On New Year’s Day, Michelle Obama posted a picture on Instagram of herself and Barack Obama in festive attire: matching gold star-shaped paper glasses, a string of pearls around his neck and on his wrist a striking all-black watch.
The watch was remarkable 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 the athleisure brand Actively Black and Teleport Watches.
The watch was actually the result of an accident. In July 2021, Lanny Smith, the former NBA player who is the CEO of Actively Black, broke into his car and stole his Hublot watch. Instead of buying the same model, Mr. Smith to look 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 feature is the lucky number seven that appears on the front 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 wrote about the watch on his personal Instagram feed, which has more than 10,000 followers, and Teleport’s owners reached out to him. After corresponding a bit, the two brands decided to collaborate on a sports watch, which was released on Christmas Day.
The result was a chunky, water-repellent watch with an octagonal edge and a round dial in black. It has a silicone strap and a black stainless steel case with Miyota quartz movement. The watch sells for $ 300, and is available in 41 millimeters and 34 millimeters; it is part of a his-and-hers set, but can be purchased separately.
Mr. Smith said he was surprised by Obama’s photograph. “He could have access to Rolexes, to any of the watches he wants,” he said. “So when I saw the watch on his wrist, I thought, ‘That’s great. He’s wearing it. ‘”
After the picture was posted, the mysterious black watch became a quick sensation, and when Mrs. Obama’s stylist identified it, the model sold out. Another drop is now available for pre-order on the Actively Black website, and Mr. Smith said he expected they would start shipping on April 20th.
Mr. Smith said many young black men grew up hearing rappers and entertainers talk about Rolexes or other expensive brands, believing it was the only sign of success. “I want to change that narrative,” he said, “and promote the purchase of a black-owned watch brand that cares about our society.”