Watches of the War in Ukraine

Watches of the War in Ukraine

Mercenaries, Presidents, Generals, and Oligarchs - a conflict of timepieces

We are now in the second year of Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, a conflict that will go down as one of the most significant geopolitical developments of the 21st century.  In the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, watching the conflict in real time and attempting to understand its complexities can be overwhelming.  Through writing this piece, we seek to take a step back and look at some of the men involved in the conflict through the lens of their timepieces. 

As discussed in the previous Dispatch, “CIA Analysis Of Foreign Leaders’ Timepieces,” a foreign leader’s timepiece can tell us a lot about their character, how they perceive themselves, and how they want to be perceived by others.  Analyzing a practitioner's watch can provide unique insight into both their personality and what they are trying to telegraph to their own constituents as well as the larger world, something especially true in today’s information war.

Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu rolex

In war, a simple wristwatch is a crucial piece of kit. The watch has remained a seminal tool on the battlefield despite the huge technological advancements in military equipment and weapons. It’s no surprise that several notable timepieces adorn the wrists of those leading the various parties involved in this conflict. 

Really? Watches of the Ukraine War?

Looking at something so complex as the Ukraine War through the lens of wristwatches–what essentially amounts to a hobby, might seem diminishing at first. What do watches have to do with the war in Ukraine?

As it turns out, a lot.  

At the onset of the conflict, notoriously neutral Swiss brands including Rolex, Swatch Group, LVMH (particularly the Swiss-based watch division) and Richemont suspended exports to Russia. In response, the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, reportedly seized millions of dollars of Audemars Piguet (AP) watches from a Moscow affiliate of AP. Meanwhile, Russian citizens purchased large quantities of Swiss timepieces as a measure to store value as sanctions took hold and devalued the ruble.  It is logical to conclude many of these have left the country with the mass migration out of Russia as a form of money laundering and wealth transfer.  Further, watches reportedly liberated from Russian military personnel have found their way to Ebay for purchase.

Battle field pick up?  A watch reportedly worn by a Russian solider, now for sale on Ebay.

To be clear, we do not intend to glorify war.  I have seen the ill effects of war and there is absolutely nothing glorious about it.  At W.O.E., we cover all types of people and stories, many of whom could be described as “evil.”  Coverage does not signify endorsement, this is simply our prism for looking at history and current events in the way we know best, through the timepieces on the wrists of those involved.

Wagner Group:

Yevgeny Prigozhin -Ulysse Nardin Michelangelo $3,000-$4,000

Yevgeny Prigozhin Ulysse Nardin

Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, formerly known as "Putin's Chef," regularly wears a Ulysse Nardin Michelangelo. This piece has been seen on Prigozhin’s wrist at black tie dinners in Moscow and on the battlefield worn with fatigues, including during the June 2023 attempted mutiny. 

Prigozhin began his career in Leningrad/Saint Petersburg in organized crime before moving into the catering business (as one does) which gave him the nickname "Putin's Chef." He quickly branched out to more lucrative (and questionable) ways of making money- running the world's most notorious mercenary force.

Ulysse Nardin Michelangelo

Prigozhin’s forces have been leveraged globally in Syria, Ukraine, Madagascar, Venezuela, and the Central African Republic.  Prigozhin also recently admitted to founding the Internet Research Agency, which was leveraged by Russian Intelligence services to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Yevgeny Prigozhin Rolex

Prigozhin was allegedly sent into exile in Belarus after an aborted march towards Moscow in June. (Although press reporting indicates he is potentially still in Russia at time of publication.)

President Volodymyr Zelensky - TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre HEUER 01 Chronograph $3,000-$5,000

President Volodymyr Zelensky - TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre HEUER 01 Chronograph

It’s been one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.  Few could have predicted the course this conflict has taken and the strong resistance put forth by the Ukrainian people and President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky is pictured here (pre-conflict) wearing a TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre HEUER 01 Chronograph.  Zelensky was reportedly a Ukrainian brand ambassador for the TAG prior to the conflict.

According to financial disclosures, Zelensky also has a Rolex, Breguet and a Bovet Château de Môtiers.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre HEUER 01 Chronograph

Despite his extensive collection, a watch is noticeably absent from his wrist since the onset of the conflict. In addition to the kinetic war, this is an information war.  Ukraine has been masterful in this area. Zelensky’s appearance, actions, and demeanor are a key strategic part of this information war. Zelensky has consciously dressed down in a military green t-shirt. We can assume that this is no accident.

President Volodymyr Zelensky

Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - Blancpain Léman Aqua Lung Grande Date approx. $10,500

Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - Blancpain Léman Aqua Lung

Analysts assess Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of the wealthiest men in the world, with shaky estimations putting his net worth in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Putin has been photographed wearing numerous expensive watches, including a 18k yellow gold Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Moon Phase and a platinum A. Lange & Sohne – watches fitting for a man of his supposed fortune. But in recent years, Putin has appeared to favor a more modest limited edition Blancpain Léman Aqua Lung Grande Date and a IWC Mark XVII.  Putin has also been known to give away watches to Russian citizens, including a Blancpain to a factory worker in 2009.

Putin Blancpain factory worker
Casual wrist shot from the lucky factory worker.

Putin’s expensive watch collection is estimated to be valued over $1 million dollars, which is hard to explain given the Kremlin's claimed salary of $140k per year, something that Putin has drawn significant criticism for in recent years. By flying in the face of norms and wearing a flashy watch in public, Putin might have been demonstrating that he believed he would not be held accountable for past corruption. Similarly, Putin’s more recent outings wearing a modest and explainable timepiece may indicate he has concerns for the criticism and his domestic image.

