the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver worn by Senator Obama, except that Obama’s watch has a leather strap, rather than the bracelet.

The model in TAG-Heuer’s current line of watches that might be considered the closest successor to the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver is the Reference WAF1120.BB0807, part of the Aquaracer series (shown below).

 

3. Barack Obama’s Secret Service Chronograph

Posted on September 25, 2008

On the occasion of his 46th birthday, on August 4, 2007, Barack Obama received a gift from the Secret Service agents who had been responsible for protecting him during his Presidential campaign — a large, black-dialed chronograph bearing the shield of the Secret Service. This chronograph was purchased by the Secret Service agents in the Secret Service employees’ store, located at Secret Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Secret Service chronograph given to Senator Obama by the Secret Service agents is a private label watch available only in the Secret Service employees’ store. The watch is manufactured for the Secret Service store by Jorg Gray, and appears in the Jorg Gray online catalog as the JGC6500 Chronograph. The chronograph is made in China, with a Japanese movement. (Click on any of the following images, to see an enlargement.)

The following are key features of this watch:

Design — oversized chronograph, with tri-compax design — 24-hour indicator at three o’clock, continuous seconds at six o’clock and chronograph minutes at nine o’clock; quick-set date at 4:30 position; luminous markers and hands.

The Case and Crystal — The case is stainless steel, with the top bezel being base metal; screw-back case; marked water resistant to 10 ATM; domed plastic crystal.

Measurements — The chronograph measures 41 millimeters across the dial (not counting the crown); 47 millimeters from top of top lug to bottom of bottom lug; thickness of 13.5 millimeters (from case-back to top of domed crustal; 22 millimeters between the lugs (strap width).

The Movement — This chronograph is powered by the Miyota Caliber OS-20 movement. The OS20 movement is a 13-1/2 ligne movement (30.80 mm), with a height of 5.10 mm, accurate to within 20 seconds per month. Here are full specifications of the OS20 movement. Miyota is a subsidiary of Citizen Watch Co., LTD. Japan. These OS20 movements are currently available from supply houses in the United States at a price of approximately $25 per movement.

This Secret Service chronograph sells for approximately $210 in the employees’ store. This store is operated by the United States Secret Service Employee Recreation Association (“ERA”), and all profits from the store go to charities supported by the ERA. The employees’ store is not open to the public; accordingly, these “Barack Obama Secret Service Chronographs” are destined to remain scarce among the chronograph collectors.

4. So What?

Posted on September 28, 2008

Some will skim this page or read the postings on watch discussion forums and ask why any of this matters. Indeed, in the larger scheme of things, most voters will be more interested in Senator Obama’s positions matters such as taxes, international relations, national security, and individual rights, and less interested in his selection of this watch, some 15 years ago. By the same token, watch enthusiasts may question whether Senator Obama’s selection of a TAG-Heuer really means much, for the TAG-Heuer brand or for watch collecting, in general. In short, maybe the fact that Barack Obama selected this watch and wore it for so many years is just not that important?

But returning to the language and habits of watch collectors, Barack Obama’s TAG-Heuer is an important watch. Obama’s TAG-Heuer may not be as important as the Rolex that Marilyn Monroe had engraved for President Kennedy. It may not even be as important as the Timex that President George W. Bush seems to have lost, while working a crowd in Albania. Still, this watch is important, as the watch that a young man selected ,as he embarked on his career or when he was married, and seems to have worn regularly every day for the next 15 or so years. In the imagery that the watch brands seek to create, here we have a man of action, an adventurer, a sportsman, wearing a watch that suits his personal style so well.

Is Obama’s selection of this TAG-Heuer as important as matters of world peace and the wellbeing of our nation? Absolutely not. Still, as a Heuer collector, I am happy that he chose this one, and not a Rolex, an Omega or a Timex.

5. So Is Obama a “Watch Guy”?

Posted on November 1, 2008

Prompted by sightings of his TAG-Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone watch and his oversized Secret Service chronograph, the conversation on various watch discussion forums naturally turned to the question of whether Senator Obama might be a “watch guy”.  There is no reason to think that Senator Obama is a “watch collector”.  Still, the photos suggest that he wore a watch at a relatively young age, and that he wore his TAG-Heuer on a daily basis over several years.

The photograph below shows Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, wearing what appears to be an inexpensive plastic quartz watch.

[IMAGE]

Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991, began teaching at the University of Chicago Law School in September 1992, and was married in October 1992. Could the TAG-Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone watch have been a gift to mark one of these occasions? Or did Obama buy the watch for himself, when he joined the workforce (1991-92)?

However we might define the phrase “watch guy”, it seems that Barack Obama qualifies.  He wears a watch every day; he owns at least two watches, and seems to select between them, depending on the occasion; and he often rolls up his sleeves, boldly displaying his watch.  Yes, it seems that Barack Obama is a watch guy!!

