5 Reasons I‘ve Never Owned A Rolex, But . . . There’s A “But”
by John Keil
That’s right, you don’t have to clean the proverbial wax out of your ears, you read that correctly.
I have never owned a Rolex – despite the fact that I’m a big watch nut – and here’s why.
Firstly, though, I should make it clear that I haven’t got anything at all against Rolex.
To the contrary, I’ve always admired just how important the brand is. Rolex is one of the most successful marketing companies in the world and it is one of the most recognizable brand names in history; respect is more than due.
So why have I never ever owned a Rolex? Here are my reasons (spoiler alert: shocker at the end!).
1. Indoctrination of belief
I entered the watch industry professionally in 1999 at the age of 27. My first gig (as you’ve probably read in prior posts) was as national sales manager for Chronoswiss, a phenomenal watch brand that was a goldfish swimming in a very large ocean.
From day one in the industry my role was by proxy to convince potential Rolex buyers why they should purchase a Chronoswiss instead.
As a rep I interacted with retailers much more than clients, so my goal was to get salespeople to buy into the Chronoswiss dream and steer clients our way.
This was not a Chronoswiss practice, but rather the practice of almost every rep not selling Rolex, I quickly mastered the spiel and successfully made my way in the retail world.
The benefits for retailers were quite easy to highlight: the margins were slightly better. But much more importantly was this: when a client purchases a Rolex, it is likely that it would be the only timepiece that a client would buy for quite some time, if not the only good watch that they will ever buy.
If a client could be taught about the broad array of other brands, the small number of pieces manufactured each year, various complications, and the fact that many other brands had much more of a “handmade” factor, very often that client would purchase many watches from various brands in the future.
That equals more sales!
As a retail manager in a store that wasn’t an authorized Rolex retailer, I’d often have clients come in to see our pre-owned selection of Rolexes or ask if we could get them a new one.
It was imperative that I turn them onto brands like Ulysse Nardin, Glashütte Original, Audemars Piguet, or one of the many other brands that we did carry.
For these reasons, it would certainly have been hypocritical if I secretly had a Rolex in my watch box at home.
2. I dislike wearing a watch on a bracelet
We all have our preferences when it comes to the watches we own or desire to own.
From the very first watch that I had ever worn, I have always preferred a leather, rubber, or NATO strap because I find watches on bracelets very uncomfortable to wear.
I’ve tried to wear bracelets, and do on occasion, but by midday, my watch is usually on my desk next to my keyboard and not on my wrist.
Rolex has never offered a rubber strap on a watch until very recently with the new Yacht-Master.
The brand’s offerings on a leather strap have never excited me with the exception of the white gold Daytona, but that is far too pricey for me to ever consider.
I’ve always been baffled that the brand never offered its sport models on rubber straps until the 2015 Yacht-Master, a move that I always believed would open up a whole new field of potential clients (like me)!
And maybe it has now.
More recently, aftermarket replacement straps have become popular from the likes of Everest Bands and Rubber B. These may have encouraged the recent Rolex rubber strap – now extended into the other collections – to come into being, but that’s something we’ll never know.
I’d be interested to know whether Rolex is pleased or not to see aftermarket straps on its watches. If it gets more people buying their timepieces, I could imagine the brand is okay with it.
3. I’m an “anti-follow-the-crowd” kind of guy
I’ve never been attracted to what everyone else wants or has.
If I had all of the money in the world, you wouldn’t see me in a Bentley, Ferrari, or Lamborghini. I wouldn’t have an Instagram account with pictures of yachts, jewelry, private jets, and expensive bottles of something or other.
I really enjoy being under the radar in my personal life.
Here’s a perfect example: I bought my first Panerai in 2000 and have owned many models over the years and loved every one.
In 2009, I was in line at a very busy store wearing my PAM 176. Just then, a meathead in a tank top and gold chains started loudly calling from the next line, “YO! ls that a Panerai?!?” (poorly mispronouncing it, of course). Then he yelled for his wife, “Honey, that‘s the f#[email protected] watch I was telling you about! That’s the one Stallone wears!”
I shrugged the guy off and told him that I got it in Chinatown for $100.
I got home, unpacked my goods, took a bunch of photos, and posted it for sale on TimeZone. When a guy like that wants a watch that I own, I don’t want to own it anymore.
How does this relate to Rolex?
Most of the people on the street that have a Rolex don’t have any clue about the history, the reliability, and the standing of the brand within the watch industry. And many of them don’t even know what an automatic movement is.
