Media caption, Macron removes luxury watch during interview
By Kathryn Armstrong
French President Emmanuel Macron has been criticised after he removed a luxury watch during an interview about pension changes.
France is gripped by protests and strikes over Mr Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Mr Macron’s representatives said the president took off the watch because it was “clinking on the table”.
But his critics have claimed the watch shows he is out of touch with the public.
Some wrongly claimed it was worth up to €80,000 ($86,000; £70,000), but the Élysée Palace said this was not correct.
The incident happened part way through an interview on Wednesday, when Mr Macron was justifying his reasons for lifting the pension age.
As he rested his forearms on the table, a thud could be heard.
The president then placed his hands under the table as he continued talking. When he brought them back up, the watch had been removed.
His team insisted the removal was entirely innocent. But the missing timepiece quickly drew his critics’ attention.
Image source, LFI
Image caption, Now you see it… French President Emmanuel Macron removed his watch during an interview about his controversial pension changes
Clémence Guetté, an MP for the opposition left-wing La France Insoumise party, has been taking part in the protests against the pension reform.
She tweeted that as the president was claiming minimum wage earners had unprecedented purchasing power, “the final image” was him “removing his pretty luxury watch”.
“The president of the rich has never worn his name so well,” said her colleague, Farida Amrani.
The exact cost of the watch was debated online, with some of Mr Macron’s critics suggesting it was worth €80,000.
But the Élysée Palace told French media the president was wearing a Bell & Ross BR V1-92 model, which is personalised with a coat of arms.
Prices online for this watch, without the personalisation, are between €1,660 and €3,300 (£1,460 and £2,900).
“He has been wearing it very regularly for more than a year and a half,” the palace added in a statement.
Mr Macron has long been criticised by his political rivals for supporting the wealthy.
In February, he came under attack for giving Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, France’s highest honour, while people were on the streets protesting about their financial futures.
Ironically, Mr Macron has sometimes referred to himself as the “master of the clocks” because he likes to set the pace of French politics.
He has argued the changes to the retirement age are a “necessity” to keep the pension budget from running into deficit.
His government decided last week to use a special constitutional power to force through the reform without a vote, after realising they would struggle to pass in the National Assembly. The move triggered two no-confidence votes, which the government survived.
The controversy has renewed unrest across the country, which began in January when the plans were unveiled.
A visit by King Charles III this weekend has had to be postponed as a result.
Alongside the protests, there have been widespread strikes that have involved transport workers, teachers, rubbish collectors and oil refinery workers.