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By Anne VanderMey
According to Google auto-fill, one of the most searched terms relating to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is, “What watch does Lloyd Blankfein wear?”
We have the answer: It’s a Swatch, a simple plastic timepiece that retails in the ballpark of $100. In fact, the executive has several of them—including a black one for formal events.
If you work on Wall Street, you’ve probably seen the look before: good suit, unremarkable shoes, digital watch. Witness Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone. Schwarzman not only owns multiple Swatches, he wears them in funky colors and designs. One particularly bright-colored edition bears the landmarks of his vacation home in St. Tropez.
Public-facing figures like Schwarzman and Blankfein may be expected to dress without excessive bling. And yet, as Google attests, it’s curious to see a plastic bangle on some of American business’s most powerful men. The list of power players who sport Swatches goes on: Tony Blair has one, as does French president Francois Hollande. U.K. hedge fund trader Chris Hohn has had a black one for years. AllianceBernstein CEO Peter Kraus is a fan of the brand. Even the boss of luxury watch maker Patek Phillipe reportedly wears one while skiing.
In a statement to Fortune, Switzerland’s Swatch Group didn’t have much to say about why politicians and executives might want to wear the budget accessory. The company’s Swiss roots and artistic designs may play a role, a spokeswoman said. When the Swatch was introduced as an alternative to Asian mass production in the 1980s, it was credited with helping to save the Swiss watchmaking industry. Ultimately, though, the watch brand’s patronage among the high and mighty is a bit of a mystery. “We assume that politicians have their reasons for wearing our watches,” the spokeswoman wrote, “but we don’t know what those reasons are.”
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