Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Wearing a Rolex Says About You

Have you ever had that conflicted feeling while wearing a Rolex? It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. It’s that feeling you get when you wear your Rolex to a church service in which the sermon’s subject is serving the poor, or to a parent-teacher conference at your kid’s school, or while on vacation in a small town in the middle of nowhere — places where Rolexes stand out as a sign of opulence.

Rolex Daytona Cosmograph. Photo from
Bob's Watches,
No. That was the wrong way to put it. Not a “sign of opulence,” which is one of those phrases that tries to sneak around the main point: Wearing a Rolex means that you’re rich in the eyes of the many.

But we know that wearing a Rolex does not automatically mean you’re rich. Your Rolex could be the thing that reminds you of your late father; it could be vintage, expensive but not stratospheric in price; it could be the watch that you saved for a decade to buy. Or you could be rich.

Why you own a Rolex doesn’t matter; people notice it anyway. People may not care, but they do notice. Why? Because the number of watch brands that most people can name is limited to something like Timex, Casio, Seiko, and Rolex. Breguet? Jaeger-LeCoultre? Even Patek Philippe? They’re foreign cities or cars as far as most people are concerned. But everyone knows Rolex. And typically only people who drive a Mercedes or BMW can afford a Rolex. (People notice a Mercedes and BMW, too.)

If you’re tormented by the possibility that somebody might think that by wearing your Rolex you’re deliberately flaunting your wealth, rest assured that somebody is thinking that.

It doesn’t help that celebrities adore Rolexes. It’s the watch of movies stars including Paul Newman (a Daytona), Harrison Ford (a steel Datejust), Charlize Theron (a Rolex Sea Dweller), Brad Pitt (an Explorer), Zac Efron (a Yacht-Master), and Jennifer Aniston (a gold Datejust). Supermodel Elle MacPherson wears a yellow-gold Daytona. Ellen DeGeneres wears a Daytona. David Beckham straps a Sea Dweller Deepsea around his wrist. Paris Hilton wears a rose-gold Daytona. A Rolex can been seen on the wrist of Russia’s President of Opulence, Vladimir Putin.

Presidents of the United States are not immune from Rolex’s spell either: Dwight Eisenhower, featured on the cover of Life magazine on July 21, 1952, is wearing an 18 karat gold Rolex Datejust. When Lyndon Johnson wore a Datejust, the watch’s nickname morphed into “the Rolex President.” Gerald Ford wore a yellow-gold Datejust. Before being elected governor of California and later president, Ronald Reagan wore a steel Datejust. (But after being elected, Reagan’s Rolex stayed off his wrist.) John F. Kennedy’s gold Day-Date was a gift from Marilyn Monroe, and is inscribed, “JACK With love as always from MARILYN May 29th 1962.”

So there you have it. Rolexes are the watches of the rich, famous, and powerful. You should feel ashamed and embarrassed.

Or not.

Because Martin Luther King wore a Rolex Datejust, and a gold one at that. King wore it while giving his “I Have a Dream” speech. The Dalai Lama has a Rolex. Actually, he has 15 Rolexes. The Dalai Lama said in an interview with the Malaysian Star in 2010, “I just like watches.” People whose middle names are modesty and charity own Rolexes.

Fidel Castro wore a Rolex GMT Master during his rule, and Castro was not known for his opulence. Dare to think it: One of the world’s longest lasting communists wore a Rolex without anyone suspecting that he was a wealthy capitalist. Castro wore a Rolex Submariner in 1959 when he lead the Cuban revolution.

Pablo Picasso wore a Rolex.

Sir Edmund Hillary wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual to the top of Mt. Everest. So did Tenzing Norgay when he scaled the world’s tallest mountain with Hillary. Jacques Cousteau wore a Submariner to the bottom of the ocean. Chuck Yeager wore a  Oyster Perpetual when he became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. History and Rolex, exploration and Rolex are aligned.

Rolexes are expensive, but other watches make bigger dents in our wallets. $5,000 to $10,000 is a lot of money, but not compared to a Breguet tourbillon (Rolex doesn’t even make a tourbillon), a Royal Oak Grande Complication (never say never, but I’ll say that Rolex will never add so many complications to its watches), a Ulysse Nardin minute repeater (minute repeater and Rolex will never been seen in the same sentence), or a Harry Winston Opus X (I’ll save you a Google search: $170,000). Rolex is not (necessarily) the watch of the super rich.

People will notice your Rolex and they might even make a snap judgement about you just because of watch. But that’s okay. You’re doing the same to them when you notice the shoes they’re wearing, the bag they’re carrying, the car they’re driving, or even their watch, too.


  1. Wearing a Rolex is no big deal. Most people never notice it on someone's wrist. A lot of unsubstantiated assumptions.

    1. Enough people notice it, especially people who matter

  2. I have several Rolex watches and also watches from other brands, I've never received compliments on any of my Rolexes except my rose gold Day Date (that seems to catch a lot of peoples eyes for some reason). The stainless watches no one ever notices. My Royal Oak a lot of people seem to be interested in but they have no idea what Audemars Piguet is when I say the brand.

  3. I get more compliments on my Invicta and Seiko watches than my Sub. Actually, the only thing that people seem to say about the sub is "Is that real?" and "How much did you pay for it." To the 'real' question, I always answer 'No.' No one seems to give me a hard time after I tell them that.

  4. People who notice the Rolex on your wrist will generally not comment. They will comment on a cheap watch like a Invicta or Seiko because thats more in their reach. Rolex is the perfect combination of quality and price. Watches like AP and PP are ridiculous and NOBODY cares about them. In fact the average person who sees a Patek will think its a fashion watch from target.

  5. My Rolex was snatched off my wrist in Naples, Italy. I'd worn it for thirty years and it belonged to my mother before me.
    Don't wear a Rolex to Napoli .. That's all I can say

  6. A mans choice in timepieces does not define his character