10 Leaders Who Know The Power Of A Well-Chosen Watch
US President Joe Biden, Washington, DC, 21 January 2021. Photograph by Mr Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
If it’s possible to tell a lot about a man by his shoes, then you can perform a whole psychoanalytic assessment of a person based on their watch. You don’t have to have read Mr Sigmund Freud’s On Narcissism to work out that Mr Vladimir Putin’s A Lange & Söhne Tourbograph might mean he’s not, in fact, the staunchest of socialists. Or that Mr Donald Trump’s Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse could suggest he’s not a man of the people after all.
Not all leaders see watches as ego-puffing status symbols. There are a few men at the top of their respective fields – be that running a country, a company, a football team or even a religion – whose horological taste shows they perfectly understand their place in the world. The following gentlemen all appreciate the intrinsic beauty (and soft power) of a well-chosen timepiece.
Mr Jürgen Klopp
Mr Jurgen Klopp, Burnley, 31 August 2019. Photograph by Mr Peter Powell/Shutterstock
Who do you think acts as official timing partner for reigning Premier League champions Liverpool FC? Hublot? TAG Heuer? Rolex? Nope. In September 2020 it was announced that the watch brand keeping time at Anfield for the next five years would be...drumroll please...TRIBUS. Ring any bells? Us neither. That’s because TRIBUS, it turns out, is a spanking new watch brand founded by the three Liverpool-mad sons of the eponymous, Maidenhead-based watchmaker Christopher Ward. Quite the coup at the Kop. The brothers’ next mission will be persuading the gaffer to swap his super-rare (only 50 were produced), super-complicated (perpetual calendar with a flyback chronograph) IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN Aquatimer Ceratanium for one of their own affordable timepieces. Good luck lads.
Mr Ralph Lauren
Mr Ralph Lauren, London, 28 October 1981. Photograph by Mr Richard Young
As well as a lionised car collection, a planet-spanning property portfolio and an epoch-defining wardrobe (of the walk-in sort, we presume), Mr Ralph Lauren has amassed a war chest of watches. Stretching from vintage dive watches to modern-day Urwerks, the collection is nothing if not assorted. “It’s moving art, worn on your wrist. I don’t think there is anything like it in the world,” Mr Lauren wrote, of timepieces in general, in Mr Matt Hranek’s A Man & His Watch (a must-buy for anyone fascinated by lists such as this). Mr Lauren is most associated with the Cartier Tank; unsurprising, perhaps, given that the geometric timepiece helped define the Roaring Twenties – a decade that continues to inspire Mr Lauren’s fashion collections.
Pope Francis, Vatican City, 1 May 2013. Photograph by Mr Franco Origlia/Getty Images
The day after Mr Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March 2013, he returned to the boarding-house in which he’d been staying to settle his bill personally. He then chose to live in a two-room apartment in the Vatican, rather than the city-state’s Apostolic Palace, breaking a tradition than had existed for more than a century. His fleet of Popemobiles are made by Hyundai, Kia and Ford. When he’s not acting in his official capacity, Pope Francis whizzes around Rome in a retro Renault. Stands to reason, then, that on his wrist would be a Richard Mille Bonbon Marshmallow. Just kidding. The “People’s Pope” wears a Casio MQ24. Yours for £7.99. You didn’t seriously think…
Mr Mario Andretti
Mr Mario Andretti at the Indianapolis 500, Connecticut, 26 May 1968. Photograph by Bettmann/Getty Images
A baby-faced Mr Mario Andretti steps out of his car having qualified fourth for the 1968 Indianapolis 500. On his wrist is a Heuer Autavia, possibly the one presented to him after qualifying at the same race the year before. Such a bona fide watch guy was the Italian-American racing driver – one of only three drivers to go on to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, Nascar and the World Sportscar Championship – that he’d arrive at circuits with a briefcase full of timepieces. Perhaps a practical necessity as well as the behaviour of a committed watch addict: Mr Andretti once had a one-of-a-kind Gérald Genta stolen from a hotel in Montreal, and when he fell asleep on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, he had a watch by Porsche Design pilfered from his wrist. Fortunately, the racing driver was luckier on the track.
