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Want your watch to sell? Ask a president to wear it.

On New Year’s Day, Michelle Obama posted on Instagram a photo of her and Barack Obama in festive attire: matching star-shaped gold paper glasses, a pearl necklace around her neck and, to her wrist, a superb entirely black watch.

The watch was notable because in recent years the former president has been seen wearing a Rolex Cellini. This one had a different and much more casual look, a recently released collaboration from athleisure brand Actively Black and Teleport Watches.

The timepiece is actually the result of misfortune. In July 2021, Lanny Smith, the former NBA player who is the managing director of Actively Black, had his car broken into and his Hublot watch stolen. Instead of buying the same model, Mr Smith started looking at black-owned watch brands and came across Teleport, a New York-based company founded in 2020 by the husband-and-wife team of Michael Porter and Trenel Francis Porter.

Teleport makes both silicone and metal watches, and its signature is the lucky number seven that appears on the dial of each watch (the brand’s website says the number represents “perfection and completion “). Mr. Smith bought one of Teleport’s watches and said he was impressed with it.

“The quality was just amazing,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It reminded me of what I’m trying to do with Actively Black.”

He posted information about the watch on his personal Instagram feed, which has over 10,000 followers, and the owners of Teleport contacted him. After corresponding for a bit, the two brands decided to collaborate on a sports watch, which was released on Christmas Day.

The result was a chunky waterproof watch with an octagonal bezel and a round dial, in black. It has a silicone strap and a black stainless steel case, with a Miyota quartz movement. The watch sells for $300 and is available in 41 millimeters and 34 millimeters; it is part of a set for him but can be purchased separately.

Mr. Smith said he was surprised by the photo of the Obamas. “He could have access to Rolexes, any watch he wants,” he said. “So when I saw the watch on his wrist, I thought, ‘This is amazing. He wears it.'”

After the photo was published, the mysterious black watch quickly caused a stir, and once Mrs. Obama’s stylist identified it, the model sold out. A second delivery is now available for pre-order on the Actively Black website and Mr Smith said he expects them to start shipping by April 20.

Mr Smith said many young black men had grown up hearing rappers and artists talk about Rolex or other expensive brands, and thought that was the only mark of success. “I want to change that narrative,” he said, “and promote the purchase of a black-owned watch brand that cares about our community.”

Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds