The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Cartier Tank watch just sold for $379,500 USD —including buyer's premium— at the Christie's Rare Watches and American Icons Sale in New York City today June 21st, 2017. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this Cartier watch and her “50 Mile Hike” original painting will be donated to the National Endowment for the Arts. While this watch not only comes with significant provenance and rich history, Jackie O's Cartier Tank also has an interesting story behind.
This 18K gold Cartier Tank originally gifted to Jackie from her brother-in-law Prince Stanislaw “Stas” Radziwill in 1963, was worn by the U.S. former First Lady and style icon for decades. The watch always visible on her wrist in many now iconic photos features the engraving: "Stas to Jackie 23 Feb. 63 2:05 am to 9:35 pm.” The times refer to the start and stop times of the famous 50 Mile Hike —described in detail below— that was completed in Palm Beach in 1963. This Cartier Tank is one of the most important historic artifacts to surface in recent years from the golden era of the Kennedy Presidency. Complete with a black Cartier lizard strap, Jackie’s preferred strap choice for this watch, this Cartier tank is preserved in remarkable condition with its original dial and well-preserved case featuring the engraving.
After Jackie received the watch from Radziwill, she created an original painting honoring the momentous occasion of the hike with the dedication “February 23, 1963 2:05 am to 9:35 pm / Jackie to Stas with love and admiration”. Stas Radziwill and Chuck Spalding, featured in the painting, were the walking partners that President Kennedy and Jackie watched as they accomplished the task in 19 hours and 30 minutes. Originally between JFK and his inner circle, the 50-mile hike became a fad in the US in early 1963 and thousands of Americans took on the mentally and physically grueling challenge of walking this long distance.
About Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994)
Born Jaqueline Lee Bouvier in Southampton, NY, she married future US President John F. Kennedy in 1953. Known for her elegance and sophistication, ‘Jackie’ as she was known by her friends and the public, was a name synonymous with style and highly respected for her work to restore the White House and rebuild its collections. Fluent in multiple languages, and highly educated, Jackie was also an accomplished artist and fully illustrated the book One Special Summer written with her sister Lee —Bouvier— Radziwill outlining their first trip to Europe together in 1951. After President Kennedy’s assassination, she moved to New York City and worked as a book editor for over 20 years. Recognized as one of the most popular First Ladies in American history, she is remembered for her lifelong commitment to the arts and preservation.
About Prince Stanislaw Albrecht "Stas" Radziwill (1914-1976)
‘Stas’, as he was known by friends and family, was born into an old European family rich in history. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Radziwill dynasty controlled a significant portion of modern day Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania. By the early 20th century, a large portion of the Radziwill holdings were lost and when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In 1939, Stas was forced to flee to Switzerland with nothing but the clothes on his back. In 1959, Prince Radziwill married Lee Bouvier (born 1933) and became part of the inner circle of American politics and society. During JFK’s campaign for the 1960 election, Stas’s relentless campaigning was pivotal in the close election as Stas helped rally the Polish American vote. During this era, the Kennedy and Radziwill families were inseparable and often vacationed together in Palm Beach and in Cape Cod. Jackie referred to Stas as a devoted friend and once wrote “if it hadn’t been for him, Jack would not have won”. President Kennedy often joked “That’s Stas – our secret weapon.”
About The 50 Mile Hike
President Kennedy publicly asked the American people to accept the mentally and physically grueling challenge of walking this long distance. His inner circle of family and friends were some of the first attempt the hike and his close friends Stas Radziwill and Chuck Spalding, featured in Jackie’s painting, were among the first to accept the call to action.
President Kennedy learned that over half of the men reporting to the draft boards in World War II and the Korean War were deemed physically unfit for service. He also discovered that there was a 1908 Executive Order from President Theodore Roosevelt that all Marines should be able to accomplish a 50 mile in under 20 hours and be able to sprint the final 200 yards as a proof of fitness. Robert Kennedy was the first to accept his brother’s challenge and completed the 50 Mile hike in 17 hours and 50 minutes on February 9, 1963. Amazingly, he accomplished the hike wearing oxford dress shoes in freezing cold weather, many of the miles of the hike accompanied by his dog Brumus.
Two weeks later, the Kennedy Family was in Palm Beach and the hike was all the rage across the U.S. as Americans accepted the challenge. On the cover of the February issue of Life Magazine, the text boldly stated: THE BIG WALK Marines do it. Bobby Kennedy does it. 10-year olds do it. Can you do 50 miles? It was during this Palm Beach trip that the Kennedy’s persuaded some more participants to take part in the 50 Mile hike.
