The Stockdale Watch—The Story of JFK’s Omega

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President John F. Kennedy is still one of the most enduring icons of your 20th century. Perhaps it was his youth or his good looks or his disarming charm. Perhaps it had been his beautiful wife and adorable young kids. Whatever the reason, he still captures our imagination fifty years following that tragic day in Dallas in November 1963. Anything he did, anything he stated, anything he touched, it appears to be to fascinate us. We know his wife Jacqueline-or Jackie-gave him a pricey alligator briefcase as a wedding gift in 1953. We don’t know what sort of wedding rings the couple exchanged (that was long before wooden wedding rings became the big hit they are now). But, the topic of this short piece replaced another gift from Jackie-a wristwatch whose maker is unknown at this time. There’s no doubt about the kind of the watch that replaced Jackie’s gift though. It had been an Omega.

JFK as well as the Grant Stockdale Connection

President Kennedy’s Omega was a gift from long time friend, Grant Stockdale. Stockdale was a Florida friend and businessman of Florida Senator George Smathers. All three were veterans of the Pacific campaign in WWII where Smathers and Stockdale had served from the Marines. Kennedy had been a young Navy PT-Boat commander who lost his boat, PT-109, in the night action when it was cut by 50 percent by a Japanese destroyer. His courageous actions in saving his crew after the sinking made him a war hero and helped get him elected to Congress in 1946. Stockdale campaigned after the war for his friend Gorge Smathers within his bid to the US Senate. It was mutual friend Smathers who first introduced Stockdale to Kennedy, who by that time was really a US Senator himself. Stockdale and JFK became fast friends.

The “Stockdale Watch”

In 1960, before he was elected President, Stockdale gave his friend JFK a sophisticated Omega Ultra Thin wristwatch in 18 carat gold. He rather optimistically had the following inscription engraved on the back:

“President of the United States John F. Kennedy from his friend Grant”

President Kennedy evidently loved the wore and view it often, including during his famous inauguration ceremony. It was captured there for many-time by a LIFE magazine photographer. It’s easily seen on his left wrist. First Lady Jackie Kennedy wrote Stockdale a gracious many thanks note, complimenting his choice of the “thinnest most elegant wristwatch.” She added that upon opening the gift, JFK had immediately stripped off of the “chunky” one then on his wrist-a gift from her-and replaced it with the new, thinner watch. Kennedy always created a point of showing his friend the watch was still on his wrist whenever they met, and began calling it the “Stockdale watch.” This historically important Omega is now on display at the Omega Museum in Switzerland.

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