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'Show me your watch and I'll tell you who you are' – an old adage, reinterpreted. After all, you can tell a lot not only from one's friends but also from a person's watch. This fact can be both a curse and a blessing for politicians.

What role do wristwatches play in politics?

From style to grandeur

Unfortunately, somebody had to prove this to us again. In 2018, the SPD politician Sawsan Chebli experienced first-hand how personal preferences can become a pitfall for her own career. Nothing remains hidden from the watchful eyes of the population – including the Rolex Lady-Datejust on her wrist. A scandal.

How can a politician of a working-class party dare to spend her money on such an expensive luxury watch? A tidal wave of antipathy swept over Chebli, which in the end not only resulted in damage to her public image, but also forced Chebli to deactivate her Facebook account in order to escape the seemingly endless negative comments. Interestingly, the population's focus and anger was mainly directed at the € 7,500 Rolex made of stainless steel and not at the € 23,000 Cartier Ballon Bleu made of gold, which can often be seen in other photos of Chebli.

Cartier Ballon Bleu W6920095 3765 watch in stainless steel and rose gold with black backgroundCARTIER BALLON BLEU W6920095 3765

Watches from certain brands can unwittingly determine the success or failure of an entire career. Whether modesty, a great deal of style or delusions of grandeur – watch owners always reveal a little about themselves and their personality with their watches. Reason enough to take a closer look at the watches on the wrists of politicians from around the world.

The watches of German politicians

The widespread cliché of the Germans' punctuality has persisted stubbornly for years. Precise watches are essential for this punctuality. Which timepieces are worn by the German authorities?

Alongside Sawsan Chebli, FDP leader Christian Lindner also has a thing for Swiss precision timepieces. Under the shirt cuff of the former businessman, a Rolex also flashes out from time to time. His watch is a Rolex Milgauss from the brand's Professional Series. Completely made of stainless steel with a black dial and designed to withstand extremely strong magnetic fields, one might think that this watch in the German Bundestag has been met with little criticism. In contrast to the Rolex from Chebli, however, Lindner's Milgauss did not cause any trouble with the public.

Silver anti-magnetic Rolex Milgauss 116400GV watch with black dialROLEX MILGAUSS 116400GV

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the "mother of the nation", is doing it better than anyone else. Her watch is a Boccia Titanium ladies' watch for just € 89 – understatement par excellence. This watch is simple, somehow also fashionable, but above all one thing: practical.

The German Bundespresident is a little more emotional about the choice of his watch. Frank-Walter Steinmeier's wrist is graced by a very simple and elegant Nomos Glashütte Tangente. His wife gave him the watch, which cost € 900 at the time, 11 years ago for his 50th birthday. Since then, the head of state has hardly ever worn another watch.

Presidential watches and collections

When you are elected President of the United States, in addition to the infinitely heavy burden of responsibility, you receive a whole range of comfortable privileges: for example, a nice family home with a large garden in the heart of Washington, your own office with floor-to-ceiling windows and a wristwatch.

Since the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, the Swiss watch manufacturer Vulcain has presented the Presidents of the USA with a wristwatch at their inauguration. Whether or not they will be worn is another matter, but George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump have so far been seen very rarely with their Vulcain watches.

Former President Barack Obama frequently wore two watches: the first was a TAG Heuer 1500 and the second was a birthday present from his team, the JG6500 model from the American brand Jorg Gray with a purchase price of 395 USD. Only when Obama stepped down from the presidency did he dare to go a little further with his watches. These days, you can see him with a Rolex Cellini or a fitness watch on his wrist. His understated style has also enjoyed high appreciation among the population.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, polarizes like hardly any US president before him. His behaviour is confident and provocative. The currently most powerful man in the world is an entrepreneur at heart and will probably always remain so. This is also reflected in his choice of wristwatches. In addition to a very flat, gold watch of older manufacture, possibly a Patek Philippe Ellipse, the President of the USA also wears a Rolex Day-Date in yellow gold. But Donald Trump takes it to the extreme with his own collection of wristwatches: massive, ostentatious and unimaginative timepieces that shamelessly adapt the designs of the Swiss horlogerie icons. In fact, Trump-brand wristwatches look like imitations of exclusive luxury watches. Even the design on the box with an embossed coat of arms and signature does not seem very noble.

