When Barack Obama first took the oath of office back in 2009 to become America’s 44th president, many of the menswear cognoscenti were picking apart his various wardrobe choices. Some were scandalous (white pique bow tie with a dinner jacket at the presidential ball!), while others were less dramatic (a nicely tailored Chicago-made Hart Schaffner Marx suit for the swearing-in).
Mr. Obama was young, engaging, and had a certain real-world stylish quality to which many men could relate; he looked like them, not their fathers or grandfathers. Equally discussed with great interest was his choice in timepieces. While early on in his campaign, he appeared to be a Tag Heuer kind of guy. Then, in 2007 his Secret Service detail, apparently fond of their pre-presidential charge (code name “Renegade,” for those curious), gifted him with a new watch on his birthday.
It was a Jorg Gray JG6500 chronograph emblazoned with the Secret star on its face. During the campaign, it was never off his wrist; whether a calculated poll-driven move or genuine sign of appreciation is of course up for debate.
The horological blogosphere was fixated on the timepiece. And, the fact that Mr. Obama went on wearing the watch long after he was installed in the White House made it that much more famous.
Jorg Gray quickly capitalized on its unexpected fame and introduced an official commemorative edition of the watch with an engraved back plate, but sans the Secret Service logo. President Obama continues to wear his 6500 and the version average folk can buy remains very popular. In some ways, this may be the most well-known of any presidential timepiece. And, with a price tag of only US$395.00, it’s an affordable one you can own too boot.
Even among self-professed watch snobs, Mr. Obama’s watch retains a grudging affection. Its classic design and 41mm size make it both attractive and wearable.
Well laid-out chronograph features and well-made strap make for a watch guys can actually wear. Its traditional form also means that from a distance the watch is visually interchangeable with higher-end brands.
The company recently sent us a Commemorative Edition JG6500 to review and test out. While ours has the engraved case back, there is an option for a plain back plate. The box presentation is not dissimilar from more expensive watch makers, which is a pleasant surprise; and, frankly, the quality, fit, construction, and detail accorded this watch is far better than we expected.
The leather strap is quite well-made and has the feel of a higher grade product. The Miyota quartz movement, while not too sexy to watch folks, is accurate and reliable. The polished case has a sold, substantial heft and comfortable balance.
We swapped out the standard-issue leather strap for an nylon olive green NATO strap that compliments this watch perfectly. To us, it brings out the chronograph’s historical and military context and better fits it’s personality.
As a casual summer watch, it’s perfect. And, the number of people who have asked us about it, and then become stoked to hear that it’s actually “the Obama watch,” says a lot. Often, these type of affordable corporate gift watches are a sad affair; cheap-feeling, poor quality, inferior components, and no personality. The JG6500 is the exact opposite.
We are happy to say that this watch has become a true favorite and one for which we would naturally reach when getting ready for the day. It is classic and straightforward in design and unexpectedly well-made for the price bracket.
In a sense, the watch lives up to the expectations consistent with its most famous patron. All in all, not a bad value proposition. OTC is proud to have one of these in the office.