A January 22 2021 New York Times piece headlined, “Joe Biden, Watch Geek in Chief” observed that newly inaugurated United States President Joe Biden wore a Rolex during his inauguration, leading to at least two viral tweets asserting that the Rolex he was wearing had actually belonged to Biden’s late son Beau Biden:
It appears that the Rolex that Joe Biden wore to the inauguration used to belong to Beau. If this is true, the Biden family deserves a major apology from the New York Times. pic.twitter.com/HoNhJpxu6p
— United for the People (@people4kam) January 25, 2021
In the first tweet, Bryan Behar said:
All indications are that the Rolex belonged to Beau Biden. The President wears it to honor his beloved son. Nice going @nytimes . You really screwed the pooch on this one.
The second was similar:
It appears that the Rolex that Joe Biden wore to the inauguration used to belong to Beau. If this is true, the Biden family deserves a major apology from the New York Times.
There is a lot of backstory and context to these claims, so we will examine each individually.
What Did the New York Times Say About Joe Biden or Beau Biden’s Rolex?
Although the Times described Biden’s Rolex as “befitting his position,” the article included some delicate barbs about Biden wearing the timepiece he did during a period of economic crisis:
President Biden may cast his arrival in the White House as a return to business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but there’s at least one way he’s breaking from prevailing presidential tradition: he wears a Rolex.
At his inauguration, Mr. Biden laid his hand on the family Bible wearing a stainless steel Rolex Datejust watch with a blue dial, a model that retails for more than $7,000 and is a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades.
To many, a president wearing a luxury watch might not seem unusual. Shouldn’t the leader of the free world wear a power watch befitting his position? (Never mind that it costs the equivalent of dozen or so stimulus checks.)
After briefly cataloguing the watches worn by previous presidents, the newspaper then reported:
To be fair, none of Mr. Biden’s watches scream “luxury,” at least to watch connoisseurs who are acclimated to the thin air of Swiss watch prices.
His Rolex Datejust, for example, is considered an undisputed classic, but in another sense, almost could be regarded as entry level for a brand with head-turners that quickly climb into the five-figures.
Likewise, his Omegas do not connote fanciness, at least in the eyes of watch snobs. The Moonwatch, while Swiss in origin, has been embraced as an American emblem ever since the Apollo 11 astronauts wore the storied model to the moon … [Rolex watches] also embody a classic version of the American dream: that anyone, even a kid from Scranton, can make it to the pinnacle of power.
Notably, the Times maintained that Biden owned more than one high-end watch, stating the President “is unafraid to show off his haute Swiss watches, all stainless steel, including his Rolex, an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional and Omega Seamaster Diver 300M[.]”
Other Reporting on the Rolex
Bloomberg quickly decreed Biden’s Rolex to be a “bipartisan affair,” reporting:
Biden has been known to wear larger sized steel sports watches. He’s been seen, most famously, in his blue-dial Omega Seamaster Professional 300m with its distinctive bracelet. He’s also worn a Seiko 7T32-6M90 Chronograph on the campaign trail (and for his victory speech), as well as a 42mm Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch.”
GQ (also known as Gentleman’s Quarterly) also weighed in in an item titled “Looks Like Joe Biden Got a New Watch to Celebrate His Big New Job,” intimating the Rolex Datejust worn by Biden was celebrating his win:
At first blush, Biden’s choice is a bit perplexing. Consider that he was just elected President and there is an actual Rolex watch, the Day-Date, nicknamed the President—that one feels like a no-brainer. Instead, Biden’s new Rolex is the more entry-level Datejust model with a black dial. But this might be more advanced maneuvering by Biden. While it’s the Day-Date that now shares a nickname with Biden it wasn’t actually the first Rolex to make its way to the Oval. That honor actually belongs to the…Datejust.
The New York Post managed to criticize both Biden’s watch and readers complaining about the New York Times‘ coverage all at once:
But it’s a sharp contrast to the downmarket Timexes and Shinolas favored by most other modern Presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — that is, until the luxe-loving Donald Trump arrived with his Patek Philippes and Vacheron Constantins.
Wait, This Feels Familiar. Where Have I Heard This Before?
