Almost exactly four years ago I wrote an article about the watches that world leaders wear. It has been said that a week is a long time in politics. It seems four years is a lifetime.
Four years ago Nicolas Sarkozy basked in the media warmth of being both French President and in a relationship that made him part of the trendy ‘first couple’ of France. The press devoured his glamorous lifestyle and his relationship with the beautiful Carla Bruni. Silvio Berlusconi was the all-powerful Prime Minister of Italy, a billionaire with more influence and more money and prestige than most men can conceive.
Barack Obama was enjoying the thrall of being the first ever black President of the United States, in his first term, even though he was battling with massive problems of recession, he was still in his honeymoon stage. And as for Vladimir Putin, well, he was what he is now, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, but, unlike the expensive watches he loves to wear, his stock has depreciated massively on the international scene in the past four years, and never more so than in the past few days.
Let us review the current situation for each of these current and former world leaders.
Nicolas Sarkozy – former President of France
Although alleged to be ‘a kept man’, Nicolas Sarkozy still loves to flash expensive watches. Known to be in his collection are several Girard Perregaux models as well as at least one $55,000 Patek Philippe. In his early days as President the watch collection drew so much attention, a lot of it negative, that he started to try to hide his horological wealth, sometimes being caught on camera in the process.
In addition to GP and PP, Sarkozy is also an avid collector of Rolex watches, particularly the Rolex Daytona originally made famous by Paul Newman.
Today, out of power since losing the 2012 election to Francois Hollande, he is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. He is under official investigation, detained and questioned by police as part of an influence-peddling scandal. It’s an unprecedented measure for any probe involving a former French president and the first time a former French President has been arrested by police.
Whether or not he can shake off the charges remains to be seen, but this is one world leader who has enjoyed the good times, and is now experiencing some tough times. And it’s not such good times for Presidential watch spotters in France either. Let’s face it, does anyone know or care which watch current President, charisma lite Francois Hollande wears?
Silvio Berlusconi – former Prime Minister of Italy
After years of successfully brushing off sex scandals, allegations of corruption and political setbacks, macho Silvio Berlusconi’s luck finally ran out when he was convicted of tax fraud in 2013.
77 year old Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison and ejected from his seat in the Senate. The prison term was later commuted into a year of community service, which he is serving at a care home near Milan, due to his age. So if you are elderly in a care home in Milan, you might have the ex-Prime Minister, and one of Italy’s wealthiest men, serving you your morning expresso.
All of this was inconceivable four years ago. But let’s not forget, when you have money you can get away with just about anything, and he has recently successfully wriggled out of some serious sexual abuse charges.
Berlusconi has more priceless villas than many wealthy men have watches in their collection. As for his own watch collection, it is known he has a $500,000 Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar, but the collection extends to many more.
The problem posed for world leader watch spotters is that while Berlusconi is a flashy character, his watches are rarely seen as they are well hidden by expensively tailored double cuff shirts. With bespoke Brioni suits, a perma tan, spray on hair, and a 6 billion Euro fortune, what we do know is, Berlusconi could afford to buy a high-end watch for every day he has left on the planet.
Barack Obama – President of the United States of America
Four years ago Barack Obama’s Jorg Gray JG6500 watch, presented to him by the Secret Service when he was elected to office, was hot news. Today, the watch is as tired as the President himself as he is forced to wrestle with one international crisis after another, all of which have managed to derail the ambitious legacy-building plans he had envisaged for his second term in office.
Obama’s choice in watches is undoubtedly modest, in addition to the Jorg Gray, – arguably the most viewed watch in the world due to Obama’s preference for rolling up his shirt sleeves – he also owns a Highgear Enduro Compass watch as well as a New Balance N7 watch with a heart rate monitor. It is also said he owns a TAG Heuer which he wore before he became President. The watches he is wearing while in office all fall under the ‘easily affordable’ category and show a great deal of restraint for what is still the most powerful man in the world.
Proving considerably more expensive for Obama is repeated criticism of his foreign policy, with many claiming that the United States has never wielded less influence in world affairs than it does today. Whichever watch Obama is wearing, many Obama critics say it is high time for him to act.
Vladimir Putin – President of Russia
He was hailed a hero by fellow Russians a few months ago when part of Ukraine was reabsorbed into Russia. While the move created much hostile criticism and sanctions from the West, it could be argued that it was Russia’s private business. Now, with the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine skies, it’s the whole world’s business, and most fingers are pointed firmly at a besieged and constantly blame shifting Vladimir Putin.
In sharp contrast to Obama’s ‘average joe’ watch collection, Putin is reputed to have a collection worth well over $700,000, which is made all the more impressive by the fact his official annual salary is under $100,000.
All the big names are in his watch safe including Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Sohne, Breguet and Blancpain, of which he is said to own at least four models. One Russian observer remarked that to afford his watches on his official salary he would have to do without food or drink for six years. The A. Lange & Sohne Tourbograph Pour Le Merite timepiece in his collection, described by its makers as a ‘peerless masterpiece’, is by itself worth $500,000.
With a new round of hard hitting economic sanctions about to hit Russia as a direct result of the Ukraine air strike, it will be interesting to see if Putin has to pay a visit to the pawnbrokers sometime soon.