James Gandolfini, Bill Clinton and their friend the German watchmaker

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Gandolfini beat his buddy Bill to wearing Kobold’s watches (their friendship started when the two larger than life figures went together to a zoo in New York). Through Kobold, just 27 when I interviewed him in 2006, the former president and the actor at the height of his "Sopranos" fame became closer friends. Clinton, Kobold adds, was “a huge fan of 'The Sopranos' and a big fan of Jim Gandolfini’s.”

Kobold met Gandolfini in 2002 and Clinton in 2004 at a small party. The former president was sporting an Audemars Piguet skeleton watch worth more than a hundred thousand dollars. Kobold took his namesake watch off his own wrist and the Audemars Pigeut off Clinton’s wrist so that the latter could try it on. Kobold told Clinton that the watch belonged to Gandolfini, that it was his “personal prototype ... because Jim and I had worked on that particular watch together.”

“Well I love Jim,” Clinton exclaimed, “and I love this watch.” (Clinton ended up, at least for a time, keeping the Gandolfini Kobold.)

Gandolfini appeared in an ad for Kobold in a famous pose in which he smiles as he raises his middle finger. And Bill Clinton, who told Kobold that he thought that controversial ad was “hilarious,” gave the Kobold “wrist time,” as Kobold put it in our interview, wearing the watch on "Larry King Live" and in a Ladies Home Journal cover shoot.

I haven’t thought much about Kobold and his relationship with Gandolfini — I’m the rare person who has never watched "The Sopranos" — until Kobold’s name popped up this week after Gandolfini’s untimely, unexpected death at age 51 in Rome. It was Kobold who spoke to the press from Rome, where he rushed to repatriate Gandolfini’s body ahead of a funeral service in New York.

I’ll be watching to see if Bill Clinton attends the funeral and if he wears a Kobold watch in memory of Gandolfini.

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