- Written by Kathryn Armstrong
- BBC News
French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire after he removed a luxury watch during an interview about changes to pensions.
France is witnessing protests and strikes due to Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Macron’s representatives said the president took off the watch because it was “licking on the table”.
But his critics have claimed that the watch shows he is out of touch with the public.
Some have wrongly claimed it was worth up to €80,000 ($86,000, £70,000), but the Elysee Palace has said this is not true.
As he rested his forearms on the table, he heard a thud.
Then the president put his hands under the table as he continued speaking. When he brought them back in again, the watch had been removed.
The removal, his team insisted, was completely innocent. But The Missing Hour soon caught the attention of his critics.
Clemence Getty, an MP for the left-wing opposition party La France Insomise, took part in the protests against pension reform.
She tweeted that while the president was claiming that minimum wage earners had unprecedented purchasing power, the “finish picture” was to “remove his beautiful fancy watch.”
“The president of the rich has never worn his name so well,” said her colleague, Farida Al-Amrani.
The exact hourly cost was debated online, with some Macron critics suggesting it was worth €80,000.
But the Elysee Palace told French media that the president was wearing a Bell & Ross BR V1-92 model, which was personalized with a coat of arms.
Online prices for this watch, without customization, range from €1,660 to €3,300 (£1,460 and £2,900).
“He has been wearing it regularly for over a year and a half,” the palace added in a statement.
Macron has long been criticized by his political opponents for supporting the wealthy.
In February, he was attacked for awarding Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, France’s highest honor, while people were on the streets protesting their financial future.
Ironically, Macron has sometimes referred to himself as the “master of the clocks” because he likes to set the pace in French politics.
He said changes to the retirement age were a “necessity” to prevent the pension budget from entering a deficit.
His government decided last week to use a special constitutional power to force the reform without a vote, after realizing it would struggle to pass it in the National Assembly. The move triggered two votes of no confidence, in which the government was spared.
The controversy renewed unrest across the country that began in January when the plans were revealed.
Alongside the protests, there were widespread strikes involving transport workers, teachers, garbage collectors, and oil refinery workers.
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