Mr Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama, New Delhi, India, 22 April 2018. Photograph by Mr Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Here’s a story. In 1943, in an attempt to curry favour with the 14th Dalai Lama, through whose country the US hoped to construct a road linking India to China, President Franklin D Roosevelt presented the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism with a yellow-gold Patek Philippe pocket watch. Unlikely that it is that the young Dalai Lama would have appreciated the stature of the gift at the time – he was only seven or eight years old – the watch seems to have spurred within the (now-exiled) leader a fascination with mechanical objects. The Dalai Lama has talked about disassembling watches as a young man and owns both a Rolex Datejust and Day-Date. In deference to Buddhist teachings, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk often attaches his watches to inexpensive wristbands and wears them on the inside of his wrist. “The world belongs to humanity,” he once told Mr Piers Morgan, “not this leader, that leader, kings or religious leaders.”
Mr Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton at an event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 7 November 2016. Photograph by Mr Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mr Bill Clinton wasn’t always a watch guy. At his inauguration ball in January 1993, the newly-elected president paired a boxy black tuxedo with a plastic Timex Ironman Triathlon – a watch The Washington Post called as “thick as a brick and handsome as a hernia”. President Clinton may have been introduced to European watchmaking by French company LIP, which, in 1994, gave him a Charles de Gaulle watch at the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Since leaving office, he has become a veritable watch hound, amassing a collection that includes an A Lange & Söhne Grosse Langematik Gangreserve, a rose-gold Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronograph and a Roger Dubuis Much More (yes, that was the name – a surprisingly tasteful rectangular creation). Despite developing a taste for expensive Swiss timepieces, Mr Clinton has never stopped championing star-spangled watchmaking, regularly appearing wearing a quartz-powered Runwell from Detroit-based Shinola (as seen here). As for the Timex? You can see that old hernia at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales at Wimbledon, London, 27 June 2012. Photograph by Mr Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Prince Charles owes his place on this list to one watch in particular – an 18ct gold Toric Chronograph by Parmigiani Fleurier. The timepiece was made at some point between the late 1990s and early 2000s and purchased in person from a jeweller in the Swiss ski town of Klosters. Like the discreet ski resort itself – which viewers of season four of The Crown will know as the scene of an avalanche that nearly killed the Prince in 1988 – Parmigiani Fleurier is a low-key, high-pedigree sort of brand popular among the types of people who attend the World Economic Forum in Davos (sister-resort to Klosters, coincidentally). Not that there’s anything inconspicuous about HRH’s particular Parmigiani. With its polished gold case and bright white dial, it wasn’t hard to spot the watch as Prince Charles walked Ms Meghan Markle down the aisle in 2018.
Mr Justin Trudeau
Mr Justin Trudeau, Ottawa, 11 October 2019. Photograph by Mr David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images
He got married in a tan suit (nine years before President Barack Obama wore his in the White House), took part in a charity boxing match and has a tattoo representing a native tribe from British Columbia on his left shoulder. Canadian prime minister Mr Justin Trudeau is so chill he used to be a snowboard instructor. So what watch does the camera-friendly, liberal-feminist leader wear to whip up crowds and high-five toddlers? An appropriately left-field IWC Portugieser Regulateur, a timepiece that displays hours, minutes and seconds on three different dials. Expect Mr Trudeau to be the only world leader rocking both ink and an IWC at this year’s G7 summit in Cornwall.
President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden, Washington, DC, 21 January 2021. Photograph by Mr Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Which watch would Mr Joe Biden elect to wear to his inauguration? Would it be the Omega Seamaster Diver 300m that accompanied him on the campaign trail? Would it be the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch he wore for his In Style magazine shoot? Perhaps the victory speech Seiko? Not the Vulcain Cricket, a watch that’s been gifted to almost all Potuses since Mr Harry Truman in 1953? Surely not the Vulcain. As it turned out, Mr Biden reported for duty in a stainless-steel Rolex Datejust, eschewing the traditional Day-Date (known as the “President’s watch” since it was popularised by President Lyndon B Johnson in the 1960s), perhaps because that particular model is only available in flashy 18ct gold or platinum. Classy.
Mr Jeff Weiner
Mr Jeff Weiner, San Francisco, 12 October 2018. Photograph by Mr Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25
How’s this for leadership? When, in 2016, professional networking platform LinkedIn lost 43 per cent of its share price off the back of some weaker-than-expected revenue forecasts, the company’s then CEO, Mr Jeff Weiner, declined his $14m stock bonus, sharing the pot among his employees instead. Mr Weiner’s act of compassion can’t have hurt the tech-bro-turned-power-broker too much, for he has since been spotted rocking a Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Nautilus (as seen here) – a stealth-wealth watch if ever there was one. Last year, Mr Weiner stepped down as LinkedIn’s CEO to become its executive chairman instead. Why? To help realise LinkedIn's vision of creating jobs for every member of the global workforce. What a guy. What an acute appreciation of power watches.