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Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Rolex Watch

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Amazing and historically important official chronometer presented to General Eisenhower by Rolex, frequently worn throughout his presidency

Considered by many the most important and valuable Rolex wristwatch, here offered is Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1951 18K iconic yellow gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual DateJust reference 6305 chronometer on a matching 18K Jubilee bracelet with deployment clasp, presented to General Eisenhower by Rolex to celebrate the production of their 150,000th watch to obtain ‘Official Chronometer’ certification, and to recognize the general’s great achievements in World War II. Rolex employed a highly skilled artist in Switzerland to accomplish Ike’s requested engraving on the watch-back and clasp, in both places inscribing his initials, “DDE,” and on the watch-back adding the five-star general insignia and date that NATO appointed him as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, “12-19-1950.” Dwight D. Eisenhower frequently wore this watch throughout his tenure in presidential office, and it is accompanied by an unparalleled offering of corroborating information, documentation, and photographs.

While Rolex production was rapidly approaching three-quarters of a million watches in the period, reflected by consistent case numbering for watches that had begun prior to 1927, a far smaller number had obtained 'Official Chronometer Certificate' status. The documentation shows how the 150,000th chronometer wristwatch was regarded as highly special and ideal for so important a client. Eisenhower's prominent subsequent use of the watch gave birth to the 'President' concept of permanent Rolex fame to the present day.

Rolex had previously made this type of presentation to other heroes of World War II, giving their own Swiss General Henri Guisan the 50,000th officially certified Swiss chronometer that they manufactured, and honoring Winston Churchill with the 100,000th; after presenting General Eisenhower with their 150,000th chronometer wristwatch they asked him for any suggestions as to who should receive the 200,000th, and both parties agreed that General Matthew Ridgway was a deserving choice. At the time of the presentation, Dwight D. Eisenhower was already an internationally respected figure, but would soon be launched into an even greater spotlight—whispers of support for a run at the White House had been present since WWII ended, but in 1951 the bipartisan grassroots ‘Draft Eisenhower’ movement emerged in full force, and Americans far and wide clamored for General Eisenhower to run for president. He became something of a media sensation, and he was featured on the cover of four issues of Life magazine throughout 1952. In the Dwight D. Eisenhower portrait that appeared on the cover of the July 21 issue, this rare Rolex is prominently displayed in full view on his left wrist. This came just after he had secured the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and was thus a time when his public image was of the utmost importance. That this Rolex is so visible in Life’s formal, deliberately posed portrait affirms the sense of personal significance and great pride that Ike felt in the watch—and the departure from his typically dry and unflashy style with the presence of a solid gold 18K luxury timepiece only demonstrates this further.

The timekeeping mechanism and rotor system are both jeweled but treated separately in this early period. The timekeeper alone has 18 jewels, with free-sprung chronometer balance that may only be regulated by direct adjustment of the timing screws on the balance, having no regulator, as is typical of the very highest grade of chronometers since introduction of precision timekeeping in the late 18th century. The watch is unusual in having full markings for this system on the balance cock, seldom seen in other chronometer grades. The rotor is mounted on a separate cover that integrates the rotor mechanism that has at least six jeweled bearings, for a total of at least 24 jewels in the total mechanism. The watch is adjusted for six positions, meaning that timekeeping was tested and adjusted for enough positions to create an optimum rate. The shape of hairspring and lack of regulator also allow for better isochronal motion, meaning that the period of oscillation of the balance will be independent of the amplitude caused by different winding pressures.

The reference number is 6305, now barely visible between the lugs with the band off, and is also repeated in the back of the case, where the older reference was struck out and the new reference added, a typical practice of the period as models developed. The serial number between the other lug pair (called 'horns' by the French speaking), are largely obscured by wear, but retain the central numbers "43." The rotor cover is #G13367, while the movement is #79667. The dial was upgraded in the 1960's to the current original (never refinished) Rolex silvered dial, with applied gold markers, and tritium luminous dots matching tritium paint channels in the hands for nighttime vision. The original dial would have had radium activated luminous and more of a matte appearance, but the original red date disk was retained. Tritium was newly being used at the time in place of radium activated paints, as it was much more safe, but its very short half-life of just over one decade means that the luminous intensity is now a fraction of what it was when the President wore the watch. Interestingly, the accompanying documents mention that the President was having some difficulty reading the red letter date, but Rolex provided one of the newly developed 'Cyclops' crystals to aid his experience of the watch.

The overall condition of the watch is excellent original, being in good running order, having minor band repairs, some normal refinishing of case and bracelet surfaces, excellent original dial with minor faint contact tarnish to the sides of the applied markers, a typical shadow caused by galvanic currents operating over time between the different metals. This shadow effect is seen as well at the dial edge in the 4:30 to 6 area. The case-back retains its fine engraving with light wear, thanks in part to the preservation noted by the man who received the watch from the President, who took the trouble to coat the back with lacquer, much like clear nail polish, which removed later simply with acetone, an ideal way to preserve any valuable historic metal surface from further wear. The back otherwise shows only minor dings, and some roughing of the knurling from wrench slippage. The band shows more wear, as is typical, with medium stretch and some fresh refinishing. The repairs can be noted with reinforcement to the top links near the lugs, where wear is always the greatest, and internal repair to link backs near the clasp, another stronger wear site. The overall looks and presentation on the wrist are excellent. The watch is accompanied by spare links for the bracelet, the original Rolex crown that was changed by Rolex when upgrading to the ‘Twin-Lock’ system, and various spare crystals.

As a token of appreciation for a lifetime of service, President Eisenhower presented this quintessential Rolex to Sgt. John Moaney, who served as his valet for nearly thirty years after being assigned to the general in 1942 in wartime London, gradually becoming a close personal friend. In his informal memoir, At Ease: Stories I Tell My Friends, Dwight D. Eisenhower described Sgt. John Moaney as someone who was indispensable to him throughout his life, and he generously bequeathed funds to Sgt. Moaney in his will. About 30 years ago, the Raleigh DeGeer Amyx Collection acquired this most exquisite and immensely important historical piece from Sgt. Moaney's widow, Delores Moaney, who served as the personal cook for Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower from their time at the White House through the end of their lives; she and her husband, John Moaney, were so close to the family that they lived at the Eisenhowers' private residence in Gettysburg with Ike and Mamie during all post-presidential years. Extraordinary provenance from the Moaney family, Rolex, copies of General Eisenhower's own Rolex records kept in the Eisenhower Presidential Library, as well as further historical details of importance safeguarded by Raleigh DeGeer Amyx accompany this iconic Rolex.