While the politics and life of President John F. Kennedy are filled with controversy and a wide range of opinions, one thing that is not up for debate is that he is a widely known and recognized man. From his sense of style, relative youth for such a high office, and his tragic death, there are few Presidents that stand out as much as Kennedy in history.
Part of that story is the two iconic women that are so closely tied to President Kennedy and will always come up as topics of conversation surrounding the man himself. Each of these women gave the President a watch, and each watch is a part of history because of it.
For starters, his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, gave her husband an 18 karat gold Cartier Tank watch on their fourth wedding anniversary. This watch was inscribed with his initials, their wedding date, and the Kennedy family arms.
This watch was one of the most recognizable watches that JFK wore because it was the watch that he was wearing on the day that he was assassinated in Dallas, TX.
The 18 karat gold Cartier watch, or as it might be called for JFK, the Jackie, is a watch with a gold face, gold hands, gold lug…basically the entire body is gold. Obviously, it is much more a style and class statement than it is a watch for readability or endurance. This watch has no numbers, only lines to mark the time, and only features a minute and hour hand. With the brown leather band, it was clearly meant to be a fashionable watch that exudes wealth and power.
The particular watch was given back to the first lady after her husband was killed. It was then given to his secretary and eventually ended up in the hands of the collector Robert White.
The second iconic woman is Marilyn Monroe, widely believed to be someone the President was having an affair with, and the second watch, is equally a special part of history, even though it is shrouded in rumors. The Rolex Day-Date model is often referred to as the “President” because many holding the office, from Eisenhower and on after, wore this watch often. The particular one that is attributed to President Kennedy, and was supposedly gifted by Ms. Monroe, is inscribed with a poem in the case, and is inscribed on the back of the watch with, “Jack, with love as always, from, Marylyn, May 29th , 1962″
This watch is made entirely of Gold, from the face to the band. The case was inscribed with a poem, according to stories, that read:
“A Heartfelt Plea on Your Birthday.
Let lovers breath their sighs and roses bloom and music sound.
Let passion burn on the lips and eyes and pleasures merry world go round.
Let golden sunshine flood the sky and let me love or let me die.”
This watch features a day and a date reading, a second hand, and some other features missing from the Cartier, it is still a watch that is clearly built for style.
This watch sold at auction for $120,000 in 2005, far exceeding the expected price of $60,000.
Perhaps the most iconic watch is the Omega Ultra Thin that looks a lot like the Cartier Tank, but sized more elegantly. Upon receiving this watch from Senator Stockdale, Jackie wrote a note thanking the Senator for the “thinnest most elegant wristwatch”. John also wrote to the Senator on a separate occasion, ending the letter with “I am now wearing the Stockdale watch. Again.” Kennedy clearly had enough admiration of the watch to give it the nickname “Stockdale”.
Engraved on the back of the watch: “President Of The United States John F. Kennedy From His Friend Grant”.
He was photographed numerous times wearing this watch, including at his inauguration speech which was on the cover of Life Magazine.
The watch was purchased back by Omega for $350,000 and is now housed in the Omega Museum in Switzerland. Omega released a limited run of 261 commemorative watches in 2008. You’ll be hard pressed to find a similar Omega, unless you’re willing to pay a substantial sum on Ebay or similar.
Seiko produces a homage watch that looks very similar to the Omega Ultra Thin worn by Kennedy, but at a fraction of the price.