6. The Inauguration Update, January 2009

Posted on January 21, 2009

Barack Obama’s Inauguration as the 44th President of the United States occured on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, and the watch watchers had one question in mind, as they watched the events of the day — would Obama wear the Secret Service chronograph that he had been wearing, during his campaign (and which might have become his “lucky watch”) or would he go back to the TAG-Heuer watch (which might have some sentimental value, from his days as a young law professor, community organizer or newlywed)? The weather in Washington, D.C. was very cold on the day of the Inauguration, meaning that Obama would be wearing long sleeves, an overcoat and leather gloves. It was much easier watching his watch during the hot summer days, when he was campaigning in the Deep South, with his sleeves rolled up.

The photos from the morning prayer service, and the pre-inauguration visit to the White House were inconclusive, as Obama’s cuff, suit jacket, overcoat and gloves kept his watch covered for most of the morning. Then, as he was taking the oath of office, with his right hand raised and his left hand on the Lincoln Bible, we finally saw the watch of the day . . . the “Secret Service” chronograph that Obama had been wearing since August of 2007. (Click on the photograph, for a closer look at the chronograph.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009, was President Obama’s first full day on the job. During the day, he signed his first act as President, a proclamation declaring a national day of renewal and reconciliation and calling on Americans to serve one another. [Click on either of the images below, for a closer look at the watch.]

In subsequent days, with each signing of additional executive orders, members of the public saw President Obamas “Secret Service” chronograph, and asked the question: “Which watch is Obama wearing?”

7. Watching Obama’s Watch — One Year Later

Posted on September 3, 2009

 

It’s September 3, 2009 now, almost one full year after I first started watching Obama’s watches. And I will admit it: that over the period from September 2008 through Obama’s Inauguration in January 2009, I did get tired of this story . . . really, really tired of this story. There were periods when I was checking for photos on a daily basis, responding to numerous e-mail messages, keeping up with dozens of blog postings about Obama’s watches, staying current with the principals at Jorg Gray, watching for EBay auctions, and “promoting” the story in various media outlets. Traffic at OnTheDash almost doubled, and over certain periods, there were more “hits” on Obama’s webpage than on all the other pages of the website, combined.

So for the past several months — February through August 2009 — I stopped following the story. Yes, I would have a look at Getty Images every once in a while, to see what Obama is wearing, but there hasn’t been much to report. Obama has worn the Jorg Gray “Secret Service” chronograph daily, with only the occasional switch to the Nike or Timex digital watch, when he goes for a run, for a swim, etc.

This evening, I was clicking thorugh some messages on Twitter, and I noticed a couple of new blog postings covering Obama’s watches. Yes, almost one full year later, people are still writing articles, columns and blog postings about President Obama’s watches. Every day, there are numerous Google searches relating to “Obama’s Watch” or “What Watch Does Obama Wear”, and many of these searchers end up on this webpage.

Accordingly, I have decided to continue with some entries on this page. I am certain that I will not be covering this story with anywhere near the intensity of the period from September 2008 through January 2009; still, it might be useful to have a place to write the occasional note or add a link to an interesting article or blog posting.

With that introduction, I will switch to a “journal” style, adding notes as items come to my attention; also expecting that I may get tired of maintaining this page, in which case, it will again go silent.

  • September 3, 2009: Gear Patrol blog entry covering Obama’s Jorg Gray chronograph.
  • September 4, 2009: Here’s a Luxist blog entry, describing the Vulcain Cricket watch that has been given to President Obama; he may have received this watch, but a quick review of Getty Images shows no evidence that he is wearing it; seems unlikely that we will be wearing a $6,500 Swiss watch.
  • September 9, 2009: Addressing a joint session of Congress to discuss healthcare reform, President Obama has switched back to his TAG-Heuer Series 1500 watch. I wonder whether he might have thought that the TAG-Heuer would have more bipartisan appeal? It seems that Congressman Wilson did not approve. The next day, he is back to the Jorg Gray.
  • September 15, 2009: The October 2009 issue of Men’s Health magazine has Obama on the cover, wearing his TAG-Heuer Series 1500 watch.
  • I suspect that this portrait was taken well before the publication of this magazine; still, it’s great to see the TAG-Heuer on the cover. So tell me, how much would any watch brand pay to have its watch shown on the cover of this magazine!! Well done, TAG-Heuer!!
  • November 24, 2009: For the first State Dinner of his Presidency, Obama is wearing the TAG-Heuer Series 1500 watch.
  • December 3, 2009: The Times of London runs the story,”The search for Barack Obama’s watch“. Here is an excerpt from the article, describing the “Secret Service chronograph: “The watch started life as one of only 50 produced for members of the Secret Service two years ago. Soon after, the then presidential candidate was given one by his security detail for his 46th birthday in August 2007 and he swapped it for his TAG Heuer. A frenzy began among watch nerds to identify it. The fact that Obama had dumped his trusty Tag for a confusingly obscure model became the subject of heated debate on the internet. Foremost among the watch detectives was Jeff Stein, a civil lawyer from Atlanta, who made it his business to find out which brand Obama had switched to.” Unbelievable! This is the story that just won’t go away!
  • December 6, 2009: Here is an interesting photo (below) of President Obama and Vice President Biden, as they wait before Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. There is much discussion about the body language and messaging, between the President and the Vice President. One thing we can all agree on: It’s a great photograph of the Tag-Heuer Series 1500!
  • December 10, 2009: In Oslo, Norway, President Obama wears his TAG-Heuer Series 1500 watch (below) to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • A pattern seems to be emerging, with the President wearing the TAG-Heuer for special occasions. One question for further study: For this sort of travel, is Obama packing both watches — the TAG-Heuer and the Jorg Gray — or does he just select one watch for the trip? If he is switching off watches, from one day to the next or from one event to the next, then that definitely makes him a “watch guy”.

