Monday, January 17, 2022

The Presidents And Vulcain - The Cricket Travels East For An Unexpected Stop In Moscow

With Vice President (only later to become President) Richard Nixon leaving public life in the 1970s and Gerald Ford replacing him, the Oval Office was decidedly "Cricket Free" for quite some time. For those of you following along at home: Up to this point, Vulcain had not presented a Vulcain Cricket to a US President (sitting or future). Once again, a huge thank you to Michel Ditisheim for a lot of background that he provided.

When I was meeting with Mr. Ditisheim back in November, I asked him about a Time Magazine cover that featured a noted world leader wearing what appeared to be a Vulcain Cricket. And it was during this conversation that the TRUE identity of the first "President" to receive a Vulcain Cricket from the Vulcain company, was not born in the US. In fact, the first to be presented a Cricket directly from Vulcain was not born in Virginia, Ohio or New York, but rather by the Yegorlyk River, in Privolnoye, Stavropol kray, Russia, U.S.S.R.

"Wait, what's that you say? The first time Vulcain presented the "Watch of the Presidents" to a president was to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union?"
Courtesy of Time Magazine
Yes watch fans, the Soviets beat the US to space with Sputnik, and Gorbachev beat any US President in being presented with a Vulcain Cricket, directly by Vulcain.

What has been missed, or simply assumed by most accounts of the Cricket and the US President connection was that the company had given the watches themselves. This was never the case up to this point. And it is quite intriguing that Michel Ditisheim, the son of the inventor of the Cricket would be the one to set up his father's invention on its second act on the world's geopolitical stage.

What Mr. Ditisheim explained to me was that the idea to give Mr. Gorbachev a Vulcain Cricket came about in what I often refer to as the "between time". This is the time when Vulcain had slowed down its production and became part of the Manufactures d'Horlogerie Suisses RĂ©unies SA, or MSR. This group was formed in 1961 and included Revue Thommen, Buser Freres, Phenix, and later Marvin (in 1976).

Mr. Ditisheim with the help of Vulcain enthusiast (and member of the Swiss Federal Council) Pierre Aubert helped to arrange the presentation of a Vulcain Cricket to the leader of the Soviet Union. The watch was delivered to the Kremlin in 1987, and then... nothing. Not a peep. Mr. Ditisheim could not have been blamed if he might have felt it was a failure as a PR plan. Three years passed, and  it wasn't until he went to his mailbox, and took out that week's copy of Time Magazine's International Edition (December 30, 1990, number 53) that he knew that the Vulcain Cricket had not only been successfully delivered, but had found its way onto Mr. Gorbachev's wrist! Vulcain never received any sort of acknowledgement or thank you. But there it was, the first ever Vulcain Cricket presented to a sitting "president", splashed large across the front cover of (at that time) one of the world's most important news magazines.

And the Vulcain Cricket was about to take to the air again, and travel westward to land again on the wrist of a former US President. But not quite as far west as you might think. Tune in next time to read about how a family jeweler worked with Michel Ditisheim to reclaim its title as the Watch of the Presidents.

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