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Why wear a Rolex?

by Jordan Ficklin

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I don’t make tons of money as a watchmaker. You can read all about it in my post about on Watchmaking Injustice. I probably could afford a Rolex but with a young family I have (what are in my opinion) more important places to put my money at the moment. That’s why I frequent some financial blogs like Frugal Dad. I hope that later in my career I will be able to buy a modest Rolex without having to put too much thought into it; let’s face it Rolexes aren’t exactly cheap. Frugal Dad posted an article this week comparing the financial ramifications of purchasing a Rolex versus a Timex. So why do people wear Rolexes?

Frugal Dad singles out a white gold Day-Date model to compare to his Timex (because it’s what was in the local newspaper ad this week.) He implies that the number one reason for owning a Rolex is “status and show” and many of his readers seem to agree. I’ll try and offer a unique perspective as someone who: doesn’t own a Rolex, is a watchmaker, sells Rolexes, and aspires to Rolex ownership.

    My perspective

  1. I don’t own a Rolex.
  2. I do aspire to Rolex ownership.
  3. I am a watchmaker.
  4. I work for an official Rolex Jeweler and have been involved in the sale of many Rolexes.

I’ll start with the Rolex Day-Date. This is Rolex’s flagship model, “The new measure of accomplishment” as they put it or “I’ve finally arrived” as Frugal Dad put it. It’s true that most people won’t notice your watch (as one of Frugal Dad’s reader’s points out) but when you can afford a Day-Date A.K.A. “Rolex President” you aren’t looking for the approval of the average Joe, you are looking for the approval of your peers. Maybe they won’t notice your watch on the street but they will in the boardroom. The point of this watch is that it is a durable, high quality, useful, feel good item you can purchase for yourself at the point in your career when you have accomplished something great (like become C.E.O.). It is only available in precious metals (gold and platinum). If you think the white gold president featured on Frugal Dad’s blog doesn’t look like a $27,000 watch then you should take a look at the platinum version (almost indistinguishable in appearance but costs more than twice as much). The fact is, it is an understated watch, it probably wouldn’t impress those who don’t know what it is.

Rolex makes many other watches, many of which cost less than the Day-Date and a few models that cost more. You can get into a Rolex for about $5000 and for under $10,000 you can choose from hundreds of different ones, all of which are beautiful and mechanical masterpieces. Many people enjoy them for this reason alone, but I’ll get into that in a minute.

Probably, the number one reason people wear a Rolex is because they received it as a gift. Many employers give Rolexes as anniversary gifts, and so do many spouses. In case you didn’t get the memo, it can be difficult to buy a gift for a man (especially in a jewelry store.) The Rolex becomes a way for a woman to dress up her man. Electronics aren’t durable, a Rolex is. The thing is the man usually likes it and often will buy several over his lifetime. They also think there wife should have one too and reciprocate later on. To a man a Rolex seems like a better gift than diamond earrings, because it does something. It is way more practical.

Many people purchase Rolexes as an investment. Just like a car most Rolexes lose a little value when you walk out the store but some models increase because they are so desirable. The truth is they may not do as well as the long term average of the stock market, but if you want a Rolex, you won’t lose much money on it. Buy a Rolex today and you’ll be able to sell it for the same price in 10 years. It’s as good as cash in the long term. If you get lucky and your model becomes collectible it could even increase considerably in value.

Many others appreciate the mechanics of a Rolex. A Rolex houses an automatic wound spring driven movement. It probably won’t be as accurate as your Timex, although it might, but in the world of mechanical timepieces they are considerably accurate. There is a kind of connection one draws with their watch when they have to wind it, even if they do it sub-consciously with the every day movement of your arm. In today’s world electronics are a dime a dozen and produced to be disposible. The mechanical watch movement is durable, beautiful, functional and a true work of art. They are engineering feats. As a watchmaker this is what draws me to Rolex; they are extremely well designed movements. The trend in higher end watches is that they are returning to mechanical movements becasue people are attracted to the sometimes incomprehensible craftmanship that goes in to them.

The Rolex professional series are designed to fulfill specific tasks. They are specifically designed for diving, exploring, traveling, flight, yachting, and much more. These watches are certainly capable of many tasks the $29 Timex is not. Of course, most people buy these watches because of the way the work. Nobody is really going to take their Sea Dweller Deep Sea to a depth of 3900 meters underwater, but they could.

So, why do people wear Rolexes? Because they like them. People are attracted to all kinds of different things. Some of us spend more on food or wine than others, some us spend more on cars, some of us spend more on clothes. Certainly you can find a watch that tells time better than a Rolex for less money, but maybe it doesn’t appeal to you. Whatever you do, don’t wear a Rolex if you don’t like it.

Why do you wear a Rolex, or any other nice watch? Please let me know.

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