Friday, July 11, 2008

The History Of The Rolex President [Part 4]

Mamie, We're Not In Kansas Anymore

It is almost impossible for an American military soldier to achieve the rank of  5 Star General, but a farmer's son from Abilene Kansas did so. Dwight Eisenhower was also the architect behind the D-day invasion of Normandy, France that resulted in ending World War II in Europe. 

After World War II, Eisenhower tried to re-enter civilian life as the President of Columbia University, but President Truman needed Ike to help rebuild Europe, so Eisenhower became the first Supreme Commander of NATO. 

After Ike stabilized Europe, he came back to the United States and was convinced by the Republican Party to run for President. 

In 1951 while Eisenhower was serving as the Supreme Commander of NATO, Rolex gave Eisenhower their 150,000th Officially Certified Swiss Chronometer as a token of their respect for his extreme and valuable achievements for the world.

As a historian, I don't know if Rolex executives realized when they gave Eisenhower their 150,000th Rolex there was a likelihood he would become the President of the United States, and I don't think it really matters. I say that if Rolex adroitly and strategically realized there was a strong chance Eisenhower would become president, then kudos, to Rolex!!! If Rolex did not realize there was a chance and it was simply happenstance, then kudos to Rolex as well!!!

The bottom line is that Eisenhower was a profoundly successful man of great achievment and won the presidency and seems to have really enjoyed and appreciated his Rolex Datejust.

This was great for Rolex, because Eisenhower became the most visible man in the world and everywhere he went, you could see his Rolex Datejust on his wrist, as you can see him on July 14, 1952 winning the Republican Party Candidacy to run for the U.S. Presidency below.

Again, here is Ike on the cover of Life as President Elect wearing a Tuxedo as he and his wife, Mamie acknowledge cheers of victory. Of course Ike is wearing his beloved Rolex Datejust on his wrist.

In the photo below, Eisenhower is leaving in the car for his inauguration in 1953 with departing U.S. Democrat President, Harry Truman, and as Ike waves to the crowd, you again see his Rolex Datejust displayed proudly on his wrist.

The letter below is amazing to me, and it actually brought tears to my eyes when I first read about how Rolex Director Rene Paul Jeanneret thanked Eisenhower for saving the world when he said:

"Dear Mr. President:

Back in our office this morning, after three weeks in the U.S.A. I find a letter from Col. Shulz to which was attached your photograph which you so kindly autographed for me.

Words, are inadequate to express my appreciation for this grand gesture.

When I went home for lunch today, I proudly showed the photograph to the my family and I promptly became Superman himself in the eyes of my boy Peter, 12. For Peter surely is on of your most fervent admirers amongst the teenagers of this country. On November 5 when the final returns were in, I found that Peter had pinned against the wall of his room a very large photograph of the 34th President which he had cut out of a Swiss newspaper and under which he had painstakingly written in red pencil:

Elu par 33.000.000 de votes !!

It is indeed fortunate for the countless millions of little Peters through the world that my Peter was able to do what he did on November 5..."

This is simply my subjective interpretation of Rene's words, but it appears to me that he is thanking Eisenhower for saving the world so that children of men are free to speak their mind and express themselves freely.

Rolex Director Rene Paul Jeanneret referred to Superman, and in 1953 Superman was the coolest guy on planet earth. In the photo below you see George Reeves who played Superman on the hit American TV show "The Adventures of Superman" which aired from 1952 to 1957.

Also we learned from the letter above that Rolex offered its 200,000th Officially Certified Swiss Chronometer to U.S. General and NATO Supreme Commander Matthew Ridgeway, who for some reason declined to accept their gracious offer, but instead bought a Rolex for his wife. General Ridgeway is pictured below, and notice he has a grenade strapped to his backpack strap–Pretty serious stuff...

It the first letter in this chapter, we learn that Rolex Director, Rene Paul Jeanneret says they offered their 200,000th Officially Certified Rolex Swiss Chronometer to NATO Supreme Commander, Matthew Ridgeway, who declined to accept, but in the next letter, he refers to the innovative new Rolex "Cyclop" lens feature they developed and offers to modify Eisenhower's Rolex Datejust to add this beneficial feature to make it easier to read the date.

