Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

"I always wore two watches during the [Gulf] war. The one on my left arm was set on Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on my right arm was set on Eastern Standard Time. That way I could quickly glance at my watches and instantly know the time in both Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C. Sincerely, H. Norman Schwarzkopf General, U.S. Army, Retired." Words from recently departed General Schwarzkopf in a letter to the Antiquorum auction house in the late 1990s when he donated one his watches for a charity auction.

The watch was a Seiko SKX009 diver and was on his wrist for at least the entirety of the early 1990s Gulf War. According to the letter and many images from the time, General Schwarzkopf indeed "double wristed it" with a watch on each wrist. Mark of a true watch guy? At auction, the Seiko which can be purchased new for about $200 today went for $11,000.

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Four star generals in the US military are quite rare but "Stormin' Norman" was among them. His strategic brilliance and legendary temper made him one of the 20th century's most iconic and archetypal major military leaders. Retired, he died at the age of 78 years old in Tampa, Florida several days ago at the end of 2012. One of his most famous quotes was "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."

I would be doing a great disservice to the many qualified military historians and tactical experts who are more knowledgeable than I in discussing the life and career of General Schwarzkopf. So I will merely mention brief items of interest. More information about General Schwarzkopf is of course available on his Wikipedia page here.

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Schwarzkopf was born in New Jersey with his father being a military and police man. He moved to Iran when he was 12 with his family which offered him early exposure to the Middle East. Schwarzkopf was a lifelong military man but spent a lot of his time earning degrees. Most of his childhood was spent in some form of military prep school, and he later attended the United States Military Academy in New York, which we also often refer to as "West Point." A few years later he moved to Southern California to study mechanical engineering at USC. In the 1960s Southern California and Los Angeles was a hotbed of aeronautical development, which meant it was the best place to study advanced mechanical engineering at that time. Later still Schwarzkopf went to the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania to study more high-level strategy and leadership.

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

General Schwarzkopf served considerably in Vietnam, continuing to rise in military rank. In the 1970s he first achieved the rank of General. In the 1990s he led the US forces in the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War. It was an extremely decisive victory, taking the US military only about 100 hours to gain control over the region and ejecting the Iraqi forces from Kuwait. It is during that time that Schwarzkopf wore the two watches. Check out an excellent video presentation by the General on how we so easily were victorious in the Gulf War from the early 1990s.

It is the general belief (or perhaps hope) that military personnel wear military watches. General Schwarzkopf certainly didn't on either wrist. Both of his timepieces were quite civilian, and it is somewhat amusing or perhaps charming that rather than wear a single watch with two timezones, he wore two separate watches. As a dive-style watch, the Seiko was both comfortable and legible. It served as a beater or desk diver watch of many, and for Schwarzkopf it was reliable timepiece he wore all the time. While an automatic version of the Seiko is available, Schwarzkopf's model was a quartz piece. That would have made more sense at the time as quartz was far more popular than mechanical watches and considered the highpoint of wrist watch technology.

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

His second watch is a bit more of an interesting, though logical choice. It strongly appears that General Schwarzkopf also wore a Rolex. It is unclear exactly what model, but it is probably a two-tone (steel and gold) Rolex Day-Date. However, a reader pointed out that Rolex does not actually officially made two-tone Day-Date models. This watch is also know as the Rolex President (because it was historically worn by several US Presidents and other world leaders). For General Schwarzkopf to have purchased or been gifted this watch during the 1980s makes a lot of sense.

The Rolex could have also been a Rolex Datejust model, which is of course similar to the Day-Date. However, the style of two-tone bracelet on Schwarzkopf's wrist was used primarily on Day-Date models. The watch has a steel case with a fluted gold bezel, as well as what looks like a gold-toned dial. These pieces are not entirely common so finding a precise picture was difficult. Shown are examples, or similar watches to what could have been on General Schwarzkopf's wrist adjacent to the Seiko. The jury is still out on exactly what type of Rolex it was, or if it was a Rolex at all.

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

Remembering General Norman Schwarzkopf & His Watches   feature articles

The Rolex Day-Date and Datejust are two very "copied" designs. Even Seiko made a range of clone models. It is possible, but not terribly likely that the Rolex-style watch was a different make. However, given Schwarzkopf's position in life and social status, it was entirely likely that it was a genuine Rolex timepiece. Another piece of evidence to support this position is that it is my experience that engineers tend to be "watch guys." As an engineer himself, it is entirely likely that Schwarzkopf not only appreciated good watches, but would have wanted to own them.