In the following excerpt, reprinted with permission from Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin —Gallery/Simon and Schuster, 2012—, the story of the hike is told firsthand by Clint Hill, Jackie’s Secret Service Agent.
THE FIFTY MILE HIKE by Clint Hill, Jackie Kennedy’s Secret Service Agent
I was sitting on the bed in boxers and a t-shirt when the White House phone rang. “Oh, Mr. Hill,” the breathy familiar voice —Jackie— said, “the president and I would like you to do something for us.” I looked at my watch. It was eight o’clock. What could they possibly need me to do? I didn’t have a good feeling about this. The previous month, President Kennedy had unwittingly started a fad that had by this time spread from coast-to-coast, and of which I was about to become a spontaneous participant. It all began when the president came upon a 1908 executive order in which President Theodore Roosevelt set forth rules for Marine officers to be able to complete a 50-mile hike. President Kennedy sent a memo to Marine Corps Commandant David Shoup suggesting that a similar 50-mile challenge would be a good test to see how the present-day officers could perform the task.
I didn’t have workout clothes. The most comfortable things I had with me were a pair of casual slacks and a sweatshirt. There was no choice. I got dressed, jumped in my car, and headed over there. I contacted the Army Sergeant who was assigned to me to drive Mrs. Kennedy, and told him I needed him, the station wagon, and a big cooler with ice. Our station wagon had radio equipment so I could stay in touch with Palm Beach base and the Secret Service Command Post, and I figured the ice would come in handy one way or another. I soon found out that Prince Radziwill and Chuck Spalding had been practicing for this hike for months. They had the best hiking boots money could buy. I also learned this whole escapade was the result of a bet. The president had challenged his buddies that they were not in good enough physical shape to do what Americans were doing all across the country. Me? I had only my Florsheims and my pride to do better than they did.
When we got together around eleven-thirty, I also learned there would be a few important observers on this adventure: Professional photographer Mark Shaw, who had been with Life magazine, would be photographing the hike for posterity; and New York City doctor Max Jacobson and a Navy Medical Corpsman from the White House physician’s office would be on hand for medical assistance. The newly completed Sunshine State Parkway was a north-south highway that ran from Miami to Fort Pierce along the east side of Florida. It was not yet fully operational, which made it an ideal place to walk and not worry too much about traffic. So there we were, Prince “Stash” Radziwill, Chuck Spalding, and me, with our entourage, at midnight on the Sunshine State Parkway. We were all competitive, and knowing the Attorney General had finished in seventeen hours, we were determined to beat his time. Fortunately the weather cooperated with comfortable cool air as we began the walk. After a few miles, we all realized we were working up quite an appetite.
“Can you have some food sent out to us, Clint?” Stash asked.
“Sure,” I said. “What do you want?”
“We need some protein,” Chuck said. “How about some steaks?” "Steaks?"
“Come morning a glass of champagne with some orange juice would be nice,” added Stash.
This was obviously not your average 50-mile hike. So, periodically, we would stop for a short rest, a cigarette—the three of us were all smokers—and I would radio back to the house and request certain things be sent out to us. Steaks, orange juice, bottled water, champagne. When I asked, people responded. Everyone seemed to be in on this little jaunt and was eager to help.
We walked through the night, and shortly after the sun came up, Paul Landis brought Mrs. Kennedy and her sister Lee out to see how we were doing. They walked with us for a while verbally challenging Stash and Chuck Spalding to go faster. I was determined to stay ahead of the pack, and that just led to more jokes, more laughter. Mrs. Kennedy thought Mark Shaw should appear in a photo, so she ran ahead of us with one of his cameras and clicked a few shots.
After about thirty minutes, they got back into their car to return to Palm Beach.“We’ll be back to check on you!” Mrs. Kennedy called out. “Don’t give up!” Every so often we would stop to eat, relieve ourselves, and rest. Chuck and the prince had come prepared with fold out mats to spread out on the grass, and a few hours later, they happened to be resting when Mrs. Kennedy and Lee returned, along with President Kennedy.
Everybody was in good spirits, and the visit by the President gave us all renewed determination to finish what we had started.
Throughout the journey, I would radio back to the command post to advise of our progress. Somewhere around the 45-mile point, President and Mrs. Kennedy returned again to encourage us. Finally, at about eight o’clock on the evening of February 23, we reached the fifty-mile point, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The adrenaline that had been flowing for the past twenty hours now stopped and I could feel the effects.