No, General Schwarzkopf did not double wrist a Rolex and Seiko Despite What You’ve Read.
Pictured is General H. Norman Schwarzkopf wearing two watches. Read any story on Schwarzkopf and watches and you’ll learn that it’s a Rolex Day-Date and a Seiko diver. There’s just one problem–he didn’t wear a Rolex. The truth is just as interesting, however. Both watches are Seikos, aka the Toyota of Watches.
Thanks to research by our friend @niccoloy, we’d like to set the record straight, and while we’re at it, we’ll dig into the idea of “double wristing”, or simply put–wearing two watches at once.
“Double Wristing” -Bravado vs practical utility:
Double wristing can be understood today as somewhat of a “flex”, done by celebrities, athletes and rappers as an ostentatious display of wealth, an indication one has “f*ck you money.” But wearing two watches before the era of smartphones meant something different. Keep in mind, watches were largely used for their intended purpose - to tell time. Wearing two watches meant that you probably had a reason to. While the GMT complication has allowed a single watch to track two time zones at once, several historical figures have worn multiple watches. Most notable among them is Four Star General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, aka Stormin’ Norman, who wore a watch on each wrist during the First Gulf War. There’s undeniably an element of projecting a certain image, but here’s the reason in his own words:
"I always wore two watches during the war. The one on my left arm was set on Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on my right arm was set on Eastern Standard Time. That way I could quickly glance at my watches and instantly know the time in both Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C.”
Then commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and head of coalition forces against Saddam Hussein, Schwarzkopf was pictured regularly wearing the two timepieces, a supposed two tone "Rolex" and a Seiko diver on a rubber strap.
Photo Credit: Yousuf Karsh
The dressier watch is regularly reported in watch media as a two tone Rolex Day-Date, which is incorrect. According to expert historical watch spotter @niccoloy, both watches are actually Seikos. Niccoloy looked through scores of pictures to find this relatively obscure photo of General Schwarzkopf on a helicopter, the signature Seiko clasp clearly visible on the inside of the wrist.
Practicality vs Imagery, Bravado, Perceptions:
Did the General really need two watches to track the time in DC and Saudi Arabia? Probably not, a simple GMT function would have sufficed. Or a quick calculation. While we will not outright question Schwarzkopf’s claimed utility of the two timepieces, we can also assume that the watches also served as a tool in the information war.
In Diplomacy, Military, and Intelligence, imagery and perception matters. Modern day Generals are just as much politicians and diplomats as they are warfighters. Schwarzkopf was the face of the Gulf conflict to the American people, allies, and Iraqis. He likely spent considerable time thinking about how he was perceived by each constituent. While it seems comical now, thirty-plus years ago, the “double wristing” arguably supported his persona as someone in charge, someone who valued time and someone intensely focused on accomplishing his mission. The contrast of the two watches, one a riff on the watch par excellence, and the other a known tool watch, mirrored his position as warrior-diplomat. An effective General can get his hands dirty during the day and stroll right into a state dinner at night looking the part. Our assessment is that these two accessories were intended as a physical display of this dichotomy. The watches were tools–each one for a different job.
Interestingly, General Schwarzkopf appears to periodically switch wrists throughout the conflict, the reasoning behind this is purely speculation. While the two tone dress Seiko is unidentified, the blue and red “Pepsi” bezel Seiko on a rubber strap was auctioned in the 1990s at Antiquorum for $11,000. The Seiko diver is often listed as a Seiko SKX009, but according to the 1999 auction description, it was quartz so it is likely something a Seiko reference 7548.
Havana - Moscow - Washington D.C.
The General is by no means the first notable historical figure to wear two watches at once. Fidel Castro routinely wore multiple watches, sometimes on the same wrist, including during a 1963 meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin. There are some indications he set the watches to Havana, Moscow, and Washington DC (The third utilizing the GMT function).
Similar to Schwarzkopf, we can assume this was just as much a strategic decision as it was practical. We can only speculate what a socialist and Marxist-Leninist leader was trying to accomplish with this display, but we can assume it was no accident. (Today Washington D.C. and Havana are in the same time zone -UTC -5-, but between the years 1960 and 1964 Havana used the time zone UTC -4.)
Modern Day Double Wristing - Is it acceptable?
In general, we do not judge people for how or why they wear their watches. Anything that lets one enjoy their timepieces is a good thing. It appears that double wristing is having a renaissance with the advent of the smart watch. This may seem overboard, but the use case of wearing a high tech Apple Watch and a traditional timepiece seems to make complete sense.
Recently, former Delta Officer and JSOC Commander, Four Star Gen. Scott Miller was seen double wristing an Omega Seamaster 300M and smart watch while meeting with some former Afghan partners in Texas. It's hard to judge a man like Scotty Miller.