I’d never had the urge to ever be associated with that crowd.
4. Way too many fakes!
There are so many fake Rolexes on the streets that there are even two huge Instagram accounts that specialize in calling out people who wear them: @fakewatchbusta and @rolex_enforcer.
Don’t get me wrong: knockoffs in any industry are a plague, and you can abundantly find them of any brand. But as Rolex is the most recognizable and popular watch brand in the world, I’d guess that there are more fakes on the street than authentic by a long stretch.
And that to me has always been a turnoff.
Fake watches are a scourge that both the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) and the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) fight with campaigns that are worth knowing about.
5. I strongly dislike the date magnifying bubble on the crystal known as the Cyclops
No deep-rooted explanation here, and I wish I could elaborate more. But I can’t.
It’s a pet peeve that I’ve had since the very first time I saw a Rolex. I have no other real reason, but it’s a strong one.
But, here’s the shocker!
I plan on purchasing my first Rolex in the not-so-distant future!
I can only blame it on getting older, although my wife will tell you not any more mature. I’ll be getting a Rolex Submariner Reference 114060 and here’s why.
I’ve owned watches from dozens of other brands that I’ve loved. I’ve had my eye on this watch for a while and feel it’s time to experience Rolex ownership first hand.
As I mentioned, I don’t like wearing bracelet watches, so I’ll be picking up a rubber strap from one of the above-mentioned companies.
As far as not following the crowd, I’ll be wearing the Sub for what it was originally designed for: as a tool watch. I have every intention to surf, scuba dive, swim, and wear it as an all-around beach watch.
With no date comes no magnifying bubble on the crystal. Pet peeve avoided.
I’ll let you know how I get on, so stay tuned.
For more information on the Rolex Submariner, please visit www.rolex.com/watches/submariner/m114060-0002.
Quick Facts Rolex Submariner Reference 114060
Case: 40 mm, 904L stainless steel with unidirectional rotating bezel, water-resistant to 300 m
Movement: automatic Caliber 3130 with Parachrom hairspring, C.O.S.C. chronometer certification
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
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I was flying my lear jet into dubai and some idiot flying a bunch of tourists in squawked to me hey nice lear well i immediately flew right the fc## back home and before I even landed on my own private runway i had it sold dam leather faced jumbo flying dick , then I bought a used space shuttle because to the moon and my private moon base i go
HAAAA! This has to be the funniest comment to any of my posts ever!
I enjoyed this piece, nicely done, and not only because it is entertaining and well-reasoned but also because I am wearing an 114060 (no cyclops for me either) and have enjoyed it immensely since the day I bought it several years ago (and the bracelet is quite comfortable). This particular reference manages to be simultaneously prevalent around the world among watch enthusiasts and yet still feel like it’s offering its owner membership in an exclusive club. Partly this is due to its timeless and beautifully balanced design, partly to its solid feel and sense that it is indestructible. Like a Porsche 911, in 1,000 years it will still look sublime to the human eye.
Funny you mention the Porsche 911, because truthfully that is the only luxury/sports car that I’ve ever really desired for the same exact reason. Purely timeless.
(Then again, I kind of have a crush on the new Ford GT super car, but at $450,000 base price I don’t see it happening anytime soon)
Many people feel like you about Rolex and perhaps you are right. It is good you have a tribune to state your position, but the entire impression you left in my mind after I read your article is that you are too special and the gray surrounding crowd does not derserve you.
The truth is that most people buy expensive watches, because they can afford it and it is a symbol of their success, but believe me, they absolutely have no passion and understanding for watches. And with Rolex they can’t go wrong.
However, I wish you long and happy life, and please use the oportunity to write on this site with diferent atitude.
In short this guy is confused but at the same time has the adonis complex. Dont sugarcoat. Tell him how arrogantly hipocritical this article is. You are not helping him by wanting to criticize him and then wishing him a long life.
A. explaining a thought process which has prevented me from ever wanting to own a rolex in the past
B. stating at the end that my opinion has grown and changed and that I plan to one day soon purchase my first one and why
…Somehow this makes me “too special and the gray surrounding crowd does not derserve me”, and “confused” with an “Adonis Complex”?
Well you learn something every day now don’t you?
Thanks for the well wishes on the long and happy life, and I will certainly attempt to alter my attitude when I write about fine timepieces and the industry.