President Putin wearing F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu
President Putin wearing F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu (Photo Credit: Kremlin)

Commemorative Watches:  

The presentation of watches as commemorative gifts has a long history in intelligence, diplomacy, and military circles.  This tradition extends to the present conflict, with both Ukrainian and Russian officials presenting watches to their forces and partners.


Zelenksy Kleynold
Photo Credit: Ukrainian President’s Office

In June 2021, Zelensky visited the frontline troops on Ukraine's Armed Forces Day and presented soldiers with Ukrainian-produced Kleynold KFS-820s ($220).  Zelensky has also given watches to sailors that were returned from Russian captivity.

Kleynod Ukrainian Watches

Russian Forces:

Denis Vladimirovich Pushilin, the head of the disputed “Donetsk People's Republic” (DPR), recently presented Wagner mercenary forces with watches in response to their actions in the conflict.  

Wagner Forces Gifting Watches

The watches and values are unknown, although it is reasonable to assume they may be of Russian origin, although they do not appear to be Vostok or Raketa, common Russian brands.  Pushilin remarked about Wagner forces: “By your actions, by your deeds, you show what the Russian spirit is, what the strength of Russian weapons is, which is why now you, your units are setting an example for many in the area entrusted to you, freeing the Russian land.”

Wagner Ukraine

Ukrainian Colonel Oleksandr “Grey Wolf” Oksanchenko - Kleynod "Independence Insignia" edition $390

Ukrainian Colonel Oleksandr “Grey Wolf” Oksanchenko

Ukrainian fighter pilot Colonel Oleksandr “Grey Wolf” Oksanchenko was killed when his aircraft was shot down during the Battle for Kyiv in late February 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky posthumously awarded him with the Order of the Gold Star.

The Grey Wolf is pictured here wearing a Ukrainian made watch, a Kleynod "Independence Insignia" edition which was developed on the 15th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence.

Ukrainian Kleynod "Independence Insignia"

Oksanchenko was a legendary Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker pilot who retired in 2018, but like many Ukrainians, returned to service to defend his nation when the conflict kicked off. He was reportedly shot down by a Russian S-400 air defense system, although some reports suggest it may have been a friendly fire incident.  In the information war, it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction.

Dmitry Peskov - limited edition Richard Mille 52-01, approx. $600,000

Dmitry Peskov Richard Mille

Putin aide, advisor, and Russian press secretary Dmitry Sergeyevich Peskov has been photographed wearing a Limited Edition Richard Mille, most notably during his wedding where he claimed the watch was a gift from his wife, former Olympic figure-skating champion Tatiana Navka.

With an eye watering estimated value of $600k+, the value of this watch likely exceeds the cumulative value of the salary he has drawn throughout his entire career as a civil servant.

Richard Mille 52-01

Minister of Defence Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoigu, Porsche Design Black Dashboard Chronograph P6612 approx. $8,000

Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoigu, Porsche Design Black Dashboard Chronograph

Minister of Defence, Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu wears a Porsche Design titanium Black Dashboard Chronograph P6612.  Shoigu is largely responsible for overseeing the conflict in Ukraine, which has come under direct criticism from Wagner boss Prigozhin.

Porsche Design Black Dashboard Chronograph P6612

After Prighozin’s failed mutiny attempt, Shoigu was filmed at a high level Russian Ministry of Defence meeting; however, the watch itself was blurred out, potentially meant to conceal the time and date of the meeting.

Minister of Defence Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoigu watch

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox church, Breguet approx. $30,000

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, was sanctioned by the US and NATO partners and described by the EU as “one of the most prominent supporters of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”

In 2012, an official church picture appeared to show the reflection of a $30,000+ gold Breguet watch on the polished table, the only problem was that the watch itself was photoshopped off the wrist of Kirill. The original photo was later released depicting the watch. 

Patriarch Kirill Russian Orthodox church, Breguet

Kirill described Putin’s fraudulent election in 2012 as a “miracle of God” and was recently referred to by the Pope as “Putin’s altar boy.” For authoritarian governments, harnessing support from the religious elite is crucial. 

The Breguet was supposedly a gift from a wealthy member of the church. Kirill has also been photographed wearing a Ulysse Nardin Dual Time, which appears to be a favorite of Russian elites.

Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich, Polar M61, Sub-$100

Roman Abramovich Polar M61

Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich is known for wearing a modest sub-$100 Polar M61 watch, which is notable given his estimated net worth of $7-15 billion.

An interesting note about Abramovich: In 2010 he commissioned 50 Breitling SuperOcean automatics with "Eclipse" on the dial, the name of one of his 533 ft super yachts. Sketchy dudes wear Breitling . . . 

Breitling Eclipse Roman Abramovich super yachts
(Photo Credit: Chiswick Auctions)

The Eclipse cost an estimated $700 million and is one of two of Abramovich's superyachts.

Breitling Eclipse Roman Abramovich super yachts

READ NEXT: Third Option Foundation Fundraise - GBRS AOR-1 Watch Pouch And Challenge Coin

This article has been reviewed by the CIA's Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information.


Would also be interesting to see what individual combatatants themselves have been seen carrying while in the field. I have seen some Ukrainian SF carry Tudors while others carry omega, and of course many with a gshock.

Andrew B

Shoigu’s watch was not blurred out to conceal the time and date of the meeting. It was blurred out to throw WOE off his game.


Very interesting and unique way to look at the current conflict. It is actually amazing how many notable watches are in this Dispatch. Kudos WoE.


Leave Your Thought Here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Related Articles