Profiles in Time: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Watch

Martin Luther King Jr. – The Man and His Legacy

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an extraordinary figure in American history. He was an American Baptist minister and activist and is the most recognizable leader in the American Civil Rights movement. The changes that King ushered in were led by his tenets of civil disobedience and nonviolence. These beliefs are what King is most remembered for.

Part of King’s enduring legacy are his writings and orations. His “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous and revered American speeches in history. He delivered it in 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial. Decades after his death,  his writing “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” is still taught in schools around the world.

During his life, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement. At the time, he was the youngest person in history to receive this honor. And posthumously, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977), the Congressional Gold Medal (2004), and, of course, a national holiday in his name.

Naturally, a great man deserved an equally great watch. And Martin Luther King Jr.’s watch was a classic: a gold Rolex Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet.

Martin Luther King Jr. speaking

Martin Luther King Jr. and his Watch

We don’t know all that much about King’s watch. We don’t know how or even when he acquired it. Obviously, the Datejust on his wrist was not something he spoke about in speeches or interviews—his mind was on far more important issues than his personal watch. But photographs show us that his Datejust was present at many critical moments of his adult life.

Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested

King’s arrest in Montgomery, 1958

Whether his actions were provocative and polarizing or commanding and triumphant, the watch on his wrist was a consistent companion.

Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office

King and other civil right leaders meet with President Lyndon Johnson, 1964

Of course, Dr. King wasn’t alone in his admiration for a nice Rolex watch, or even that particular gold Datejust. More than one U.S. president was a Rolex fan, putting King in the company of many other distinguished men of modern history.

And Rolex itself is an equal admirer of Dr. King and his legacy, having featured him alongside other notable figures in a 2013 ad campaign. You cannot define a man by the watch on his wrist. This is especially true for King. However, it’s clear that the connection between King and the Rolex brand is enduring.

Check out more “Profiles in Time,” like JFK.

Editor’s Note: Originally, this article published on June 13, 2012. We have updated it for accuracy.


Images ©: Header, 1, 3; Wikimedia Commons. 

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