8. Obama’s Highgear Enduro Sports Watch

Posted on January 8, 2010

OK, I’ll admit it . . . I got lazy. All the time that I was feverishly researching the TAG-Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone watch and the Jorg Gray Secret Service watch (primarily over the period from September 2008 through January 2009), and spending so many hours searching for the photos showing the watch in detail, I knew that there was — in fact — a third watch that Obama wore from time to time. This “third watch” [which may actually turn out to have been his second watch] was a big plastic sports watch that appeared for casual or informal occasions. In looking for the photos of the TAG-Heuer and the Jorg Gray, I knowingly and willingly ignored this third watch. [OK, now that this confession is under way, I am already feeling better.]

I chose to ignore this watch for a couple of reasons: First of all, I assumed that it was some sort of non-descript Timex Ironman, Casio or Nike sports watch, and that it would be very difficult to identify the exact make and model. I mean isn’t it a fact that so many of these watches look alike, and the one that I was seeing in the photos looked just like all the others, more or less. Second of all, I had the “it’s just a plastic sports watch” mentality. Frankly, I just didn’t care much about whether this lump of multi-functional plastic was one brand or the other. So why search for information if you expect that finding it will not even be interesting?

Then, in January 2010, a strange thing happened: Having the customary look through the White House Photo Stream, on Flickr, I came across an amazing photo, of President Obama, sitting at his desk in the Oval Office. In 18 months of examining photos of Obama, this was the clearest photo that I had seen of his sports watch, and I decided to grab the photo, crop it to show the watch in full detail, and post the photo on a discussion forum, with the question, “Who can identify this watch?”

What a surprise when, after only a few minutes, someone had posted a message on the discussion forum, correctly identifying Obama’s sports watch as the Highgear Enduro Compass watch. Suddenly, I became interested in learning more about this watch, so that I could share that information on this webpage.

Here are some sample photographs, showing President Obama wearing his Highgear Enduro Compass watch:

Probably one of the most visible events at which he wore the Enduro was during a trip to the Gulf of Mexico, in June 2010, to inspect some of the damage done to the beaches by the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. Notice the work boots, presumably of the oil resistant variety.

The Enduro seems to be a favorite for Obama to wear while on vacation . . .

or even watching a football game in the White House theater.

The distinctive shape of the watch and its integrated plastic strap make the watch easy to identify.

Having now identified President Obama’s sports watch, let’s take a closer look at the Highgear Enduro Compass watch.

The Highgear Enduro Compass. Details of the watch are as follows:

  • Highgear is a manufacturer of altimeters, compasses, sports timing devices, and gear and accessories. The “Enduro Compass” is part of the line of sports timing devices, and is described as “Trail Running Wristwear” or “Endurance Wristwear”.
  • The Enduro Compass has six basic modes of operation: (1) time of day, (2) chronograph, (3) review of stored data, (4) timer, (5) compass, and (6) alarm.
  • Key features include a digital electronic compass, a 100 split lap memory, a 100 lap memory, a 24-hour chronograph, a 24-hour timer, three alarms, and dual time zones. The chronograph has 1/100 second resolution.
  • The compass shows directional readings in 1 degree increments, and can be calibrated to compensate for the magnetic declination at a particular location.
  • The watch is water resistent to 50 meters, and has a mineral crystal.
  • The Highgear Enduro Compass currently retails for $80, and is available directly from Highgear, as well as from Amazon, REI and other retailers
  • The Enduro was designed by Highgear, and is manufactured in China.

You can find a detailed review of the Highgear Enduro Compass watch, from 2006, on the Watch Report, HERE.

About the Company — Highgear.   According to its Facebook page [accessed in 2010], Highgear was born in the Appalachian Mountains in 1999, when outdoor enthusiast Mike Hosey had a vision to create his own unique line of compact and affordable outdoor navigational tools. Aiming to enhance its customers’ experience of the natural world, Highgear evolved significantly in 2001. Watches, hand-held navigational devices, and pedometers were added to the product base, while infusing the entire line with top notch design. Highgear is passionate about the outdoors.

Highgear enthusiasts spend their time skiing Sugar Mountain, biking Bent Creek, hiking Pisgah National Forest, and paddling the French Broad River. This is where the company field tests its products. The company measures durability, accuracy, and reliability, and then spends hours brainstorming how to make improvements on intuitiveness, design, and function. The result is a line of high-performance tools that make outdoor adventure easier and more fun.

9. Obama’s New Balance Sports Watch

Posted on August 20, 2013

In early 2012, we began to see President Obama wearing a plastic sports watch other than the Highgear Enduro Compass watch. Closer study shows that President Obama’s new sports watch is a New Balance N7 watch, with a Heart Rate Monitor. It appears that the New Balance has replaced the Highgear watch, as it has not been seen since we first saw the New Balance.


