“Is it East versus West/Or man against man?” That was the question memorably posed by Survivor in the smash hit from the Rocky IV soundtrack, Burning Heart. And it’s pertinent to this week’s celebrity death match, too.
Representing truth, justice and the American way, in a fetching pair of shorts bedecked with stars and stripes, is President Donald Trump. Glowering with menace in the red corner, meanwhile, is Vladimir Putin, who’s still nonplussed over the fact that this showdown can’t be settled by his favoured medium ( judo and/or electoral manipulation).
Instead, this clash of the superpowers will be fought out in a horological fashion as Time+Tide casts its critical eye over the watches of two of the most powerful men in the world.
5 watches from Donald Trump’s watch collection
Donald Trump has been famously touchy about the size of his hands ever since Graydon Carter, the former editor of Vanity Fair magazine, described him as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy magazine way back in the early 1990s.
“Like so many bullies, Trump has skin of gossamer,” Carter wrote in a 2015 editor’s letter in Vanity Fair. “To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him — generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers,” Carter wrote. “I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby.
“The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: ‘See, not so short!’ I sent the picture back by return mail with a note attached, saying, ‘Actually, quite short.’”
1. Ronald Reagan’s Colibri Quartz watch
This paranoia about the size of his mitts may have prompted one of Trump’s quirkier watch buys. In a 1999 watch auction, he stumped up $7000 to claim Ronald Reagan’s Colibri Quartz watch. The strange thing about this purchase is that Trump had previously revealed himself to be a huge critic of Reagan. In 1987 he even spent $90,000 to take out full-page ads in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post slamming the Reagan administration’s lack of backbone.
In the intervening years, perhaps Trump simply had a change of political heart. Or perhaps he was swayed by the Colibri’s extremely modest dimensions – the watch is only 32mm wide.
2. Patek Philippe Ellipse
Trump has certainly revealed a preference for dainty timepieces. There was, for example, the yellow gold Patek Philippe Ellipse with a blue dial and integrated bracelet. An elegant watch with a super-thin movement and a distinctive ovular shape, it’s a surprisingly understated watch for a man of such grandiose stature.
3. Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968
Similarly, during his 2016 election campaign, Trump wore a Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968 in pink gold. The 35.2mm case is once again notably small and, thanks to the use of Vacheron’s legendary caliber 1120, also just 5.4mm thick. In short, it’s a very dignified watch, if perhaps a little staid for contemporary tastes.
4. Rolex Day-Date
Trump’s yellow gold Rolex Day-Date somehow feels more fitting for a man with his swagger and clout. Described by Rolex as “the ultimate watch of prestige”, there’s a certain prescience in the fact that it sits upon the “President bracelet” given Trump’s current White House gig.
5. Donald Trump Signature Collection
His patronage of Rolex, Vacheron and Patek makes his decision to launch the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection all the more baffling. These quartz watches were exclusively sold at Macy’s in the US and their reception would make the President’s recent handling of COVID seem like a raging success. Within a year the watches were no longer on sale.
5 watches from Vladimir Putin’s watch collection
Generally, politicians are hesitant to wear high-end watches for fear that it’ll damage their “man of the people” appeal. But as you might expect from a man who gets bare-chested at the slightest provocation, Putin is considerably less circumspect. His watch collection would put a hip-hop mogul to shame.
1. Blancpain Léman Aqua Lung Grande Date
Right now, Putin is currently on his fourth Blancpain Léman Aqua Lung Grande Date. Two were given away – one to a factory worker, another to a shepherd’s son – while he hurled the third into liquid concrete at a building site, presumably to show just how meaningless an US$11,700 watch is to a man of his power.
Fun fact: Putin also wore his Blancpain while signing the treaty to annex Crimea.
2. A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite”
But such pieces are indeed disposable to the Russian premier in view of what else he packs into his watch drawer. Pick of the bunch is his A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite” (above). Made in platinum, the watch is a rattrapante (split-seconds) chronograph with a tourbillon and perpetual calendar. It’s a spectacularly complicated timepiece of which only 50 pieces exist — a fact that’s largely academic, as the asking price is around US$560,000.
3. Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar
Putin also has a weakness for Patek Philippe. He’s regularly spotted wearing this 18k gold Perpetual Calendar as well as his trusty Calatrava.
4. Patek Philippe 5208P Grand Complication
In 2017, however, the Kremlin was moved to deny claims that a watch for sale at Antiquorum also belonged to Putin, despite the fact that his name was written on the guarantee card (see below). The watch in question was a Patek Philippe 5208P Grand Complication — one of the most complicated watches Patek has ever made — that included a minute repeater, a mono-pusher chronograph and an instantaneous perpetual calendar amongst its capabilities. You can pick one up here for $US1.15 million.
Rest assured, these are just a few notable highlights.
5. F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu
We haven’t mentioned Putin’s Breguet Marine, Blancpain Léman Flyback or F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu, But you get the general idea. Putin is a serious watch fan with a penchant for watches with classic looks and dizzying price tags.
Well, that was pretty one-sided, wasn’t it? Putin races to a crushing victory over a red-faced Trump.
Ruling the country that made the word “oligarchy” popular again, perhaps Putin feels he needs to demonstrate that he’s top dog with his wristwear. Or perhaps the man just really likes nice watches. Either way, that wasn’t a very fair contest, which is exactly how Putin likes to play …