Probably when Joe Biden’s rosary beads became a hot topic (rumored to be a “wrist wire” by conspiracy theorists) before it was revealed they belonged to Beau Biden, and that Joe Biden had worn them in his son’s honor:
‘All Indications’ Joe Biden’s Rolex is Beau Biden’s Rolex
Secondary reporting hastily incorporated wording to allow for the watch potentially having once belonged to Beau Biden, such as Meaww’s “‘Regular’ Joe Biden slammed for owning Peloton bike, Internet says Donald Trump had a ‘$50,000 golf simulator'”:
It now appears that the watch used to actually belong to his son Beau Biden, which he wears to honor his late beloved son. But watch aside, the publication and all naysayers are being called out on social media for seemingly bashing the president for owning the bike.
Celebitchy’s “NYT: President Biden wears a nice Rolex, and it’s some kind of scandal” noted:
Also: there’s some evidence that President Biden was wearing a Rolex which once belonged to his late son Beau Biden. Which would make sense, if President Biden made some quiet tributes to his beloved son.
Neither of those items sourced the information anywhere, just indicating that there was “some evidence” Joe Biden wore his son’s Rolex. As the New York Times noted, the inaugural Rolex was not Biden’s only expensive watch — a March 2020 piece on a website devoted to news about watches was titled “Joe Biden OMEGA Seamaster Diver Analyzed,” reporting:
Joe Biden’s OMEGA is expensive
Biden’s OMEGA Diver cost around $4k new – back when $4k could buy a politician small house in Maryland. The candidate who once proudly described himself as the “poorest man in Congress” is now a multi-millionaire.
Citizen Eco-Drive Riva
The former Senator could easily afford a more expensive watch. That said, Biden’s OMEGA is more than 10X pricier than ostensible ally Bernie Sanders’ Citizen Eco-Drive Riva (above).
We found this article with a date-restricted search in an attempt to find more information about presidential watches. An October 2020 comment mentioned Beau Biden’s Rolex, but we were unable to locate the material it described:
In an earlier popular mechanics interview with Joe and Hunter as well as an older parade magazine with an interview with Joe and Beau both sons can clearly be seen wearing submariner/gmt rolexes. I bet when president lunchbucket is out of camera range his Rolex is on his wrist too.
And a January 22 2021 tweet posited that Biden wore his son’s Rolex:
Is it my imagination, or does this watch on the wrist of Beau Biden, the president's dead son, look identical to the Rolex that the president so scandalously wore at his inauguration? pic.twitter.com/9A7wHMg5Dg
— Bodhipaksa (@bodhipaksa) January 23, 2021
Wording of the tweet was such that the user allowed for being inaccurate in their guess:
Is it my imagination, or does this watch on the wrist of Beau Biden, the president’s dead son, look identical to the Rolex that the president so scandalously wore at his inauguration?
A top-level response posited that the watch was not in fact the one worn by Biden at his inauguration, offering another of Beau Biden’s watches as a candidate:
Another user seemed certain the first watch was “not the same watch”:
That’s not the same watch.
— Call me Ishmael. (@thepequodship) January 23, 2021
In response to that, the original poster scolded the Times writer for not considering the possibility Biden wore Beau’s Rolex:
As I said, it may be my imagination (and lack of familiarity with watches). But the possibility that the watch might be a memento or gift doesn’t seem to have occurred to the NYT reporter. (Not that there would be anything wrong even if Biden had bought it himself.)
None of those this rose to the level of evidence, however.
We read through the primary, widely circulating posts and tweets embedded above for any route to “all indicators” the watch belonged to Beau Biden, but turned up empty-handed. Based on the chiding and definitive tone of the tweets, one could be forgiven for inferring the watch bore a clear “property of Beau Biden” engraving, but we found nothing (not even solid rumor) indicating that Joe Biden wore his son’s Rolex.
This is not to say the Rolex was not originally Beau Biden’s — we just couldn’t substantiate the claim.
Jake Tapper of CNN retweeted one of the pair of popular tweets, claiming that the watch was definitively not Beau Biden’s:
This is not true. The watch did not belong to Beau Biden. Please stop sharing this falsehood. Delete it, un-RT it, stop. https://t.co/kQECa1scuN
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 25, 2021
However, if Tapper had any additional information about the provenance of Biden’s Rolex, he elected not to share it.
Did Joe Biden wear Beau Biden’s Rolex and get mocked by the New York Times for it? Social media users were quick to lambast the Times, claiming that the watch was Beau Biden’s Rolex — a claim we have been unable to either substantiate or debunk. Tapper said it was not Beau Biden’s, but he did not elaborate nor share evidence or citations. It is possible that Joe Biden wore his son’s Rolex, but he was already described as a collector of watches prior to his election and inauguration. We found no evidence settling the question in either direction, so at this time we rate the claim Unknown.