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First Ladies and Their Watches

First Ladies and Their Watches
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While the title of FLOTUS (First Lady Of The United States) is not an official one, these women have undoubtedly played important roles throughout history. From politics to diplomacy, they’ve left their impression with perfect flair and grace. Let’s take a deeper look at the watches that have adorned the wrists of these powerful First Ladies.

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In the field of politics, the First Lady’s public persona is constantly scrutinised. Their fashion choices, humanitarian activities, and public appearances are all meticulously monitored, reflecting not only their personal preferences but also the administrations they represent. Among their collection of accessories, the wristwatch has often stood out as a symbol of elegance, sophistication, and even diplomatic status. So, let’s look at the watches used by some of history’s most important First Ladies, and the stories they tell.

Which watches First Ladies have used to make a statement

Eleanor Roosevelt — Tiffany & Co./Movado wristwatch

(Image: RR auction)

Watches have traditionally held a special place as timeless gifts, commemorating important events and creating fond memories; some, more than others. In an auction held by RR auction in 2020, a rare timepiece — an heirloom watch originally belonging to Eleanor Roosevelt emerged. Beyond its intrinsic value, this watch represents a long history and personal meaning that spans generations.

Crafted by Tiffany & Co., the round stainless steel watch with a matching link bracelet bears the Movado heritage, embodying elegance and durability. It measures only 23mm in size and was fashioned with delicate proportions ideal for a lady’s wrist. The sand-coloured dial is accented with gold-coloured Arabic numerals and indexes, blue hands, and a delicate seconds subdial at 6 o’clock — a style that reflects the era’s timeless class.

(Image: RR auction)

However, the outstanding craftsmanship is not the only thing that makes the watch special; there is a story attached to it, told through its etched caseback. The inscription, which reads “E.R. from F.D.R., Oct. 11, 1937,” clearly indicates that the watch had been a gift from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had given it to Eleanor as a birthday gift. Later engravings trace the watch’s history through the Roosevelt family. Above and below the original inscription, viewers can make out the remark, “C.R. from E.R., Christmas, 1950.” This shows that Eleanor later re-gifted the watch to her eldest grandson, Curtis Roosevelt, for Christmas in 1950 as a symbol of familial affection and connection. The watch was sold at the auction for USD 10,664.

Jacqueline Kennedy — Cartier Tank Watch

(Image: Bettmann/Getty Images and Christie’s)

Among the many pieces of jewellery and accessories that have been a part of Jackie Kennedy’s iconic style, one piece stood out as a timeless symbol of elegance and sophistication: the classic gold Cartier Tank watch on a black alligator strap. Occupying a particular place in fashion history, this classic timepiece was a gift from her brother-in-law, Prince Stanislaw “Stas” Radizwell, who gave it to her in 1963.

Jackie Kennedy’s fondness for Cartier watches was well documented, but her Cartier Tank held a special place in her heart. With its elegant style and understated luxury, it became one of the hallmark items of the First Lady repertoire, often sharing the limelight with her iconic large sunglasses. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, she was seen on many occasions with the watch on her wrist.

(Image: Christie’s)

The Cartier Tank’s connection to a memorable event further increases its attraction. The watch, engraved on the reverse with the message “Stas to Jackie – 23 Feb. 63 – 2:05 am to 9:35 pm,” recalls the first lady’s completion of the historic Palm Beach 50-Mile Hike of 1963. This event, which was inspired by President Kennedy’s New Frontier policy emphasising health and fitness, has historical relevance that adds another layer of meaning to the timepiece. In return for the gift, the former first lady presented Radizwell with a portrait of him walking with Chuck Spalding, a close friend of the Kennedys. The dedication on the artwork says, “February 23, 1963 2:05 am to 9:35 pm / Jackie to Stas with love and admiration”.

Barbara Bush — Chanel Mademoiselle L

(Image: Bob Levey /Getty Images and Open For vintage)

While serving as First Lady from 1989 to 1993 alongside her husband, President George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush impressed the nation with her grace and style. Following her husband’s death, Barbara retained her reputation for refined taste, frequently adorned with a very rare and elegant timepiece — the 22 mm 18-carat yellow gold “Chanel Mademoiselle L” watch.

Created by the prestigious luxury brand Chanel, the elegant timepiece personifies sophistication and elegance. With a dazzling white Roman dial and gold markers, the watch emanates a timeless allure that complements Barbara’s classic sense of style. The gold strikers on the dial lend a touch of elegance, and the delicate pearl bracelet transforms the watch into a true showpiece.

Hillary Clinton — Chanel J12

(Image: Wikimedia Commons and Swissluxury)

Hillary Clinton’s remarkable political career has been marked by various accomplishments. She was the First Lady while her husband Bill Clinton served as the POTUS; after, she served the nation as the 67th United States secretary of state, and also served as a U.S. Senator representing New York. Then, she accepted a historic selection as the first woman by a major American political party to be endorsed for president. Her political career is iconic, and her taste in luxury watches is as just so, particularly with the inclusion of her Chanel J12 watch.

