Things that tie in to significant moments in history have a large appeal to collectors. This is the main reason the Rolex Explorer owned by James Bond author Ian Fleming is desirable. The reason John F. Kennedy’s 18-karat yellow gold, square Omega with a personal inscription, worn during his inauguration, is important. The reason Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster, the first watch officially on the moon (Neil Armstrong left his in the orbiting spacecraft), is the most coveted timepiece of that particular make.
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Two former Philippine presidents even had their personal effects auctioned off. In 2003, Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold three watches owned by Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon. One of the watches resembled a small airmail envelope addressed to his son in Malacañan to commemorate the first Pan-Am flight to Manila. Two years later, noted watch auctioneer Antiquorum sold a rare aluminum Vacheron Constantin pocket watch presented to former president Ramon Magsaysay during his December 1953 inauguration. The watch went under the gavel during a special Swiss auction to commemorate the 225th anniversary of Vacheron.
Timepieces that honor the school spirit are as revered in the Philippines, where admiration for one’s alma mater is almost akin to national pride. This explains the popularity of the Swatch school timepieces featured here.
Throughout history, timekeeping devices played an essential role in events that shaped the course of lives and nations. Here are commemorative watches that marked special moments in time.
Ferdinand and Imelda Head wristwatches and desk clock (1970s) by unnamed Swiss watchmaker
Gold- and silver-plated coins embossed with imprints of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos’ faces; Roman numeral dials; leather strap; dagger hour and minute hands; Swiss mechanical movement. Brass-encased table clock with the name “Imelda Romualdez Marcos” in capital letters encircling the embossed head of the former First Lady in the center. Stick hour and minute hands with a white arrow mystery hand.
Both timepieces were made in Switzerland and given away to guests to mark the 25th wedding anniversary of the Marcoses in 1979. Aside from having a floating mystery hand, the table clock shows the face of Imelda disappearing and re-appearing on the dial.
Tank Française Philippine Independence Centennial dress watch (1998) by Cartier
18-karat yellow gold; white dial with the official Philippine Independence Centennial insignia printed on the face; Roman numerals and Dauphin hands. Swiss automatic movement. Shown with both a leather deployant strap and a metal bracelet.
Issued to commemorate 100 years of Philippine Independence from Spain. Only 100 numbered watches were made with the special dial.
Victorinox Swiss Army Pacman Limited Edition Series
Win or lose, “The People’s Champion” Manny Pacquiao has the Filipinos’ devotion and support. The Victorinox Swiss Army Pacman Limited Edition series were created to pay tribute to this Filipino boxing legend who had made his country proud. Three different models from VSA were released: two iterations of the Victorinox Swiss Army Maverick II Chrono, and the third, the Chrono Classic. Pacquiao is the first and only Filipino Boxer with a timepiece edition named after him.
The Maverick II Chrono Pacman Limited Edition bears an image of the iconic boxer in its dial, while the caseback bears his image in strike pose, with the Philippine flag unfurled behind him. A Swiss-made quartz analog movement beats inside the 42mm steel and aluminum case, and is water resistant to 10 ATM. It features a chronograph and a tachymeter timer. Luminous hands and markers make it easy to read even in low-light. Only 1,000 pieces of the watch were made.
The third watch in the series, the Chrono Classic, comes in a 40mm stainless steel case, complemented by a stainless steel bracelet. The boxer icon is etched in silver on the dial, and on the caseback are the sun rays and stars that represent the Philippine flag, and Manny’s face and famous fists. It has three chronograph subdials, and the date window at 4 o’clock. Luminous hands and numerals, too, make the time easy to read, and integrated shaped chronograph pushers make it easy to start, stop, and reset the chronograph. The watch is water resistant to 100 meters. – Rheea Hermoso-Prudente
The Cory Aquino limited edition wristwatch (2010) by Swatch
Analog, quartz, with a unique print on a silicon strap. Standard plastic cases. Available in two sizes: extra large and men’s size.
Designed by industrialist and artist Jaime Zobel de Ayala, the Swatch to honor the late Philippine president Corazon C. Aquino was similar to the watch Zobel designed for Swatch for the 1998 Philippine Centennial. Limited to 801 pieces, the Cory Aquino Swatch came in a special packaging which included the book A Woman Surrounded by the Sun.
The De La Salle University Centennial wristwatch (2011) by Swatch
Chronograph, analog, quartz, with a unique print on a leather strap. Standard metal case, two-button chronograph function, date aperture.
For its centennial in 2011, De La Salle University also commissioned Swatch to produce a chronograph, which was sold to raise money for the school’s scholarship fund. This particular example (with a black face and three small dials) belongs to the current Education secretary, Brother Armin Luistro, FSC.
The Ateneo wristwatch (2009) by Swatch
Analog, quartz, with a unique print on a leather strap. Standard plastic case. In 2009, the Ateneo de Manila University commissioned Swatch to produce a watch to commemorate the sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary of the school. Sales of the commemorative watches went to support 500 Ateneo scholars.
The San Beda wristwatch (2011) by Swatch
Analog, quartz, with a unique print on a silicon strap. Standard plastic case.Commissioned to celebrate the 111th and 40th anniversaries, respectively, of the campuses in Manila, Alabang and Rizal in 2012. Sales of the watch were earmarked for the needs of alumni and to fund Benedictine activities.
This story originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 9 No 1 2013.
Photographs by Pat Mateo