Emmanuel Macron takes off ‘luxury’ watch during pensions TV interview

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Emmanuel Macron has sparked social media outrage after eagle-eyed television viewers spotted him removing his “luxury” watch midway through an interview over his fiercely contested pension changes.

The television appearance on Wednesday came one day before more than 1 million protesters – 3 million according to unions – demonstrated around France to oppose his government raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The president’s interview, which was met with accusations that he was “arrogant and contemptuous” of public concerns, sparked further fury on Friday when critics claimed he had removed a watch worth €80,000 (£70,400). Others said the watch, described as “luxury”, was €2,400 or less.

His action in discreetly removing the timepiece, while his hands were under the table during the interview, was viewed as further evidence that he is out of touch with the ordinary French public and “president of the rich”.

However, Élysée Palace representatives attempted to call time on the row by saying Macron had taken off the watch because it was “clunking on the table” as he gave the 30-minute prime-time interview.

Before removing the watch, about 10 minutes into the interview, a clunk was heard as Macron rested his forearms on the table. He then placed his hands under the table. When they emerged the watch was missing from his left wrist.

The manoeuvre was quickly picked up in France where there is widespread anger over the government’s pension law, a keystone of Macron’s 2017 and 2022 election campaigns. The clip has since gone viral.

Farida Amrani, an MP for the radical left La France Insoumise (LFI) party, said: “The president of the rich has never worn his name so well.”

The exact value of the watch is unknown. French media suggested it was made by the French company Bell & Ross and cost somewhere between €1,600 and €2,400.

In a statement, the Élysée said: “The president didn’t remove his watch in order to hide it but because it was banging heavily against the table. The noise is clearly audible only a few seconds before the beginning of the video shared on social media.”

An unnamed source in Macron’s entourage told French media: “He’s often worn it for more than a year and a half. You can see it on his Instagram account and in the official photograph by Soazig de la Moissonnière for example … he has also worn it for other events including the final of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and during his state visit to Washington last December.”

The Guardian