Saturday, April 4, 2015

MEET THE WATCH SERIES: A Truly Presidential Special Edition Alpnach Watch by Victorinox Swiss Army

This is the first article for the MEET THE WATCH Series where I showcase a timepiece off the beaten path or simply because I like it. There are literally thousands of watches floating in a sea of sales, trades and daily use, but how often do you hear the story behind the design. So, grab a cup of coffee and say hello to a new face, and you just might learn a thing or two.

I recently came across a very limited edition Swiss Army Alpnach watch bearing the United States presidential seal. Judging from the numbers on the side, only 77 were made. This piqued my interest to learn more so I contacted the seller who gave me additional information and also permission to use his photos in this article.

Photo by seller
According to the seller, this rare timepiece was designed by Swiss Army and given to several presidents of the United States and the flight crew of Air Force One. He told me...
"Mr. Obama wore #44 and had #43* given to Mr. Bush Jr., #42 given to Mr. Clinton and #41 given to Mr. Bush Sr. #1 and #2 went to the pilot and co-pilot of Airforce One."
*UPDATE (7-30-2017): It appears that a private civilian has number 43 so the information from the seller was not completely accurate. I might just try to track all the numbers down in a nationwide search.

Mr. Obama would not return my calls, so I had to cross-check the facts elsewhere. I found the answer in a July 2013 Chronos24 interview with Michael Meier, the International Sales Director of Victorinox Swiss Army where he stated...
"We have achieved to equip the Air Force One crew with one of our timepieces. This is the Alpnach Chronograph, which is enriched with the Seal of the President of the United States on the background of the dial at the 9 hour. So we do produce special editions, but we normally do not advertise them."
Now that the watch was confirmed as authentic, I turned my attention to the seal which is not actually the seal of the president, but a hybrid including the additional words AIR FORCE ONE. It is not clear how this seal was printed onto the dial with such precision. I count probably 6 to 7 colors that make up the seal and maybe more if you count the dimensional effect of the outer gold ring.

A modified presidential seal appears on this limited edition Swiss Army Alpnach watch
The limited edition model is number 249045 on the case back and the specimen #70 is overtly etched onto the side of the case. This is the only Swiss Army watch that I have seen that has the specimen number that large and in that location. You cannot miss it.

Also, many of the brand's earlier limited edition watches omit the model number and only have the specimen/series number such as 111/125. Maybe they started adding the new model numbers to make identification easier.

The limited edition number appears on the side of the case instead of on the back. A special model number is added.
 To my eye, the special edition watch seems to be based on the readily commercial model number 241527 seen below. The only differences between the two are the seal, the new model number,  series/specimen number etched on the side and who owns one. The lugs look different in the borrowed photos, but I believe that is just an optical illusion.

The genetic donor model #241527 on left compared to the Airforce One Limited Edition Alpnach # 249045 on right. 
At the time of this blog article going live, April, 4th, 2015, the Victorinox Swiss Army Presidential Alpnach watch was still for sale on eBay. You still have a chance to own this, but don't wait too long... the presidential primaries may be starting up soon...

Thanks to the unnamed seller for letting me share the story behind his watch.


Ray Barbone said...

Just an FYI, Pres Bush was not issued number 43, because that's the one I have. I ordered it from a good friend that works on AF1 and requested and got that #. I'd never sell mine, but I'm really curious what these would go for on the market even though very little is known about these watches.

Andrew Hughes said...

Hi, Ray. Thank you for the info. This is good to know and I added an update/correction to the article. I was stating what the seller was told and there may be some urban legend built into the story. Presidents are given all sorts of things over their tenure. Without a photo of this watch on one of their wrists, it cannot be confirmed they own one.... legend or not.

Do you still have connections to you AF1 pal? I would be curious to see how many of the 77 can be accounted for. I am doing this with other limited edition watches and they tend to spread all over the world.

As for the value, most people do not know what this watch is. It was not directly for sale to the public... but you have proven if you knew someone on AF1, you might be able to get one. They were not in stores or a catalog though. You can email me at to get an answer on value.

I will write an article asking owners to tell me their number and location. I'll put that on a map... I have you r number so can you tell me the city you are in? I think it would be fun.