I liked your article and agree with you!!!
Hater; asshole-ignore him. And enjoy your new Rolex(I’m waiting on a new Sub!).
I have always admired Rolex for their history, attention to detail and no-compromise approach to design and choice of materials. But especially reason 3 is why I stayed away from Rolex for a long time.
When I got married 1,5 years ago I wanted to celebrate it with a new watch and ended up choosing a Sea-Dweller 116600. I can use it at any occasion, it is rugged, beautiful in many ways and just a prefect watch at any time and like the symbolism in all of that. And it has almost been my daily watch ever since. And with no cyclops it pretty much goes under the radar as well which I really like.
I also tried the no-date sub, but not a fan of the wide lugs and side by side I didn’t have any doubt about choosing the SD4K. If you get the chance you should try both on, but you won’t go wrong either of them.
Great choice and congrats on the Marriage! In truth, I happen to like the SD4K more and would prefer it, but it will come down to cost when the time comes to make the purchase.
I’ll be sure to write a post about whichever I end up with.
I agree with the writer in everyway, except that an oyster bracelet is not any bracelet. Exceptional, I think you’ll find yourself putting the sub back where it belongs, on the bracelet.
It’ll be interesting to find out if the bracelet is something that I adapt to and I’m looking forward to finding out!
I have a sixth reason. No Rolex that has passed through my watch workshop has ever been as accurate as a fake bought in Marbella some 40 years ago.
I used to hear that a lot many years ago Doc, but I’ve not heard that in a while. I wonder if the accuracy is much better on the more recent watches made.
And, although I admit it makes absolutely no sense at all, I’ve never been a stickler for insane accuracy from my mechanical watches. If they’re within +/- 10 seconds per day, I’m ok with it.
Nice article…number 3 resonates most with my feelings, being in the industry for many years, I appreciate the number of first time achievements Rolex had originally achieved, then they laid back and let the marketing do the rest, which has done extremely well, however many purchase Rolex not because of their prowess of design but because what they have come to represent and that aspect of owning a Rolex I do not want to be associated with. I have chosen to purchase more obscure but nonetheless respected lines, many with commercial success, but not one that the “glamour crowd” desires. I’m sure your readers are aware of many of the brands I speak of.
I would much rather have a watch that in a crowd of say 100 people, one person sees it and understands WHY you bought it, and appreciates you for that, rather than 99 people see a watch and think how cool you because you own “that” watch.
Thanks for letting me rant….I had a few extra minutes before my client arrives, but I did enjoy your own reasons, and I meant no disrespect for those that own a Rolex for the “right” reasons….after reading your article I’m relatively sure you’re purchasing it for the right reasons. 🙂
Thanks for the feedback Stan. It seems a few commenters took great offense to the post and I’m glad to see that I didn’t offend everyone. 🙂
If someone gave me a reference 114060 I still would rather wear my Ginault Ocean Rover. Why? Not only does it equal the performance and quality of the 114060, it’s a better looking Submariner. The lugs are narrower and the sand Lume is a whole lot better design. PLUS you could buy a number of other great watches for the gigantic price difference. People think it’s a Rolex and there is no huge worry about theft, maintenance, etc.
That’s the way I’d always felt Bert. But as I mentioned in the post, whether it’s getting older or my tastes are changing, I’ve been gravitating toward the sub-ND (or SD4k) slowly over the past few years.
But I certainly understand your thought process. Thanks for commenting.
I get it. All valid points.
I recently purchased a vintage Rolex because of all the right reasons like history, technical achievements and timeless design. Yes “those guys in tank tops” might recognize my watch and yell out ‘is that a Sub’! and yes that’s a little uncomfortable but it’s a watch that I love. I think Ferrari fans must have similar issues. You can really nerd out and fall in love with the car but wish there was a way to not look flashy when getting groceries in it.
I say if you want a Rolex because you always wanted one. Study them and your love for them will intensify. Who cares what the posers think.
That’s exactly where my mindset is at this point RKelly. Thanks for the input, I appreciate it.
I have the same reason why i’ve never have any Rolex in my collection. Too many fakes around and the exclusivity of wearing it is eluded.
That was entertainment to read but also so full of truth. Too bad the yatch master have a ciclops too is just awful
Agree! I like the YM, particularly because you don’t see them that often, but with the cyclops it’s definitely a no-go for me.