Determining whether Obama is wearing the Highgear Enduro or the New Balance N7 is not difficult — the Highgear Enduro (above, on the left) has an irregular shaped bezel, with the fully integrated strap mounted asymmetrically (toward the left side of the case), while the New Balance (abovee, on the right) has a round dial, with a bright red inner bezel, and the traditional strap is mounted symmetrically. The straps themselves are also easily distinguished, with the Highgear having elongated holes and the New Balance having smaller rally-style holes.

[Above — President Barack Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David, Md., Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)]

Obama’s New Balance Sports Watch in Action. As we had seen with the Highgear Enduro Compass watch, President Obama seems to wear the New Balance N7 watch as his casual watch. We can expect to see Obama wear this as his primary watch while on vacation, where we see him wearing the watch riding bikes, playing golf or going for ice cream. Obama has also worn the New Balance N7 watch for rugged assignments, for example helping with a building project (at the top of this posting) or skeet shooting at Camp David.

The New Balance N7 Sports Watch  is a fairly conventional looking plastic sports watch, but it does have some distinguishing features, both from a functional point of view and in terms of its design.

The New Balance N7 features a 2.4 GHz digitally-coded heart rate monitor, that has a chest strap that sends a wireless signal to the watch.  The watch has continuous heart rate reading, and can be set to target specific heart rate zones. In addition to the heart rate features, the New Balance N7 has standard sports watch functions, including a range of 100 hours, the ability to time 50 laps or splits and a 30 run memory.

The watch can display time in 12-hour or 24-hour formats, shows the day and date, will display a second time zone and has two daily alarms.  The New Balance N7 is water resistant to 50 meters.

The New Balance N7 is made in China, and sells (new) for approximately $75.

10. Watching Obama’s Watch — The First Five Years

Posted on August 28, 2013

I don’t have the data to prove it, but am confident that President Barack Obama’s watch is the most visible, most “seen” watch in the world. Three factors have combined to bring Barack Obama’s watch into the view of billions of people: President Obama appears in media throughout the world; he wears a big watch; and he often rolls up his sleeves, so that the watch catches the eyes of even those who are not usually “watch spotters.”

Over the last five years, I have spent more time than I care to count watching Barack Obama’s watch. From the time of his emergence as a candidate in the summer of 2008, to his August 2013 summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I have studied thousands of photos of Obama, looking for any changes in his watches or any trends in his watch wearing habits.

If this fascination with Barack Obama’s watches seems unusual, I am comforted in having had good company all along the way. Over the last five years, newspapers, magazines, blogs and discussion forums around the world have told the story of Obama’s “Secret Service” watch. For the last five years, I have maintained a web-page reporting on President Obama’s watches.

This posting will cover the “frequently asked questions” regarding the watches worn by President Barack Obama over the last five years.

Which Watch Does Barack Obama Wear?

President Obama wears a Jorg-Gray model JG 6500 chronograph that has the logo of the United States Secret Service on the dial.

He received the watch from his Secret Service detail, in August 2007, as a present for his 46th birthday. Senator Obama, then a candidate for the Presidency, had admired the watch worn by a member of the Secret Service detail, so the agents chipped in to buy him this watch for his birthday. The watch was purchased by the agents at the employee store at United States Secret Service headquarters, in Washington, DC.

What is Jorg Gray?

At the time that Barack Obama received his watch, “Jorg Gray” was a brand offered by Logomark, a California-based supplier of promotional products. Jorg Gray customers typically ordered the watches with a company logo or name on the dial. The Logomark catalog includes thousands of corporate gifts – clocks, pens, golf products and hundreds of other promotional items. With the visibility and worldwide demand for Obama’s chronograph, Jorg Gray has become an independent watch brand, with a full line of watches available through retailers and directly from Jorg Gray.

Are Watches Like Obama’s Available to the Public?

Jorg Gray now offers the JG 6500 in a commemorative edition, with the case-back engraved with Obama’s first inauguration date, January 20, 2009. The JG 6500 chronograph is offered in 10 different versions, including smaller 37 millimeter versions, models in rose gold cases, models with Swiss movements, and a model with a carbon fiber dial.

In addition to the JG6500 “Presidential” line of chronographs, Jorg Gray offers collections in the Classic, Sports and Limited Edition Categories. In essence, Jorg Gray has leveraged the popularity of Obama’s JG 6500 to build a watch brand and to develop its full line of watches and chronographs.

 

Does the Secret Service employee store still offer chronographs like Obama’s, with the Secret Service shield on the dial?

In the frenzy following Obama’s election and inauguration, in 2009, the employee store had stopped selling the JG6500, but the store is currently offering the watch for sale again. The Jorg Gray JG6500 chronograph, with the Secret Service shield on the dial, sells for $300.

The Secret Service employees store is operated by the United States Secret Service Employee Recreation Association, and all profits from the store go to charities supported by the Association. The store is not open to the public.

We see these watches, with the Secret Service shield, offered on eBay from time to time. Are these legitimate?

