Rolex Presidential: 5 Elite Facts & Special Features

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Rolex is a luxury timepiece brand that needs no introduction. Famed the world over for the quality of their watches, the Swiss horologists’ meticulousness and skill is matched only by the prestige of wearing one of their timepieces. 

But few watches carry the pedigree of the Rolex Presidential. Named for its long association with US Presidents, this is about as prestigious as luxury watches get, and they’re highly sought after as a result. 

Because of its inextricable connection with many US Presidents, the watch has a long and storied history full of intrigue and scandal. But that salaciousness aside, it’s also a remarkably fine horological achievement. 

Now, let’s take a look at five facts about – and special features of the Rolex Presidential, a truly extraordinary wristwatch. 

It Isn’t Actually Called The Presidential

Something that many people who have only a casual knowledge of the watch is that it’s not actually called the “Rolex President” – that’s just a sobriquet that’s arisen as a result of the fact that so many US Presidentials have worn it. It is, in actual fact, called the “Rolex Day-Date”. 

Its official name is as descriptive as it is prosaic—it’s so-called because it was the first Rolex to display not only the day but also the date. It’s simple and easy to remember and tells you exactly what it does.

It’s not quite as exciting or majestic as the name “Rolex President”, however. Which is why most people prefer to use the flashier name. 

Marilyn Monroe Gave JFK a Rolex Presidential 

Perhaps the most infamous Rolex President was the one gifted to John F. Kennedy by his alleged mistress, the actress Marilyn Monroe. 

Legend has it that the Hollywood icon had the watch – along with an engraved gold box and an accompanying poem – delivered to the then-Presidential on the same evening that she sang her notorious rendition of “Happy Birthday” to him.

On the underside of the watch, Monroe had had the following engraved: “To Jack, with love as always from Marilyn, May 29th, 1962” 

The poem that accompanied the watch was as sultry as Monroe’s birthday song; it is unknown if she penned it herself or if some unknown wordsmith was responsible. It was included in the base of the gold box that contained the watch. 

Kennedy, presumably less than thrilled to own an expensive watch that all but advertised his adulterousness, ordered an aide to get rid of the watch.  The aide did so, but it resurfaced at an auction and sold for more than $120,000. 

From Tony Soprano to Henry Hill, The President Is A Fictional Mobster Staple 

The Rolex President hasn’t just proven a big hit with US Presidentials – it’s also found itself quite the following among an array of notorious TV and movie gangsters. 

The first big-name fictional gangster to sport the President was none other than Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, who sported the flash gold watch for most of the runtime of Martin Scorsese’s seminal 1990 gangster flick Goodfellas.  Sean Penn later followed suit; his cocaine-addled loose-cannon lawyer ostentatiously wore a President in Carlito’s Way

The biggest name on TV to wear the watch is undoubtedly James Gandolfini’s complex mob boss, Tony Soprano, the lead character of the eponymous Sopranos. Tony was seen wearing an 18k-carat-gold model with a champagne dial for the entirety of the show’s run. 

Why is the watch such a staple in gangster movies and TV shows? For the same reason, it’s worn by so many Presidents – it’s the ultimate symbol of prestige and power. It’s not known if the watch is popular among real-life Mafiosi, but it would hardly be a surprise if it was. 

Lyndon Baines Johnson Was The First President To Wear One 

JFK may have been the first Presidential recipient of the President, but – as we saw above – he wasn’t the first president to wear one. That honor belonged to his successor and vice-president, Lyndon Baines Johnson

LBJ was snapped wearing the famous watch on several occasions, and Rolex began to play up its connection to the office of the most powerful man in the world, emphasizing its Presidential pedigree in advertising. 

The Presidential worn by LBJ sold for $1000 – about $7400 in modern money. 

The Rolex Presidential Watch is a Horological Marvel 

The Rolex Presidential may be best known as a status symbol and for its association with scandal and sin, but it’s also an incredibly sophisticated timepiece fashioned by some of the finest horologists in the world. 

The watches are powered by Rolex’s own proprietary movements, with everything manufactured in-house, and are assembled entirely by hand.

The movements are certified as chronometers, which is more than just a name – it means they’re put through their paces and that the wearer can rest assured of their incredible timekeeping capability, certified as they are for both accuracy and reliability. 

What’s more, the watches are powered by an advanced rotor system called the ‘Perpetual’, which ensures that the watch does not need to be manually wound.

Instead, it makes use of the wearer’s wrist movements to perpetually (hence the name) wind the watch, ensuring that the user doesn’t need to do anything to keep the watch ticking. 

What’s more, the watch featured double day-date complications (hence its official name), which allowed the wearer to change the day without altering any of the other settings on the watch.

Though it’s not as mind-blowing as some modern wristwatch conceits, it was incredibly innovative for its time and a testament to the ingenuity of Rolex watchmakers. 

The Rolex Presidential is One of the Most Notorious Timepieces on Earth 

And there we have—a comprehensive history of the Rolex Presidential, one of the world’s most notorious luxury watches, quite possibly the only one to have been given away by one president before being worn by another. 

As we’ve seen, though, beyond the prurient and titillating history behind the watch’s first Presidential owner, there is a fantastic timepiece that thrills on both a technical and esthetic level, and that can easily take pride of place in the cabinet of any self-respecting watch collector.

Keen to explore more of the dynamic Rolex range? Don’t miss our cutting-edge guides to everything from the Sky Dweller to comparisons between the Submariner and the Sea Dweller.


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