A Russian factory worker persuaded Vladimir Putin to hand over his expensive Swiss watch after the prime minister admitted times were tough for ordinary people, according to Telegraph.co.uk.

The arms factory metalworker put the prime minister on the spot after he gave a speech on the economy in the town of Tula.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich, maybe you`ll give me something to remember you by?" Viktor Zagaevsky asked.

A bemused-looking Mr Putin gestured he had nothing to give before jokingly asking what the worker wanted. "Maybe your watch," the worker shot back.

After a short pause, Mr Putin handed the watch over. Those present said the request stunned Mr Putin but that he couldn`t refuse in the circumstances. A transcript of the meeting on the government`s website omits the incident.

The watch, made by Swiss company Blancpain, sells for around £5,500, what an average Russian earns in a year.

Mr Putin`s love of chunky Swiss watches matches his macho action man image that goes down so well with Russian voters. He famously wears his watch on his right hand, a quirk that prominent members of his United Russia party have mimicked to show their loyalty.

The most expensive watch Mr Putin has been spotted wearing is a model by Swiss firm Patek Philippe that sells for about £35,000. His choice of watch over the years has sparked copycat shopping frenzies among Russia`s elite while their hefty price tag has triggered speculation about how much wealth Mr Putin has accumulated. His official income last year was around £93,000, but one analyst has claimed but not proved that his net worth is in the tens of billions of pounds.

Last month, he "spontaneously" took the watch from his wrist and gave it to an impoverished shepherd`s son in Siberia in a choreographed Kremlin propaganda exercise.