The manager of the Secret Service employee store confirms that she “knows her customers”, meaning that she is selling to agents who she knows and trusts. The agents purchasing the watches know about the popularity of the watches, and may know that some have been “flipped”, but very few of these watches make it onto the market. The agents who are trusted to protect the life of the President and other national leaders can be trusted not to be “flipping” watches that are sold to them with the understanding that they are for personal use.

What about Barack Obama’s other watches?

Before he received the Jorg Gray “Secret Service” chronograph , Barack Obama’s daily wearer was a TAG Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver, Reference WD 1221.

The Series 1500 was introduced by TAG Heuer in 1991 and produced through 1998. When introduced the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver sold for $625 on the bracelet or $575 on the leather strap.

It appears that even after he began wearing the Jorg Gray on a daily basis, President Obama wore the TAG Heuer on some occasions, for example, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and made is first State of the Union address. We have not seen the TAG Heuer recently, however, leaving us to wonder whether President Obama has retired the watch or perhaps he is just another citizen who has a nice watch in a sock drawer, awaiting the battery replacement.

Don’t we also see President Obama wearing a plastic sports watch?

Yes. We have seen President Obama wearing two relatively inexpensive multi-function plastic sport watches, a Highgear Enduro Compass watch (below left) and a New Balance N7 (below right).

President Obama seems to wear these sports watches on vacation, to play golf, and for more rugged activities (for example, when he inspected the damage along the Gulf Coast following the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform).

Just as Barack Obama seems to have switched to the Jorg Gray Secret Service chronograph, and retired his TAG Heuer from daily use, so too he seems to have retired the Highgear Enduro watch after he began wearing the New Balance watch. You can see detailed information about the Highgear Enduro watch and the New Balance watch in other postings.

When do you see the highest volume in traffic to your webpage covering Obama’s watches?

Whenever people are watching President Obama, there are searches along the lines of “Which watch does Obama wear?” The greater the visibility of Obama and his watch, the more traffic there is to the webpage.

For example, during the Presidential campaign debate in October 2012, President Obama and Mitt Romney were in a somewhat casual setting, strolling around the stage with a handheld microphone, as they answered the questions. Every time Obama strolled around the stage answering a question, traffic on the webpage jumped, as people were trying to identify his watch.  The more animated President Obama is, the more people see his watch, and the more they go to Google trying to identify it.

When Obama is in Brazil, I see increased traffic from Brazil; when he is in Germany, there is increased traffic from Germany.  Wherever he is, people are curious about his watch.

How do you find the photos of Obama and his watch?

I am looking for high resolution photos that show President Obama and his watch in interesting situations. The best sources have been Getty Images and the Flickr photostream of the White House. Of course, there are other times when no search is required, for example the magazine covers from Fall 2012 (shown below).

When the weather is hot, and Obama rolls up his sleeves, the Jorg Gray “Secret Service” watch is not so difficult to spot. People will see these kinds of photos and want to learn more about the watch.

Do you believe that President Obama is a “watch guy”?

As is so often the case, it’s all in the question of what we mean by a “watch guy”. Without any information directly from President Obama or those in daily contact with him, we can only guess about his attitude towards watches. If I had to describe his watch quotient, it might be as follows:

  • Barack Obama likes to wear a watch. This is not something that we should ever take for granted when so many people are relying on smart phones and other devices to determine the time.
  • He wears different watches for different occasions. While the Jorg Gray Secret Service chronograph is clearly the President’s “go to” watch, the fact that he owns at least four watches and changes them to suit the occasion seems to show that he aware of different styles.
  • The Jorg Gray seems to be President Obama’s “lucky watch”. Barack Obama received the JG6500 Secret Service watch in August 2007, at a time when he traialed Hillary Clinton in the polls, by a substantial margin (45% to 25%).

Why are people so interested in Barack Obama’s watch?

The tradition for U. S. Presidents is that they wear an inexpensive, nondescript watch while in office, such as a Timex Ironman or some other plastic sports watch. By contrast, many world leaders are known to wear expensive watches while in office, but the citizens of their countries do not seem to be critical of their choices. The Dalai Llama wears a Rolex; Putin has far more expensive tastes; Bibi Netanyahu wears a Panerai.

Obama’s choice of a watch is interesting, as his background, political leanings and social agenda suggests that he should be wearing a humble, inexpensive watch. By wearing the Jorg Gray “Secret Service” watch, Obama essentially skirts the issue of whether he will wear a luxury watch or an inexpensive watch. The Jorg Gray is a bold watch that gets a lot of attention. It looks expensive and has been mistaken for far more expensive watches. But because it is a relatively inexpensive watch that he received as a gift from his Secret Service detail, he is able to wear a bold watch without risking the sort of backlash that a luxury watch might create.

I believe that people are interested in Obama’s watch because he wears it well . . . visibly and boldly. As the first African-American President of the United States, Obama has a very different profile from our recent Presidents — he is young, handsome and athletic, and animated when he speaks.  The Jorg Gray JG6500 “Secret Service” chronograph suits President Obama well, and that’s why so many people want to see it and learn more about it, and even wear the watch themselves.  Barack Obama was elected as a populist; five years later, we see that the Jorg Gray JG6500 chronograph has become the “people’s watch”.