You should wear a watch and enjoy it however you see fit. If you know the relevance to the industry, the heritage, the engineering and the brand itself, then kudos to you. Being an educated consumer is always more romantic and makes more sense in the end. I think it’s silly to sell a watch you enjoy from a brand you support because someone you deemed unworthy was interested in it. Enjoy your Rolex because you enjoy it, not because you look like you should own it. I wonder how many people judge me on the watches i wear and because of how I look. Hmmmmmmm
Well said RGP.
I don’t think I got rid of the Panerai because I was concerned so much about being judged. It was more that It seemed to have become more trendy and that people had to have one because of who else was wearing it rather than the deep history, great design and wonderful craftsmanship.
I always find myself wanting that PAM176 back though… I also think that Panerai has risen above that “everybody’s got to have one crowd” in the past few years as well. Maybe one day it’ll happen.
Doppelgänger! Exactly my thoughts !
To top it off I’m trying hard to garner the moolah for the 114060 in time for my b’day this year. That’s the only Rolex I love for its ‘under the radar’ looks & it’s unimpeachable lineage.
It took a lot of soul searching though, to take the plunge.
I hope you get it. Great birthday present to yourself!
I get you when you say “When a guy like that wants a watch that I own, I don’t want to own it anymore.” Some of my colleagues and friends told me Rolex is for old people.
Two things I noticed from people who say this, first, they don’t know Rolex, second, they misinterpret timeless design with ancient. With Rolex, I don’t see you can get it wrong. I got my Sub 114060 even before I knew they are the most well-known brand in the world. And same as you, I intend it to wear it for the sole purpose of it built, a tool watch. This Sub is the most subdued, low profile, but tough and quintessential Rolex. Again, you can’t go wrong.
Good luck in
Definitely a watch that delivers!
However, UTS Muenchen make a better Diver with a captive bezel!
Get yourself a Seadweller Deepsea, no cyclops, you will know the date, and be a member of a very elite club. You owe it to yourself.
I had tried on the Deepsea and it’s a great piece, but on my 7.5″ wrist, I feel like it’s just too much watch for me.
I have reserched rolex models extensively and could not justify spending $8000.00 on a watch . After much contemplation i decided on a new for 2017 Tagheuer Aquaracer quartz model way101c , quite happy with this beautiful timepiece.
Totally understandable, and I love TAG Heuer! Always have. Best part is that your TAG will last forever and you can do anything while wearing it. Enjoy!
Great logical analysis. However, I’ve just never understood the dislike for something just because it’s popular/recognizable; logical criteria for item selection should be on the item’s merits in of itself, disregarding other’s tastes. Chances are, you’ll always encounter a distasteful character favoring the rarest (unpopular/unrecognizable) of watches. Rolex simply make great watches… enjoy your 11460 in good health!
I think that’s what I’ve come to learn, although it took me many years to do so. I appreciate it Gregor.
Here are the reasons why YOU dislike cyclops subconsciously:
1) Inherently, it is a visual-impairment aid for old people. It is as appealing as if your car had a wheelchair in it
2) It is unbalanced (i.e. ugly)
People like, or better say accept, cyclops only because it is such a mark of Rolex.
Ha! I do agree with you Phill.
I wonder sometimes if when people say “I love the cyclops on the crystal” if it is simply if it’s on a Rolex… I try not to be cynical and think that, but that’s what always crosses my mind.
Hah! I could have written this if only because my experience closely follows the author’s. My love affair with watches started with an Hublot (don’t ask, and it wasn’t based on the garish monstrosities of today but the sleek style of their earlier days). A few years later, I saw my friend wearing a “Kermit”. I liked it but recognized he purchased it exclusively because it was a Rolex. That’s when the anti-Pied Piper/anti-crowd feelings came alive.
As for Panerai, the irony I found was that every asshole I knew who liked watches owned one. But not everyone who owned one was an asshole. My circle of friends and I had dubbed it the “Watch of A-holes and Orthopedic Surgeons”.
To come full circle, almost 12 years later, I finally bought a sub no date and a base Panerai in the same year. I like the sub a lot and the Panerai is a nice change of pace watch with its distinctive style.
I’ve had a day date
And a sub
I own no rolex now
When I had the sub I took bracelet off , And I always used a NATO strap I have at least 25 NATO straps in all different colors so that was a lot of fun
I may own Rolex again but have sights set elsewhere now
I LOVE a nice cyclops, but it has to be UNDER the sapphire crystal as done by Ulysse Nardin, Chopard, Panerai…
Agree! I didn’t mention it, but I am more than okay with a cyclops if it is on the inside of the crystal.