He mentions that Eisenhower may recall having seen it on the new NATO Supreme Commander, General Gruenther, as pictured below. This is pure speculation on my behalf, but it definitely entered my mind that after General Ridgeway declined the 200,000th Rolex, perhaps they offered it to General Gruenther. Only Rolex knows for sure, but it seems logical to me, and more than a year passed between the two letter being written.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR), General Alfred B. Gruenther (U.S.) is pictured above in his official NATO portrait and if you click on the image you can see his Rolex Datejust close up. General Gruenther was appointed NATO Supreme Commander of Europe and served in that position from July 1953 and served through November 1956.

NATO's Supreme Commander, General Gruenther is pictured above on the cover of Time Magazine on February 6, 1956, and is pictured below with U.S. President, Harry Truman. 

Alfred Maximilian Gruenther was the youngest World War II Major General. After World War II, he was appointed deputy commander of U.S. forces in Austria in 1945.

When General Gruenther retired from his NATO command in 1956 he served as the President of the American Red Cross from 1957 to 1964.

I included the photo of Colonel Robert L. Schulz below so we could finally see what he looked like. Apparently he was Eisenhower's trusted aid for many years.

Myth Buster

One of my primary objectives as a historian, scientist and Rolex enthusiast is to once and for all separate the fact from the fiction on many of the previously murky Rolex history issues. One of the great myths put forth is that the "Rolex President" as it is typically referred to received this distinction because President Eisenhower wore it.

I have seen many people put forth the notion that Rolex gave Dwight Eisenhower two Rolex watches, the first being a Rolex Datejust, and the second being a Day-Date in 1956 when he won his second term as the U.S. President, but I have found NO circumstantial or direct evidence whatsoever to support this notion or urban legend. 

To be specific, I have seen many, many, many photos of Eisenhower wearing his Rolex Datejust, with the Jubilee Bracelet, but I have never seen a photo of him wearing a Day-Date or a Rolex "President" bracelet.

I have also heard many times, from many different sources that Eisenhower sent his watch in for servicing in 1956 and Rolex switched out the Jubilee bracelet on his Datejust for a Rolex "President" Bracelet, but I have not seen any evidence to support this notion either. 

It strikes me the way this myth got started, was because somebody read the letter above and confusingly passed it along, and confused 1954 with 1956.

To the best of my knowledge, it appears as if the first and real Rolex Presidential model was actually a Yellow Gold Rolex Datejust with the Jubilee bracelet. I have also heard that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt wore a Rolex, but I have not been able to confirm this yet. I am however, researching it as I write this.

If I understand it correctly, and please understand that so much of this information is as new to me as it is to you, that the Jubilee Bracelet is named as such to commemorate the 40 Anniversary, know as a "Ruby Jubilee" of Rolex being founded. Perhaps the President Bracelet was named as such to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Rolex being founded? You can rest assured that as soon as I find out more, I will share it with you immediately.

President Eisenhower is picture below in 1955 at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland wearing his Rolex Datejust.


Patrick said...

Thank you for an AMAZING write up. I couldnt pull my self away. I am anxciously awaiting the folowing segments.


Jake Ehrlich said...

Hi Patrick!!!

I just noticed your comment and sincerely thank you for sharing your kind words.

I am currently still working on writing Part 4, I decided to put it up last night thinking I would be able to write it in real time, and then I had to go to sleep because I was so exhausted from preparing all the letters and images.

I try to make it look easy, but I must admit, that writing the Eisenhower story is one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. It is very challenging to keep the time line straight with the cast of characters and all the detail, not to mention finding photos of all the characters. Writing this series is definitely a labor of love for me.

I hope to have the writing section of Part 4 done in the next couple of hours. So, please check back.

Part 5 and 6 will also be amazing and in part 5, which will include my first Rolex History Podcast we will learn about the most beautiful back story to the Eisenhower story.

So far, through the historical records, I was fortunately able to share all this unusual and great perspective on the wonderful relationship between President Eisenhower and Rolex, but next we will go behind the scenes and learn much more about what made Dwight Eisenhower tick.

Warmest regards,

Jake Ehrlich

Charlie said...

"To the best of my knowledge, it appears as if the first and real Rolex Presidential model was actually a Yellow Gold Rolex Datejust with the Jubilee bracelet." You are correct in this statement Jake. The first so-called "President President" was indeed the very watch to which you refer -- a gold Datejust with Jubilee bracelet. FWIW, I put forth this theory six years ago when I authored and published The ROLEX Reference Guide. I'm glad to see you've done your homework -- and come to the correct conclusion. GOOD JOB!