11. Everything You Need to Know about President Obama’s New Fitbit

Posted on March 27, 2015

For watch enthusiasts, gadget lovers and fitness freaks, March 2015 is a time of nervous anticipation. Those of us wearing traditional watches — that are neither “smart” nor “connected” nor capable of “tracking” anything other than the time of day — may be suffering equally from vertigo and anxiety.

The Apple Watch will be out next month. Maybe it’s time to upgrade the flip-phone to an iPhone, and get the Apple Watch as a wrist-mounted display / remote control? Do I want the basic model (at $349) or perhaps something in 18 karat gold (at $17,000).

TAG Heuer has announced a partnership with Google and Intel. Maybe the right line-up will be a Samsung tablet with the TAG Heuer connected watch? For the past 32 years, my running log resides on Index cards and paper calendars [yes, it’s true].  Surely TAG Heuer and it’s partners will offer a better solution.

My favorite brand of running gear is Under Armour, and UA has just acquired Map My Fitness, so perhaps it’s time to let Under Armour provide not only the clothing but also the tracking?  Vertigo sets in as we consider Apple vs. Android, fitness trackers vs. smart phones, and form factors ranging from postage stamps to “Plus” sizes.

As I consider these choices, and tighten my grip on the flip phone and index cards, perhaps I can learn something from the fact that another watch enthusiast, gadget-lover, fitness-tracker has made his decision. Indeed, the Commander in Chief of the United States, President Barack Obama, has recently made his choice, adding the Fitbit Surge.  If this one is good enough for him, shouldn’t it be good enough for me?

Spotted – President Obama’s Fitbit Surge

The Fitbit Surge model was introduced in the United States toward the end of January 2015, so President Obama was an early adopter.  My review of hundreds of publicly available photos of Obama over the past few months suggests that he first wore the watch around March 2, 2015.  Shown below is a photo of Obama, at a White House press conference, following his meeting with members of his Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  [Click HERE to see a close-up image of the watch.]

On March 13, 2015, Obama wore the watch on a visit to Gilbert, Arizona, to meet with Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg.  Remsburg had been was injured serving in Afghanistan and was presented with keys to his new home, which was purchased by the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund and renovated with the help of Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. Obama had met Remsburg on five previous occasiona, at various stages of his recovery.

That day, the folks at Fitbit spotted Obama wearing their watch, and posted the following on Twitter

Three days later, on March 16, Fitbit posted another Tweet, confirming the fact that President Obama was indeed wearing a Fitbit Surge.

Postings covering President Obama’s new Fitbit Surge became more widespread, on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), when President Obama wore his Fitbit in an Oval Office meeting with Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kelly.

Here are postings in the Daily Mail and Business Insider.

The photo at the top of this posting shows President Obama wearing his Fitbit at a Princeton vs Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in College Park, Md., on Saturday, March 21, 2015.

The Fitbit Surge – On the Wrist

Marketed as the “ultimate fitness super watch”, the Fitbit Surge may be described as an activity tracker, in the form of a watch, with GPS tracking and a heart monitor.  The form factor is chunkier than the smaller Fitbits that have become so common (the Flex and the Charge), as the Surge contains eight sensors (specifically, three-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, ambient light sensor, GPS and heart rate).  This is Fitbit’s top-of-the-line model, and retails for $249,95.

The accelerometer measures motion patterns, which compute steps taken, distance travelled, active minutes, floors climbed and calories burned. The heart-rate sensor on the Surge is optical, meaning that it detects the heart-rate by using two LEDs to illuminate capillaries in the wrist, measuring the frequency at which your blood pumps past.  Chest straps detect the heart rate by detecting electrical pulses.  Reviewers have concluded that the heart-rate monitor on the Fitbit Surge is reasonably accurate.

The display on the Surge is “always on”, meaning that you need not push any buttons or tap a screen to see the time of day.  [Wow . . . just like a real watch!!]  You can easily move between screens by swiping the touch-screen display.  This allows the user to easily move between the displays – the watch, step count, heart-rate, distance covered, calories burned and floors climbed.

When you are within 20 feet of your mobile device, the Surge uses Bluetooth to provide you with notifications of incoming text messages and phone calls.  The Surge displays 32 characters of a subject field and 160 characters of a text message.  The Surge can also be used to control music being played on an iOS device, allowing the user to pause / resume music and skip to the next track.

The Surge comes in three sizes, small, large and extra large, and three colors, black, blue and tangerine.  The head unit is the same size on all three sizes (TBD millimeters across the dial, and TBD millimeters, from top to bottom), with the only difference between the sizes being the length of the strap.  The strap is integrated to the watch, meaning that it cannot be replaced.  Battery life is up to seven days.

At $249.95, the Surge is priced at a significant premium to the Flex ($99.95) the Charge ($129.95) and the Charge with heart rate monitor ($149.95).  Have a look at the Fitbit website for a comparison of the models.

The Fitbit Surge – OnTheDash

Our description so far has focused on the Surge, as a watch-like device that you wear on your wrist.  The real power of fitness tracking comes when your day or workout is over, and you synch the Surge to the Fitbit.com dashboard, installed on your computer or mobile device.

