“What is up, watchfam? Christian here. I just wanted to introduce you to my friend, Max Levinson. Max is a 13 year old collector of all things old and interesting; from elevator parts and car keys to, more than all else, vintage watches, he’s got an insatiable thirst for the past and I couldn’t be happier but to give him this space and publish his first article. Enjoy!!!”
John F. Kennedy, Watches and the Undelivered Watchmen Speech
While summer has officially come to a close, this one wont be forgotten. Most of us were so busy on beaches, boats and instagram that we didn’t even realize what was right in front of our watchgeeky eyes – two incredible pieces of horological history, specifically related to the Kennedy’s, that were housed and showcased in New York City over the last three months.
Not only were the two exhibits on display The exhibits are of interest not only to watch enthusiasts but also to history buffs. Both exhibits illustrate the role that beautiful timepieces have played over time.
The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition, Discovering the World of Patek Philippe was open to the public and free through July 23 at Cipriani’s across from Grand Central Station. For those who couldn’t make it in person, the collection can be viewed online: http://www.patek.com/en/communication/news/the-art- of-watches-grand-exhibition-new-york-2017
The Patek Philippe exhibition featured ten rooms of watches dating back to the year 1530. Among the 400 watches on display and pictured below (images may be subject to copyright) are Henry Graves, Jr.’s Grande Complication pocket watch, the Calibre 89 which took nine years to design and build (consisting of 1,728 parts with 33 complications), and Joe DiMiaggio’s Chrono REF 130J given to him by the Yankees.
Pictured below (images may be subject to copyright) is President John F. Kennedy’s desk clock, a Patek Philippe autonomous time piece given to JFK on his visit to West Berlin in June of 1963. JFK received the clock after he gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Germany. The timepiece showcases the time in Washington, Moscow and Berlin, to commemorate the establishment of direct communication between the US and USSR following the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Across town at the New York Historical Society was another special exhibition, American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times. The exhibit contained one of the most exhaustively research collections of Kennedy photos ever assembled. Pictured below (images may be subject to copyright) is John F. Kennedy at his inaugural ball in January of 1961. JFK was wearing an Omega Ultra Thin (2mm calibre) in 18 carat gold on a black leather strap. The “Stockdale watch” contains the following inscription, “President of the United States John F. Kennedy from his friend Grant.” The historical timepiece is housed at the Omega Museum located in Biel, Switzerland. Here is a link to the NY Historical Society’s website: http://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/american-visionary-john-f-kennedys-life-and-times
Sadly, on the day that JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, he had planned to deliver the “Watchmen” speech in Dallas, Texas. Here is an excerpt from the speech, which continues to ring true today:
“We, in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than by choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.”
I hope that next time the stars align and this much horological history lives, even temporarily, within the same city, I’m able to visit again and geek out!!!
Written by Max Levinson