Emmanuel Macron removes luxury watch during television interview about raising pension age in France

Viral clip sparks further ‘president of the rich’ claims, as palace insists timepiece had been ‘clinking on the table’

Andy Gregory
Friday 24 March 2023 22:22 GMT
Emmanuel Macron could be seen removing his watch during the televised interview
Emmanuel Macron could be seen removing his watch during the televised interview (screengrab)

Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for appearing to remove his luxury watch during a television interview about his pension reforms which have sparked furious protests across France.

Further angering his critics, the embattled French president could be seen briefly putting his hands beneath the table and apparently taking off his watch during a prime-time national television broadcast, in which he vowed to press ahead with plans to hike the pension age from 62 to 64.

Opposition politicians seized on the moment to insist that the “president of the rich has never lived up to his name so well”, juxtaposing the move with his claims in the interview about minimum wage earners “who have never had so much purchasing power”.

But the Elysee Palace insisted that Mr Macron had not removed the timepiece “in order to hide it” – but instead “because it was clinking against the table”.

“The noise is clearly audible only a few seconds before the beginning of the video shared on social media,” the presidential palace said in a widely reported statement, which chimes with the audio in the viral clip.

The palace denounced claims that the watch was worth €80,000 as “a perfect example of fake news”, with sources close to Mr Macron telling Liberation that the president was wearing the same Bell & Ross BR V1-92 watch – personalised with the presidency’s coat of arms – which he has worn regularly for more than 18 months, including on trips to the United States and Qatar.

Those models appear to typically cost around €3,300 (£2,900) or less, without the personalisation, while the manufacturer “has partnerships with many institutions including the army and the security group of the presidency” of France, the source close to Mr Macron said.

The substance of the interview did little in itself to pour cold water on the anger coarsing across France over the planned reforms.

His former presidential rival Jean-Luc Melenchon accused Mr Macron lying about the reforms and showing “typical contempt for the workers and the demonstrations”, a sentiment echoed by their far-right rival Marine Le Pen, who claimed Mr Macron had merely “reinforced the feeling of contempt” felt by French voters.

Speaking outside France’s National Assembly, the Socialist Party’s secretary Olivier Faure insisted Mr Macron was “in absolute denial” and had “put even more explosives on an inferno that is already ablaze”.

It came as the Elysee was forced to cancel a state visit on Sunday by King Charles III, after becoming convinced to do so by security threats including grafitti reading “Death to the King” and “Charles III do you know the guillotine?”.

Millions have turned out to protest the reforms pushed by Mr Macron, whose approval rating was found by Ifop last week to have fallen to just 28 per cent, its lowest level since the height of the Yellow Vest protests in 2018.

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