The dashboard provides graphs and other detailed displays of historical data, allowing you to monitor your progress toward fitness goals.  You can compare your runs for a month, and determine exactly when your were restless during the night’s sleep, and also share your data with your friends.

Why I Bought a Fitbit Surge Two Days Ago

I bought the Fitbit Surge for approximately six reasons:

  • I have written about the four other watches that Barack Obama has worn while President and have found that even with common style sports watches, it is useful to have the watch in hand (or on the wrist) when writing about it.
  • With the Apple Watch coming in a few weeks, I want to gain a better understanding of what the smart watches are all about.  While the Fitbit Surge is not a smart watch, as a “connected watch”, it should help me understand the Apple Watch.  I don’t expect to buy an Apple Watch, but I do want to understand it and be able to discuss it.
  • TAG Heuer has announced that it is in a partnership with Google and Intel to produce a “connected watch” by year end.  As a 15-year  Heuer / TAG Heuer enthusiast, I want to understand why the company is pursuing this strategy and I want to be prepared to evaluate whatever “connected watch” TAG Heuer will be introducing.
  • Beyond these two specific devices, that I want to understand, I want to gain a deeper understand of “fitness tracking” as a social phenomenon.  Fitness trackers taken hold as mainstream devices, and I suspect that the smart watch will quickly achieve this status, very soon.  As someone living in this society, it just seems like time to figure out what these categories of devices are all about.  Why are there people walking the floors of our parking deck, at lunch time, on rainy days?  They are all wearing these damn things!!
  • I really do like to track my runs and monitor my heart-rate.  Maybe this type of device will represent an upgrade from the stack of index cards that track my runs and the index-finger-on-wrist approach that measure my heart rate.
  • I like gadgets.

Putting those factors on one side of the scale, and $249.95 on the other side of the scale, this was an easy decision.  They were in stock at Sports Authority, so I bought the black model . . . just like the President’s!

Fitbit Surge — 48 Hours on the Wrist (of an Absolute Novice)

I had expected that in this section of the posting, I would lament the fact that the set-up was difficult, that the features were unusable, and that wearing the Surge for two days had only added to my confusion about what my next device should be.  I imagined some lines about whether Obama had his “body man” set up the Surge for him and whether this body man might be available to help me with mine.  That could have been a good angle, right?

In fact, my 48 hours with the Fitbit Surge have been amazing.  It’s too early to say “life changing”, but that’s not out of the question.  I don’t want to turn this posting into a product review — especially one that I am not smart enough to write —   but let me provide a few highlights.

The most surprising aspect of this experiment was that the Surge was the simplest, easiest device to set up and use of any sports watch or similarly complex gadget that I can recall.  Everything worked perfectly, right out of the box.  The watch; the dashboard; the synching . . . absolutely everything seemed usable, within my first 10 minutes with the watch.

The most amazing 34 minutes and 18 seconds with the Surge came this morning.  I woke up early (after 5 hours and 11 minutes of 99% efficient sleep), read the manual for five minutes, and departed for my first run with the Surge.  The watch, and the run, were absolutely incredible.  I was able to use all the features; the visibility was great (even in the pre-dawn darkness); and the handling was perfect.  I learned that swiping the screen is far easier than pushing buttons, and that it’s a pleasure to be able to see the duration of the run and distance (which are constant displays) and to swipe between pace, heart rate, steps and and time of day, as you may choose.  Yes, I wanted to keep running, beyond the allotted 35 minutes.  This might be the most powerful thing about this or any other fitness device, right?  I just wanted to keep running!

Once again, I will resist the urge to turn this into a product review, but let me at least mention another amazing aspect of the Fitbit Surge.  Five minutes after getting back home, I clicked the Fitbit dashboard on my computer, and saw a beautiful display of graphs and other data about the run.  Minute-by-minute pace, heart rate and elevation changes, as well as a map of the run.  Mind boggling, at least for the first time user of a fitness tracker.  The urge?  You guessed it.  To run again tomorrow, to generate even more of these beautiful graphs.

So the full-featured smart watch lies ahead, and the TAG Heuer connected watch even further down the timeline, but this $249 and 48 hours bought me some incredible learning about these new categories.  And the Fitbit Surge also informed me that I had taken 23,709 steps over these 48 hours and have a reliable resting heart rate of around 55.  Not bad at age 59!

Why is President Obama Wearing the Fitbit Surge

As fascinating as it may be to consider why Jeff Stein bought the Fitbit Surge, perhaps there will be even great interest in the question of why President Obama is wearing this watch.

My best explanation of why President Obama decided to go with the Fitbit Surge derives from his identity as a gadget guy and as a workout guy, with the overlay that he is also a watch guy.   And one of the things that draws us to watches is that they are (usually) private, one of the few fashion accessories that a man can enjoy and one of the few private pleasures that the most public man in the world can enjoy, every day.

Throughout his adult life, Barack Obama has worn a variety of watches, each conveying some sense of his station in life and his self image. He wore a TAG Heuer Series 1500 watch in the early 1990s, when he left law school and entered the work force, which also coincided with his marriage. During his 2008 campaign, he switched to the Jorg Gray Secret Service watch, a gift from his Secret Service detail, which became a lucky watch as his campaign gained momentum. All along, he has had a plastic sports watch, for vacations, recreation, inspecting oil spills and other casual events.