At least in his private life, the former businessman shows a sense of good taste with his Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date. This watch is highly regarded by the presidents of the world. Since Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the USA, it has been considered the President's watch, a haptic sign of power and prestige. Due to this fact and the great popularity among the powerful of this world, Rolex finally renamed the distinctive bracelet of the Day-Date. One of the most popular Rolex bracelets was born: the Rolex President bracelet.

A display of power: Putin’s watch collection

He is one of the most powerful and richest people in the world, and for some also one of the most dangerous. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Russia's head of state, is the counter player to Donald Trump and the United States of America – but not at all in terms of his preference for a more than dignified lifestyle.

What is striking about Putin's preference for timepieces is undoubtedly an impressive exclusivity. Apparently, the Russian's primary concern is not to own what everyone else owns. His private watch collection, for example, is estimated at a total value of over € 500,000 – not bad for his official annual salary of the equivalent of about € 130,000. Putin's watch collection includes a Blancpain Aqua Lung Grande Date, a Patek Philippe (Ref. 5039) and an A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph. The latter alone, depending on the model, can fetch a purchase price of just under € 160,000.

Like God in France: The watches of French presidents

The French, like the Italians, are known worldwide for their desire to enjoy the beautiful things in life. It is therefore hardly surprising that this attitude is also reflected on the wrists of French heads of state.

Emmanuel Macron, acting president of France, therefore relies on a Longines Dolce Vita. Dolce Vita means translated "sweet life", which probably needs no further explanation. This watch from the tradition-conscious Swiss manufacturer costs € 1,500 and impresses with its timeless elegance.

One of his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy, also knew how to enjoy life and its pleasures to the full. In addition to the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona his wrist was also regularly adorned with a Patek Philippe (Ref. 3940G), also a testimony to unique craftsmanship. However, both the Rolex, which boasts a new price of € 11,300 and the Patek Philippe for over € 30,000 were not always met with enthusiasm. On the contrary: the Paris-born Frenchman had to suffer very fierce criticism from his voters because of his fondness for luxury watches.

Rolex, Swatch and limited editions: The watches of the Popes

When one thinks of the Pope, one sees first of all the head of the Catholic Church with the modest role as the representative of Christ on earth. Often it is forgotten that the Pope, in addition to his role as head of the Church, is also head of the Vatican state. It is no secret that the most diverse companies in the world present the Pope with gifts as a sign of religious solidarity. We should not forget the red Prada shoes, which literally made headlines under Pope Benedict XVI.

It is therefore hardly surprising that Pope John Paul II wore a Rolex Day-Date made of solid gold and a Rolex Datejust made of gold and stainless steel. There is no consensus as to how the Holy Father came to these watches, but it can be assumed that these watches were gifts from high-ranking visitors.

The current Pope Francis has a completely different approach. He reads the current time of day from his cheap yet practical Swatch Once Again. White dial, black case and black bracelet – these attributes distinguish the current watch of the Pope for a purchase price of about € 50.

But his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI also has an interesting connection to watches. In his honour, a limited-edition watch series of 1,000 pieces has been released. The special highlight is the leather watch strap is made of the same material as his famous red Prada shoes. He ceremonially received the first copy of this "Pope watch", which has a price of only € 89. However, due to the sentimental value and the edition's strict limitation, this price can still vary.

Israeli presidents and their watches

The Israeli ex-president Benjamin Netanyahu opted for an elegant Panerai Luminor Marina with a black dial and black leather strap that perfectly matches a suit. An excellent choice, if one disregards that this watch costs around € 5,000 and the average income in Israel is around € 2,700.

