Watches - The Gift of Time
Watches - The Gift of Time
Written by: Alan Boal
With Christmas fast approaching, a watch makes the perfect present - here's five stories of famous persons and watches they were gifted.
Part of what makes watches so compelling is the personal relationship we share with them, and particularly the stories & memories attaching as they accompany us through life.
A watch can also be a remembrance of the persons who wore them before or gifted them to you in a special moment - a way of keeping the memory of loved ones close.
Patek Philippe - never a company to miss an opportunity for a catchy marketing slogan - said it best with the tag line of their adverts: ‘Begin Your Own Tradition’.
There’s a very good reason why watches are often purchased or given to mark some memorable point in life, whether it be to celebrate an achievement, such as a milestone at work, or to commemorate an occasion, like a Birthday or Graduation.
A quality watch is practical, makes a style statement about a person, and can be enjoyed for decades, before being passed-on for others to own. With time, it may grow in financial value, but it is guaranteed to increase in sentimental worth.
With that in mind, here are a few stories behind some interesting watches, and the famous persons who received them as gifts.
- Paul Newman & The Rolex Daytona
Until recently, a stainless-steel Rolex Daytona given to the Oscar-winning actor Paul Newman in 1968 by his wife, Joanne Woodward, was the most expensive watch ever auctioned, selling in 2017 for $17.8m (£13.5m). The 6239 Chronograph was purchased by Woodward from a ‘Tiffany’ store in New York, and the case back engraved with the words ‘Drive Carefully, Me’, in reference to Newman’s fondness for motor racing. In 1984, the star of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ himself made a further gift of the watch to James Cox, who was then dating his daughter, Nell. Not only did the watch later smash sales records, but prior to then that model of Daytona - previously quite unloved - had already become known as ‘the Paul Newman’ watch and played a large part in the explosion of interest in vintage Rolex collecting. When you walk into a Rolex store today and are informed that the waiting list to buy a new stainless-steel Daytona stretches to many years, you can partly thank (or blame) Paul Newman for that.
- Liam Gallagher & Rolex
Given their sibling rivalry burns fiercer than ever, the feuding Gallagher brothers - once of the band ‘Oasis’ - are more likely to exchange insults, rather than gifts, this Christmas. In the mid-1990s, Oasis were riding the crest of the ‘Britpop’ wave as arguably the World’s biggest rock band. Alan McGee, head of their label, Creation Records, rewarded their stellar sales figures by gifting lead singer Liam a vintage Rolex watch. A generous gift, but the frontman’s joy was short-lived, however, once he saw older brother & song-writer Noel receive a chocolate brown Rolls Royce. As the elder Gallagher later wryly observed, “Liam got a Rolex. I got a Rolls Royce. Which is brilliant, because I can’t drive, and Liam can’t tell the time.”
- Emperor Hirohito of Japan & Mickey Mouse
Emperor Hirohito ruled Japan for over 60 years, including during their World War Two defeat, largely at the hands of the USA. Some thirty years later, the Emperor made his first state visit to the USA, and where did he want to go? Disneyland, of course. Hirohito was gifted a quartz Mickey Mouse watch during his tour, one with Mickey on the dial, and whose arms moved to indicate the time. It became an inseparable companion thereafter, as he wore it even for formal occasions. So special was the watch to him, that in 1979 the watch made the news headlines when the battery died, and prior to his death in 1989, he requested to be buried with his Mickey Mouse watch.
- President Barack Obama & The Secret Service
What do you buy the person about to become the most powerful man in the World? In 2007, Barack Obama, soon to be the 44th President of the USA, began wearing a $250 Jorg Gray 6500 Chronograph, given to him for his 46th birthday by members of his Secret Service protective detail, from their own Gift Shop. The special-edition watch bore the seal of the Secret Service on its black dial, and Obama wore it during many important events, such as his Presidential Election Victory Speech and Inauguration. During an appearance on the ‘Ellen’ TV show with Ellen DeGeneres, it was likely that same watch that tumbled off the President’s wrist as he thumped a bright pink punch bag to symbolise fighting breast cancer. Let’s just hope the watch performed better for the Secret Service Agents guarding him...
- The UK Government, the Mayor of Taipei, and an Apology
Mind you, the gift of a watch is not always appropriate, as the UK’s Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer, found to her cost in 2015, after having to apologise to the Mayor of Taipei for presenting him with a watch: "I'm sorry. I had no idea a gift like this could be seen as anything other than positive. In the UK a watch is precious - because nothing is more important than time." In Chinese culture, giving someone a watch or clock as a present is traditionally taboo, as it suggests time is running out for the person who receives it, given the unfortunate similarity in pronunciation between ‘giving a clock’ and ‘attending an old person’s funeral’. The Mayor was equally unimpressed, telling the press that he might give the watch away, or “sell it to a scrap metal dealer for some money because it would be useless to me.”
If you’re considering gifting a loved one a watch this Christmas, why not visit Pride & Pinion’s store at the Merchant Hotel or take a browse through our website selection. We have fine timepieces to suit every budget, and it would be our pleasure to welcome you and help select that special something, for that special someone.