Writing in the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman assesses the significance of President Obama’s new Fitbit, referring to his taking what has been effectively sold as workout gear, and bringing it into the Oval Office.  She refers to the “athleisure-ization of everything” and the power of an accessory to suggest what the wearer is into and the “cool factor” of what was once a dorky looking device.   What she misses, however, is that watches are different from most fashion accessories, spending most of the time hidden under the cuff.  As such, there is a stealth factor to watches.  President Obama couldn’t wear his running shoes to meet with a head of state, and he couldn’t drink from his favorite water bottle with Prince Charles, but watches are different.  They are more private; we enjoy them and they make us smile, but they are hidden from the public most of the time.

Of course, when they are seen, watches convey information about the wearer and we we want them to convey the right impression.  The Heuer Monaco, worn by Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans, might convey some association with the “King of Cool”, just as the Rolex Submariner conveys the impression that the owner is an adventurer.  Ironically, Jorg Gray has demonstrated that a watch can suggest a connection with President Obama.

Presidents, They’re Just Like Us

In the end, my guess is that President Obama is not wearing his new Fitbit to send any messages to the public or to create an impression on anyone.  He enjoys gadgets and technology; he enjoys exercise and fitness; and, yes, he enjoys watches.  Regardless of what is happening in the world, in Congress, or in the polls, these are things that make him happy.

I would expect that, in a given day, President Obama has very little time to himself, very few moments that he can enjoy, away from the public and the press.  His schedule does not allow for much personal or leisure time.  But when he does escape for a workout, or even when he is sitting in a car or on a plane or on a stage, the Fitbit Surge allows President Obama to enjoy an amazing gadget and to learn about some new technology.  Yes, these watches are amazing things and that’s why we are watch guys. yes, Presidents, they’re just like us.

Jeff Stein
March 26, 2015

Afterwards — A Brief Recap of Obama’s Watches

With the count now up to six, it is worthwhile to provide a quick recap of the watches worn by President Obama while in office:

TAG Heuer Series 1500 Watch — The TAG Heuer Series 1500 watch appears to have been the only watch worn by Senator Obama and presidential candidate Obama.  He also wore it for special occasions during his first term as President.

Jorg Gray “Secret Service” chronograph – Barack Obama’s everyday watch during most of his time as President, he was also happy to wear it with dressy and formal attire.

Highgear Enduro Compass sports watch – President Obama’s first sports watch as President; worn on vacations and for casual and sports events.  Has not been seen recently . . . perhaps he is like so many other folks – when the battery runs out, it’s easier to replace the watch than to replace the battery.

New Balance N7 sports watch – We began seeing this watch for vacations, sports and casual events in early 2012.  It appears that this watch remains in the current rotation, with President Obama wearing it as recently as February 2015.

Fitbit Surge connected watch – See above.

Mystery watch – President has one other watch, one that he has worn  only on special occasions.  But that can be another watch, for another day!

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Additional References and Resources

12. Spotted — Barack Obama has a New Watch . . . and It’s a $15,000 White Gold Rolex

Posted on October 1, 2017

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 Nick Gould’s posting 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 Series 1500 watch that he has owned since the early 1990s ($400)
  • the Jorg Gray “Secret Service” chronograph, that he received as a gift from members of his Secret Service detail ($0.00),
  • two plastic watches from New Balance and High Gear (exactly $155 for the pair)
  • 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), or around $1,000 if he were buying the Jorg Gray chronograph.

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 Cool Vintage Watches, a vintage watch shop.

Normal people don’t browse vintage watch shops; watch guys do.  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 “Time” model was introduced in 2014, as part of the Cellini line-up that also includes a “Date” model and a “Dual Time” model.  The “Time” model is available in white gold (Reference 50509) as well as rose gold (Reference 50505).  The first execution of the “Time” used Roman numerals for 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock and 12 o’clock, while the second execution “Time”, as worn by Obama, uses simple index markers.

The Cellini Time 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 — Rolex Cellini Time, Reference 50509.

Specifications for the watch are as follows:

  • Functions — Center hour, minute and seconds hands. Stop-seconds for precise time setting.
  • White dial, with applied metal markers
  • Case — 39 mm, 18 carat white gold, polished finish; double bezel, domed and fluted; waterproof to 50 meters / 165 feet
  • Winding Crown — Flared screw-down winding crown with Rolex emblem
  • Crystal — Domed sapphire crystal
  • Movement — Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding, Calibre 3132 (manufacture Rolex); precision — minus 2 / plus 2 seconds per day, after casing; oscillator — paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring; high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers; power reserve approximately 48 hours
  • Winding — Bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor
  • Bracelet – Black leather strap, with 18 carat gold buckle
  • Certification — Superlative Chronometer (COSC + Rolex certification after casing)
  • Price — $15,200

Thanks

Thanks to Farkas Arpad, who spotted former President Obama’s new watch, and asked about it on Twitter.