None of this per se indicates that Schwarzkopf was a collector or fine watch aficionado, but it is an interesting segment of history that further grounds these two pieces in the real world. An appreciation of watch models and brands so frequently revolves around not only their history, but figures in history who chose to wear them. This is especially important because so often today famous people seen wearing watches are paid spokespeople or "friends of the brand." Schwarzkopf was neither and wore these two timepieces (among others in his life) entirely because he wanted to. America has unfortunately lost another stellar military leader, but he had by most accounts, an excellent life. Rest in peace General Hubert Norman Schwarzkopf.

Thanks to an aBlogtoWatch reader and members of sites like WatchUSeek for their discussion on General Shwarzkopf and his watches.

11 comments
antjay
antjay

Love the article . I was genuinely saddened when I heard  of his passing , and I'm not even an American . He was an inspiring , larger than life character . My sympathy to his family and friends.

On a lighter note I find it amusing that his boss ( Gen. Powell )  is pictured wearing a  Casio " al-Qaeda " !

keerat
keerat

Nice writeup, Ariel. 

bluesman_chris
bluesman_chris

Hi Ariel, the Seiko watch I think was a Seiko SQ Diver 7548 model.  But either way, great article and a hug Seiko fan, and great to know a Seiko served him well.

In Time
In Time

Ariel, 

Your article is riddled with very obvious mistakes and that is surprising from a guy who spends so much time around watches. 

First, there is no such thing as a Two-Tone Rolex Day-Date. There has never been a Two-Tone Day-Date. There was and is however, a Tridor model that is a combination of White gold, yellow gold, and platinum. And the pictures you posted of the Day-Dates are complete fakes.


Second, if you had read the auction details for the Seiko, you would have noticed that it was a quartz variant and not an automatic like you stated.

This was an informative article about the late general but these types of mistakes are embarrassing for a website like this.

flukesh
flukesh

Ariel, thanks for this fantastic article!

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

As a non-American, to me he often came across as something of an anachronism during the Gulf war when I was still a child, but I always admired his no-bullshit, no-pretensions attitude.  A non-partisan man when it came to watches obviously, couldn't be better demonstrated by having a Seiko on one wrist and a Rolex on the other.  He seemed to appreciate what would get the job done reliably and simply.  I reckon if he came here and read the kind of minutiae we stew over, he'd let out a huge belly-laugh at how pathetic it was in the great scheme of things.  Few men who commanded such respect and reached a position of great authority were quite as humble or selfless.  He did not lust for political power despite many who were pushing him to be a presidential nominee which I think baffled them.  He only wanted to serve and do what was necessary, and he did it very well.  A rare man indeed.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

The amount of brainpower that existed between Schwarzhopf and Powell was staggering. I heard former Secretary and retired General Powell speak a year or two ago at my son's school and oddly he says he was not a good student in his early college days. Obviously a brilliant man. And modest too.

And Stormin Norman was a member of Mensa. Plus you just don't run into 4 star general or admirals who aren't very smart  cookies.Yes, 4 star Army Generals are relatively rare - just a little over 200 ever. But there are 10 at the moment.

I'll bet his Rolex (if that is what it really was) would go for more at auction than his Seiko did. Either one would be very cool to own.  A patriot and very focused and dedicated American leader has passed on. Here's to you sir!

aBlogtoWatch
aBlogtoWatch moderator

@bluesman_chrisYea, certainly possible. Love how the auction didn’t mention the reference number. They never do like that it was taboo or something.

aBlogtoWatch
aBlogtoWatch moderator

@In Time

Thanks for the note. You know, I am not a vintage Rolex historian and am not intimately aware of all the models Rolex has and does make (as there are a lot). It is also harder to find images of older pieces so it is unfortunate that these are fakes. If some one has better images I will happily replace them.

I did rule out the Tridor as I simply didnt’ think he was the type of guy to wear one as they usually have more jewelry-oriented dials. I will fix comment on the Seiko’s movement. You are right about the quartz movement in the Seiko! Good catch, tough when brands make both auto and quartz styles of each.

Oliveskate
Oliveskate

@In Time

I'm not a Rolex expert, so debate the variants all you wish. I do, however, claim to be a proficient reader...if you had read the article written you would have noticed that Ariel states the Seiko was a quartz variant. "While an automatic version of the Seiko is available, Schwarzkopf's model was a quartz piece"

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