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

While Martin Luther King Jr.’s time on earth was cut short, his work and message continue to resonate today. King was an extraordinary figure in American history. During his life, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement. And posthumously, he has been recognized with 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.'s Watch

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 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.'s Watch

King being arrested 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.'s Watch

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. While such a man cannot be singularly defined by the watch he wore, it’s clear that the connection between King and the Rolex brand will continue to endure.


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 13, 2012. We have updated it for accuracy.

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

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