Thanks for bringing it up!
Hey cool story bro.
Be careful of the aftermarket rubber straps. I had a RubberB and despite being compatible with the glide lock clasp, it does NOT fit with the OEM spring bars. The included spring bars are the only ones that work and they are like the cheap bulk trashy type on eBay. Also, don’t knock a Rolex bracelet until you’ve had it on a while. It is thinner and lighter than any bracelet from other brands like Omega, Breitling, IWC, Seiko, etc. Probably the 904L but it’s quite comfortable.
A few comments have mentioned that I might migrate to becoming a bracelet wearer once I get the Sub. We’ll have to see!
With regards to the rubber strap, I’ll be going with the one from Everest. I’ll let you know how it goes!
I can relate to all of the reasons for Rolex avoidance especially my deeply ingrained desire to be different than others. Having said that I will admit that the Pepsi GMT and the new steel blue faced Sky Dweller have some appeal.
Please make sure you don’t buy a fake! I will be interested in Part 2 of the article: “How I feel about my Rolex after one Year”
Thank goodness for an article which pretty much reiterates all my own objections to owning a Rolex for myself.
I have no problem whatsoever with anyone wishing to own and wear a Rolex for its history, intrinsic horological value, functionality, and aesthetic appeal.
However I would tend to agree with those, including the article’s author, who feel that true Rolex enthusiasts of the above kind, are very much in the minority of actual owners.
Most of all though, I feel that for just about every Rolex I can think of, there’s plenty more watch for your money out there.
Well put. Have Rolexes, but agree with all your points. Feel the same about the bracelets (have changed all mine to leather), Don’t like it if someone notices it, albeit most compliments are for the leather strap! I was drawn to Rolex because of history, looks sort of, and mostly they are damn reliable. Have been through many other watches and the Rolex’s for everyday, are do anything pieces that keep ticking on time. I suppose swimming with the straps is dumb, but do it.
The best ever reasoning for buying a Rolex was given to me many years ago by the Mama-san of a highly questionable establishment in Manila when Marcos was still ruling.
“When revolution occurs and money is only worth the paper its printed on, it is the only watch likely to buy you a passage on that last ship to leave town”.
Rolex did make a rubber strap for one special owner! Read my article here for a laugh.
Interesting article. Haywood is a legend, so I’m glad to hear Rolex helped him out! 🙂
Great article. I have found myself in your exact same position. Someone who always swore they would never buy a Rolex and now find myself tempted to join the dark side…
I’m looking at a second hand Milgauss or explorer 1. As a cameraman I thought a tool watch would be good. And both those don’t look too Rolex-y.
I also really like the new Omega Railmaster. And the Tudor Black Bay with red bezel on a leather strap, as per your preferment. Your thought would be appreciated. Phil
I agree with some if not most of the reasons. I do however prefer a bracelet over a band. I don’t like NATOs or the leather bands with the single stitch on each side near the spring bar. A nice croc band, cordura, or sailcloth works for me depending on the watch. For a diver, it’s a bracelet or a vintage Tropic.
I don’t mind the cyclops but when I learned the Sea Dweller didn’t have them in the past I was finally interested and found a 16600 from 2006 in near new condition.
My real issue with Rolex is that they attract all the wrong kind of attention out in public. I feel like a magnet for experts on everything when I wear it. Some accuse me of wearing a fake, others think I’m a jerk for being able to afford one, I learned quickly it’s never worth responding. Feeling threatened by some takes all the pleasure out of wearing it.
I scored mine on eBay for a fraction of what’s it worth, it was a Buy It Now, and the seller really didn’t know what they were doing. They spelled Rolex wrong for starters. I had it authenticated and the box and papers all matched. I collect almost strictly vintage and preowned, and Rolex is not in my price point otherwise. Interesting that most of my dive watches, including my Speedmaster from 1983, attract no attention. Rolex seems to be the brand many love or love to hate.
i’ve owned over 1500 watches over the last 25 years or so.
never been a rolex fan either.
for me it has to do with the pretentiousness of the brand here in the us.
that being said i do own a ‘56 bubbleback and enjoy wearing it often along with the 20 other vintage omegas and zodiacs i have.
I had a datejust and also didn’t like the magnifier. Since it was before sapphire crystals, I just filed it off and polished smooth.