Panerai Luminor Marina PAM00299 stainless steel watch with black dialPANERAI LUMINOR MARINA PAM00299

His counterpart is the incumbent President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, who is rarely seen with a watch on his wrist. Only during his visit to Berlin and a photo taken during this visit is a watch on his wrist visible. But even here only the bracelet, which hardly allows conclusions about a brand and model, let alone a price.

The "Rocket Man" and his ladies' watch

Kim Jong Un has been the "Supreme Leader" of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea since his inauguration in 2011. The self-proclaimed "Sexiest Man Alive" and "Rocket Man", as US President Donald Trump called him, is the successor to his father and by no means renounces luxury and western conveniences privately, while this remains denied to his people.

His style of governance is the main reason for a continuing trade embargo, which makes it impossible for him to obtain watches from Swiss manufacturers through official channels. Nevertheless the "Supreme Leader" was photographed with an IWC Portofino Automatic. With a value of € 12,000, this watch is equivalent to 12 times the annual income of an average North Korean citizen.

IWC Portofino IW356502 stainless steel watch with black dial and black leather strapIWC PORTOFINO AUTOMATIC IW356502

Moreover, it is often joked that another watch of the North Korean head of state is a ladies' watch, but this is not really true. The watch in question is from an American brand – a Movado Museum valued at almost € 600. Although it seems to be comparatively inexpensive, the value is equivalent to about half a year's income in North Korea.

Swiss crowns for Cuba

Fidel Castro, revolutionary, dictator and, until his death in 2016, head of state of Cuba, attached great importance to a particularly striking accessory: he wore two Rolex watches on the same wrist. Castro's watches were a Rolex Submariner and a Rolex Day-Date. Why the Cuban dictator wore two watches is not entirely clear. Some claim that the Submariner showed the Moscow time and the Day-Date the Cuban time. Others believe that it was simply too risky to wear only one watch, because in the event of a planned military strike, one would have to rely on the exact time and a broken watch could have devastating consequences. The photos of Fidel Castro wearing the two watches on his arm went around the world and still say a lot about the discrepancy between the aspirations and reality of Castro's leadership.

But Fidel Castro was not the only one who enjoyed the advantages of Swiss luxury watches. Cigars, a stoic look into the distance, a beret on his long, curly hair, military clothing and a Rolex. This is probably one of the most famous T-shirt motifs in the world – only without the Rolex. Ernesto "Che" Guevara relied completely on the precise movement of his Submariner during the Cuban Revolution. An image that, like Castro's photographs, raises many questions: How do communism and status symbols from the Western world fit together? The answer was correspondingly harsh criticism.

Canada displaying style and class

Luxury goods are never a sure bet: They can be well received, but do not have to be. A really interesting example of this is Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Prime Minister is regularly described by the yellow press and possible tabloids as the best-dressed politician in the world and enjoys great popularity. And what could harm this popularity? That's right, an expensive luxury watch. An IWC Portugieser, for example. But exactly the opposite is the case. Trudeau, who owns exactly such an IWC and wears it regularly, is rarely confronted with criticism of his watch or its asking price of € 5,000 to € 7,000. Apparently, the watch is either hardly noticed by the majority of Canadians or they see no need to criticize a politician by the timepiece on their wrist. This is especially interesting as the population in many other countries usually reacts very negatively to expensive timepieces of their heads of state.

The impact of watches in politics

People who are as much in the public eye as politicians hardly enjoy any privacy. In everything they do, say, wear or buy, they must be careful not to unconsciously snub anybody with their behaviour and not to place obstacles in their own way. In general, the motto seems to apply to politicians and their watches: the cheaper the model, the more accessible the person seems to be. The average person does not like to be confronted with someone using their tax money to buy expensive luxury goods that the majority of the population cannot afford themselves.

This is all the more agreeable when a politician relies on watches from their own country, like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe wears a selection of relatively inexpensive watches from the Japanese brand Seiko. Probably no one in the Japanese population feels that their toes are being stepped on by this down-to-earth collection of watches. It can be that simple.