October 26, 2016
by Bilal Khan
The sin of the digital is a sin of hubris, and hubris is the curse of all persons of power. The watch is squatting there right now, a heartbeat from the presidency, pulsing malignantly.
You want to know what time it is, Mr. President?
You want to know exactly what time it is?
Time to get another watch.
That excerpt comes from a 1993 Washington Post op-ed called “Noted With Disdain” referring to the Timex Ironman that then President Bill Clinton wore. Even though neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have recently been seen wearing a digital watch, it goes to show that one’s taste in a wristwatch says something about the person who chooses to wear it. When that person is President, it becomes a reflection on the nation to some.
No matter where you are in the world right now, there’s no way that the 2016 election for President of the United States has evaded your attention. Yes, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have had their fair share of rallies, debates, twitter fights, and now, with just under two weeks left, everyone is ready for it to be over. However, there’s no way I could avoid looking at what watches these two wear and, interestingly enough, the brands chosen by each reveal a lot about them.
I initially wanted to write this article about the two candidates for the office of the President of the United States back at the end of July once the conventions of both the Republican and Democratic parties had ended. Then, I thought maybe I should wait until closer to election day so as to see if any possible watch related moments from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump happen to take place. No such luck on that front, rather we just ended up with one of the most bleak election cycles in the country’s history.
Like some long festering childhood fear, this election and its coverage have been unavoidable, no matter how long you hide under the covers. However, since so many aBlogtoWatch readers are international, here’s a summary: the Democratic Party has put forth Hillary Clinton, a historic candidate who is the first woman nominee for a major party in US history. The Republican Party has nominated Donald Trump, a real estate developer and former reality TV star who is making history of his own. After electing officials to hold offices like Governor of Florida and Speaker of the House of Representatives, the United States has now finally nominated its first Orange nominee to hold the highest office in the land.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can talk about all the non-watch stuff forever and ever, so I’ll stop myself there. If I’ve somehow lured you into a politics/election black hole I recommend checking out blogs like FiveThirtyEight and the Keepin’ it 1600 podcast.
Back to the candidates, let’s assume that one’s taste and choice in wristwatches reflects or reveals some aspects of their personality, because doing so certainly helps demonstrate some widely held perceptions of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton has often been seen as someone who plays it pretty safe and whose political persona isn’t exactly seen as electrifying. That being said, she’s a mainstay who has seen sustained success and prestige in American politics as a First Lady, two-time senator, Secretary of State, and now nominee for President. Her brands of choice? Rolex and Chanel. Rolex makes 100% sense to me as a watch brand for someone who fits the aforementioned description. And if any brand says First Lady – it may be Chanel.
On the other hand, Donald Trump is a billionaire real estate developer and media personality with an almost compulsive need to brand anything he can get his hands on, ranging from apartment complexes to steaks to, you guessed it, watches. He’s also known to most likely exaggerate his wealth and is the kind of guy who says “believe me” a lot. Keeping this in mind, it doesn’t come as a shock at all that rather than give away all that real estate on his wrist (no comment on hand size), Trump gave the Canal Street treatment to a handful of iconic watch designs like the Rolex Daytona and TAG Heuer Monaco. By shabbily recreating their basic design fitted with a quartz movement and a Trump logo, Trump exclusively sold them at Macy’s. Perhaps to not many people’s surprise, the venture promptly failed within one year.
Sometimes the choice in a wristwatch is a lot more political and intentionally made in order to communicate something about yourself to the people. Bill Clinton campaigned wearing a Timex Ironman watch back in 1992. If there was anything to punctuate the age and indeed generational difference between himself and George H. W. Bush, who served as Vice President under Ronald Reagan from 1980-1988 and had been President since 1988, a digital sports watch would communicate that message perfectly. I mean what says the future like a digital watch in 1992?
This doesn’t mean that the message always resonated. Back to that Washington Post which borders on the poetic in its dislike of Clinton’s watch. Personally, I think this article proves the success of the Ironman in getting the everyman message across. Here’s an excerpt, but you really should check out the entire thing – it’s very entertaining.
It began showing up in photographs early in the presidential campaign, an unsightly blemish that just wouldn’t heal. Lately, it has become improbably conspicuous, as though the president were flaunting it, a bride-to-be flashing her fat new rock. It is a plastic digital watch, thick as a brick and handsome as a hernia.
No one disputes that the most powerful man on Earth should be free to wear whatever he wishes, but we should not confuse freedom with license. If Bill Clinton began arriving at state dinners in bare feet and bib overalls, stock prices would edge uneasily down. The president need not be impeccably tailored, but a certain dignity is expected.
But, returning to the Clinton who is running. Hillary Clinton has recently stopped wearing a watch, likely due to the fact that it’s hard to connect to average working class Americans while waving around a watch that may retail for more than the average monthly income in the room (I doubt she’d be seen with a digital watch either). This could also be because wristwatches can create more problems than they’re worth sometimes. Hillary has had “likability issues” for as long as people can remember, and being caught on camera checking the time can be seen as being bored or uninterested. I doubt that the photos taken of George HW Bush checking his watch like he had somewhere better to be would translate well in the twitter age. Seriously, the man could not stop checking his watch. On stage with Gorbachev, on the debate stage with Bill Clinton… just shots of H. W. looking bored and impatient.
Let me just continue with this aside for a moment, because I feel like the act of checking your watch has been near the top of the list of things not to do while campaigning and especially during something like a political debate. Bush the elder looked aloof and uninterested while the Big Dog (Bill Clinton) gave a much lauded answer to a woman in the audience who was shaken by the faltering economy. It’s probably one of the first things mentioned in debate prep, but I think this year we learned that there are worse things you can do than check your watch. I say this because checking your watch as a nervous tic indicating impatience looks way better than whatever Donald Trump was doing here. Someone get this guy a genuine Donald J Trump Signature Dolex Traytona, stat!
On several instances Hillary Clinton has been seen wearing a Chanel J12 (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here) which is a ladies watch you see around often, especially in LA and New York where I spend most of my time. Not terribly exciting but definitely a decent choice as far as “fashion” watches go. It’s a watch that comes in several varieties and can be decked out in diamonds but the standard model that Clinton wears retails just around $5,950.
Hillary Clinton is also a fan of Rolex. There are several instances of her wearing the Rolex Ladies Datejust in two-tone which looks to me to be the reference 179173. That is the 26mm version that comes in steel and 18k gold with white dial and stick hour markers, of course on a jubilee bracelet. If bought new, these go for $8,700.
However, Clinton has also been seen wearing a Rolex Day-Date, aka the Rolex President. Perhaps she chose to not wear it too often so as not to tempt fate too much, but perhaps she plans on giving it some more wrist time in the future. It looks like the reference 118238 which is the 18k yellow gold model with a white dial in a 36mm case with (of course) the President Bracelet. No surprise, this piece is the priciest of the bunch at $31,350.