Monday, February 20, 2017

The Presidents and Henki

So just what does your old pal Henki have in common with Ford, Carter, Reagan, Gorbachev, Clinton, Bush, Obama and one Joe Biden?

I've got what I like to think of as the REAL President's Watch.  One of the Paajanen Vulcains.  These were the watches created and ordered by Keijo Paajanen's family in Helsinki to present to US presidents, present and past when they visited Finland.  I am sad to say that the Paajanen's are no longer in the watch and jewelry business, and that the last of these was most likely presented to Joe Biden on a state visit to Finland. 

The Paajanens represent what is good and right in the watch business, and their efforts to keep the Vulcain tradition alive should be remembered and appreciated by watch fans on this President's Day.

And let's hope that some deep pocketed financing Gigi sees the value in Vulcain, and hires Keijo Paajanen to help save it!

So below is a rerun, enjoy!

Being a day to think about presidents - both current and previous, it seems a good time to sharpen up some of the "lore" that surrounds the presidency and their watches.

So - despite what some of my colleagues at Hodinkee would share - which is 90% of the total, allow me to fill in the gaps - they left out some important points.

This story is from a previous posting in 2012.

A Real Brand Ambassador!

It seems that this is the age of the "Brand Ambassador" - generally someone very famous who has more money than God.  Someone who likes a "freebie" and gets paid an insane amount of money to accept a luxury gift.  Also, as we have sometimes seen, someone who then behaves in such a way that it truly embarrasses and shames the company that hired them.  Why is it, in this age of insane advertising budgets, that we do not see a true brand ambassador?  Someone that the company should well and truly be proud of?  

Well, today I got to speak with someone who I have come to believe is one of the few true brand ambassadors. Someone who represents the very best of the watch brand ambassador.  The man who with his father worked to revive and sustain a wonderful tradition, and helped ensure that Vulcain would remain The Watch of the Presidents.

So now, a few minutes with  Keijo Paajanen.

James Henderson - How is it that you and your family got involved with the Vulcain Cricket in the first place?

Keijo PaajanenIt was through a meeting we had with Mr. Michel Ditisheim in Switzerland.  He was the Director for MSR (Montres Suisse Reunion) and a shareholder for Revue Thommen S.A. 

It was actually his father Robert Ditisheim who originally created the Cricket!

JH - Helsinki, Finland is a long way from the US.  What was it that motivated your family to start presenting the Vulcain Cricket to US Presidents in the first place?

KP - As many watch historians and fans know, there was in the past a tradition of presenting a Vulcain Cricket to US Presidents.  We wanted the great story to continue and also because our family has always wanted to have good relations with the USA. My father and his family escaped from advancing Russians (Soviets) in 1939 (JH notes - this is the period of the Winter War).

JH - Who have you presented Vulcain Crickets to?

KP - To Ronald Reagan, George Bush (and same time Gorbachev), Gerald Ford (I personally met), Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter (I met also personally) and finally last year to Vice President Biden.

Keijo Paajanen presenting a Vulcain Cricket to Jimmy Carter
JH - Who was the most interesting President/Vice President you have presented a Vulcain watch to?

KP - That must be Jimmy Carter I met personally. He was such a nice person. I also met his lovely wife Rosalynn

JH - Do you now carry the current Vulcain collection?

KP - We did have some of the new pieces but at the moment no, we do not carry it.

JH - It seems that there is a great deal more to the Vulcain tradition than simply presenting a watch, you and your family have really acted as true ambassadors not just for the Vulcain Cricket, but for Finland as well.  

KP - It is our family tradition to present this very special Vulcain Cricket watch every time a US President or Vice President visits Finland.  The Vulcain Cricket is the watch of the Presidents.  The Cricket is also a Great Story.  It has been worn by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.

We wanted this Great Story to continue, so in 1988 when President Ronald Reagan was in Finland we presented him a with a Cricket watch. 

In 1990 we presented a Cricket to President George Bush during the Helsinki Summit. (Actually we also presented a Cricket to Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.  We never got a letter but you can see him wearing the watch on the cover of Time Magazine's International Issue  (December 31, 1990 number 53).

Courtesy of Time Magazine

In the summer of 1995 we presented a watch to President Gerald R. Ford while he was in Finland to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Accords.  I had great honor to meet him personally! 

Keijo Paajanen presenting a Vulcain Cricket to Gerald Ford
In 1997 we presented a Cricket to President Bill Clinton while he was in Helsinki.  A few months later we presented a Cricket to President Jimmy Carter, with him being the ninth President of the United States of America to wear the very same watch model.  I had the great honor of meeting President Carter and his lovely wife Rosalynn.  No wonder we call the Cricket the watch of the Presidents.

One important historical note is that Richard Nixon got his Vulcain Cricket while he was Vice President in 1955. He received his Cricket from the National Association of Watch and Clock Makers.

JH - And the tradition continues with Vice President Joe Biden?

KP - Yes.  And I feel it is time for me to provide some information concerning my gift to Vice President Biden since the PUBLIC FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE REPORT was released. I knew this was going to take place since I was contacted long time ago by  The Ethics Counsel of the  Office of the Vice President.

The watch (the particular model) given to Vice President Biden is from a stock my father kept (only a few pieces) for future presentations and this is why they are no longer in stock lists and therefore no longer for sale. My father passed away 2009.

And most recently, a Vulcain Cricket was presented to President Obama -

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