Hillary Clinton frequently wore the exquisite Chanel J12 in white ceramic while serving as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. This renowned timepiece, a Chanel classic, emanates ageless sophistication with its elegant design and flawless craftsmanship. The 33mm version of this quartz watch, which is embellished with Chanel’s distinctive design, sells for around USD 5,000, reflecting the luxury it provides. Whether for navigating diplomatic negotiations or attending high-profile events, the Chanel J12 served Clinton as the perfect accessory, effortlessly complementing her outfits and enhancing her overall looks.

Laura Bush — Christian Bernard

(Image: Jemal Countess/Stringer/Getty Images and Watchcharts)

Laura Bush, who was best known for her role as First Lady and her stellar career as a teacher, librarian, and author, emanated grace and sophistication throughout her public life. Among her many accessories was a wristwatch she favoured: a vintage 32 mm quartz Christian Bernard watch, a lesser-known French fashion brand that nonetheless represents eternal beauty.

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As First Lady, Laura Bush frequently accompanied her husband, President George W. Bush, bearing the discreet luxury of her Christian Bernard watch. The timepiece, which is made of 18-carat gold-plated stainless steel, exudes traditional elegance with its vintage design and flawless craftsmanship.

Michelle Obama — Cartier Tank

(Image: Universal History Archive/Getty Images and Cartier)

Renowned lawyer, author, and former First Lady Michelle Obama captivated the nation with her grace, brilliance, and flawless style while serving in the White House from 2009 to 2017 alongside her husband, President Barack Obama. When Michelle Obama’s official picture as First Lady was unveiled in February 2009, her simple yet beautiful dress drew attention. Michelle Obama showed confidence and sophistication, dressed in a sleek black Michael Kors sleeveless dress that showcased her sculpted arms. The classic double strand of pearls and studs complemented her ensemble, adding a timeless touch of elegance. The medium model steel Cartier Tank Française watch adorned her wrist, further adding to the quiet luxury of her look.

Michelle Obama’s stylish aesthetic was nicely complemented by her Cartier Tank Française watch, which is renowned for its delicate design and impeccable craftsmanship. The Cartier Tank Française, available in a variety of sizes and customisable with specific inscriptions, represents timeless sophistication and versatility. The watch is currently priced at USD 3,750 for the small version and USD 5,750 for the medium version, representing both luxury and accessibility — both ideals that characterise Michelle Obama’s approachable yet sophisticated fashion tastes.

Melania Trump — Vacheron Constantin ‘Kall Duchesse’

(Image: Brian Ach/Getty Images and Luxurylaunches)

Donald Trump, the controversial businessman who served as the 45th President of the United States from 2017 to 2021, and his wife Melania Trump, a Slovenian-American former model and businesswoman, have always been well-known public figures. While Donald’s presidency sparked significant debate, Melania’s elegance and fashion sense drew praise and speculation throughout her time as First Lady. Melania Trump’s style as a former model was widely reviewed, and her accessory choices frequently made news. Among her most famous fashion statement pieces was her choice of an extremely expensive watch — the Kalla Duchesse, a magnificent timepiece designed by Vacheron Constantin.

The Vacheron Constantin Kalla Duchesse (81750/S01G-9198) is the pinnacle of luxury and extravagance, featuring a brilliant variety of diamonds. This beautiful watch exudes grandeur in every aspect, and incorporates 182 diamonds cut in trapeze forms, 560 diamonds cut in rectangular shapes, and an extra 98 diamonds on the dial. Unsurprisingly, the exquisite watch bears an equally exquisite price tag of over USD 1,275,000.

Jill Biden — Gold Panthère de Cartier

(Image: Phil Roeder/CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia commons and Cartier)

Current FLOTUS Jill Biden, wife of President Joe Biden, enjoys her Cartier watch in the same way previous First Ladies have. Jill Biden’s medium model the gold Panthère de Cartier watch is a magnificent statement piece that revives the timeless appeal of Cartier watches for ladies. The Panthère watch, which became famous in the 1990s when it adorned the wrists of celebrities like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, was discontinued in 2004. However, its comeback has been spurred by its appeal among fashionable figures such as Jill Biden; it has even made appearances among celebrities like Kim Kardashian.

Jill Biden’s affection for Cartier timepieces, which are renowned for their style and sophistication, reflects her professional and refined taste. Cartier’s decision to reintroduce the Panthère watch underscores the company’s appreciation of its classic appeal and the growing demand for vintage-inspired timepieces. Furthermore, Cartier’s launch of a watch and jewellery collection for men under the Panthère de Cartier label, with BTS V as the brand ambassador, underlines the company’s dedication to extending its offers while remaining loyal to its tradition of elegance and workmanship.

(Main image: Phil Roeder/CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons and featured image: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who owns the most expensive watch among first ladies?

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Former First Lady Melania Trump owns a USD 1,275,000 Vacheron Constantin ‘Kall Duchesse’.



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