The Watch of American Presidents

American Presidents and Swiss watches might seem like an odd pairing, but for the last 70 years or so, every American leader has owned one specific Swiss watch – the Vulcain Cricket.

Why?  That’s hard to say, exactly.  During the late 1940s, President Harry Truman apparently purchased a Vulcain Cricket, which was then a fairly new watch.  Vulcain has been making watches since 1858, but the Cricket, introduced in 1947, had a feature that was somewhat new – an alarm.

vulcain cricketThe alarm will not strike modern watch collectors as being anything special.   You must set it every day.  You cannot set it more than 12 hours in advance.  You must manually wind it every time you want to use it.  This is done by winding the crown in the reverse direction that you would use to wind the watch to run.

But, it did have an alarm, and the name “Cricket” was suggested to evoke the sound that the alarm makes when it rings, which is said to resemble the sound made by the insect.  The alarm will ring for 20 seconds, and is reportedly loud enough to awaken most people from a moderate sleep.

The alarm is also somewhat difficult to set.  You cannot set it to go off at a precise moment, but just for a general time of roughly 10,30, or 50 minutes after the hour.

Still, a mechanical watch with an alarm, and particularly a fairly loud alarm, which was hard to make then and just as hard to create now, was a remarkable complication in a 1940s watch, and word got out that the President of the United States had purchased one for his own use.

vulcain cricketThis was not unnoticed by the people at Vulcain, and they responded to this in a sensible manner – they started the tradition of giving a Vulcain Cricket to every American President when they took office.  Since Harry Truman started by buying one, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump have all owned a Vulcain Cricket.

Not all of them actually wore it; President Kennedy reportedly favored an Omega and President Clinton famously wore a Timex, but Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson both wore their Crickets prouldy.

Some 70 years after its introduction, the Vulcain Cricket is still in production.  There have been numerous changes to the model over the years, and eventually, an automatic version was introduced.  Recently, a special edition of the Cricket was introduced to celebrate 70 years of the model’s history.

This edition, limited to 99 pieces, features a mother of pearl dial and a vintage logo, so as to depict the watch as it appeared back in the 1940s.  It’s a terrific looking timepiece, though not a particularly inexpensive one.  The limited edition model is priced at U.S. $11,000.

Regular editions of the Vulcain Cricket are somewhat less expensive, starting at just under U.S. $700.  You may wish to hurry if you want to buy Vulcain watches, however, as the downturn in the market for Swiss watches has hurt the company quite a bit.  We recently read that the company had been forced to make dramatic cuts in their staff, and some people worry that the current U.S. President may be the last to own the Vulcain Cricket.

I hope not, as it’s an attractive watch that is now a part of United States history. With luck, someone will either buy the company or the watch market will have enough of a rebound to keep this 160 year old company in business.

seiko presage

Tokyoflash Watches Offer Time With an Edge

When one thinks of Japanese design and technology, one usually thinks “conservative and reliable.”  That’s pretty much how Japanese manufacturing has been since the end of World War II.  The country produces high quality products that work well, but which usually do not inspire awe when it comes to design.

They make very good products that are often affordably priced, but when it comes to design, especially in watches, the Japanese have long been followers, rather than leaders.  That’s not criticism, but many Japanese-made watches are made from designs that were inspired by Swiss models, and perhaps improved or perfected in some way.

Tokyoflash Spider Acetate LCD
Tokyoflash Spider Acetate LCD

Tokyoflash watches may change the way the world thinks about that.  The small company makes watches and sells them directly from their Website.  In fact, that is the only way you can buy Tokyoflash watches, because they say that their designs are too complex to allow them to sell them wholesale.

They are complex.  In fact, if not for the fact that they fit around your wrist as any other wristwatch might, you would probably have difficulty identifying many Tokyoflash watches as a watch at all.

Their models are all quartz electronic, and many have LCD displays.  These are not, however, your standard LCD displays that have been around for the past few decades.

Tokyoflash watches have incredible design and appear to have been designed by people who had the intention of making it as difficult as possible to look at the watch and tell the time.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; some people like to follow the beat of a different drummer, and they want something different, even in a watch.

Not everyone has to own a Citizen watch, you know.

Tokyoflash Geomesh
Tokyoflash Geomesh

Tokyoflash watches are all designed as limited editions.  How limited?  I do not know.  When they are not available for sale any longer, they are moved from the “Watches” section of their Website to the “Museum” section of the site.  You can still look at the watches in the museum, but you can no longer buy them.

One of the more interesting models from Tokyoflash is their Liquid Metal watch, which has drops of a material that they call “Metallium” floating around the watch face.  Two of the drops always maintain their position, so you can tell the time on what might loosely be called an analog display.  The other blob of metal just floats around as you move.

The Spider Transparent LCD watch has a transparent face, so when you are wearing it, you can see your wrist underneath it.  The watch also has a rather unusual LCD display that shows the time in a rather cryptic way.  Fortunately, the watch does come with an instruction manual that allows you to learn how to read it.

The Geomesh looks more like it might be a walkie talkie or some other communications device.  Like the Spider, it tells time in an unusual way – this time, showing odd geometric patterns.  With practice, you can learn to tell the time on the Geomesh quickly.

Tokyoflash doesn’t seem to be too concerned with selling a lot of watches.  They build what they like and they appear to sell what they build.  If you are looking for something very unusual in a Japanese watch, Tokyoflash is worth a look.

seiko presage