Wrist Watching: Fidel Castro Wearing Rolex
by Nick Gould
Mention the name Fidel Castro in watch circles and the first thing that springs to mind is the Rolex GMT-Master with bi-color bezel that was so frequently seen on his wrist throughout his life next to the gold Rolex Datejust that he wore on the same wrist. The consensus seems to be that Castro wore two watches to keep the time in both Havana and Moscow handy; it is unknown whether he realized that the GMT-Master already offers two time zones.
And while choosing Rolex might seem paradoxical in the face of the communist principles he defended Soviet politicians also wore Rolex watches, including Leonid Brezhnev. Perhaps this explains why Rolex was Castro’s brand of choice.
Castro first wore a Reference 6542 GMT-Master with Bakelite bezel – Bakelite being the first synthetic plastic, and one used for a while for colorful watch bezels – followed by a Reference 1675 with aluminum bezel insert.
When Castro succeeded with his coup d’etat against president and leader of Cuba Fulgencio Batista in 1959, he was already sporting a Rolex on his wrist.
Greeting crowds of people in Havana in January 1959, Castro did not sport a GMT-Master, but rather the other famous timepiece by the “crowned” Swiss maker: the venerable Submariner. I deduce from the size of the crown that Castro was wearing a Reference 6536 Submariner.
The familiar diving bezel of the Submariner with its marked indications is clearly visible along with the recognizable black dial displaying luminous dot markers and the Oyster bracelet. Here Castro was wearing another (unidentifiable) timepiece on a leather strap.
It was thought that Castro obtained the watch after he and his fellow revolutionaries entered Havana in January of 1959, but this is not the case. A variety of photos from 1958 show Castro was already sporting the Submariner along with another timepiece on a leather strap.
A pre-1959 photo from AP (at top) shows Castro wearing two watches on leather straps; he later replaced one of these with the Submariner.
The photo below shows Castro with his son in the Havana Hilton. Castro is wearing his Submariner, while his son is holding a gold Rolex that is most likely a Day-Date with its familiar “President” bracelet.
However, it is also possible that Castro placed a Datejust head on a President bracelet as some photographs I found do allude to this.
I was flabbergasted upon discovering a photo of Castro with Che Guevara in which the clasp of Castro’s gold Rolex is visible: and this clasp features an engraving!
At first, I thought it was an engraving of some symbols, but after further research I found they are letters: you can make out the “FCR.”
Castro’s full name was Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz; as per Spanish-language custom, the maiden name of a child’s mother is included at the end of a family’s name, so Castro put his initials, FCR, on the clasp.
This was quite a surprise and one that means that Castro’s personalized gold Rolex Datejust is still out there waiting to be discovered.
My thanks to Charles Tearle for assisting me with the identification of Castro’s Submariner and other observations as well as to Eric Ku for helping me figure out it wasn’t symbols, but letters engraved on Castro’s gold Rolex Datejust.
And thanks to Jake Ehrlich of Jakes Rolex World who first discovered and published photos of Castro with his watches.
Quick Facts Rolex GMT-Master Reference 6542
Case: 40 mm, yellow gold with Bakelite bezel insert
Movement: automatic Caliber 1036; 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, chronometer certified
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, GMT
Years of production: 1954-1959
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He died a billionaire. Should’ve equally distributed Rolexes to his 11 Million prisoners.
But he didn’t die a billionaire…
Lol no he didn’t
Wearing a +$10k watch while Cubans where being killed, their rights taken away and children starving
While that watch was expensive for the day. I doubt even a vintage example is worth 10k, nor with inflation would it’s price be 10k. I believe in 1950s a Datejust or even the Submariner sold in the $500 to $750 range.
But it is, though. $750 in 1950’s dollars is $7,833 in 2019 dollars.
Gold was 35 dollars. Now do the math.
21 oz of gold. It was 35 dollars an oz.
But it didn’t cost anywhere close to 10k..
Not someone, I imagine, with whom Rolex would wish to be linked. And yet another example of why communism is such a dreadful ideology.
I suppose it was long before Rolex became associated with ostentatiousness, but it’s still a bit…y’know. Something from the VEB Glashutte Uhrenbetriebe would’ve been a more appropriate watch for him, maybe.
Exercising freedom of speech, no comment should have to be approved. What more evidence to see that socialism and/or communism are bullcrops. It is perfect slavery: Physical and mental. The equality that they preach is perfect lie. When Castro wore Rolex the rest wore rubber bands. When Castro ate caviar the rest ate and still continue to eat egg. Castro died a billionaire and the rest are in poverty. All in the name of the bullcrop of embargo and imperialist gringo just to overshadow tgeir greed for money and power at the expense of their people. Trying to hide their incompetent and greed. Psychpaths, including Maduro.
What a great idea for a series:
“Murderers/Tyrants and their watches”
What’s wrong with you?
I would add ” Presidents” to “Murders / Tyrants” series and would not miss how President Bush jr had his gold Rolex stolen during his visit in Albania!!!!
Are you liberal retards in love with this worthless scum?
Need to address facts before making assumptions.
– What was the cost of the Rolex at the time?
– Who purchased?
– What was the purpose of the use?
I wonder if Castro’s “firing squad guests” had their watches purloined for distribution to “The People” i.e. Castro/Che/et al??
Castro knew the GMT had two zones. He had DC, Moscow, Havana on the watches. Now DC and Havana are utc5, one used to be 4.
To all you ignorant haters.
THOUGH YOU WERE DEAD YET SHALL YOU LIVE. John 11:25
Just mentioning he’s name you keep him alive. VIVA FIDEL !!!
And viva Rolex too.
Well, then the consensus seems to be wrong. As Fidel himself explained: “We were wearing two watches all the time because we have experienced that one watch may let you down. Punctuality is so important in military operations. So, we always wore two. Then, it turned into a habit.”
And as for the Rolex: this tradition started on the 2 December 1956 when Castro gave Rolex watches to commanders in Cuba, including Che Guevara, because they were tough watches in battlefield conditions.
In most of the photos, Che and Castro appear wearing two watches, a fact the former Cuban president explained as the following: “We were wearing two watches all the time because we have experienced that one watch may let you down. Punctuality is so important in military operations. So, we always wore two. Then, it turned into a habit.”
Look at all the rich, ignorant babies who can’t imagine a military commander actually needing a reliable, durable timepiece in the 1950s before there were mass-produced waterproof/shockproof/etc. quartz watches. Dude liberated an entire country on the sea, in the mountains, in the jungles. Probably wanted the watch made by the company that invented waterproof watches lol. Viva Fidel, Viva Cuba!
A lot of ‘muricans
That’s not Fidel Castro, that’s his brother Raul Castro…
Rolex should do a campaign with Hitler next! This is highly offensive to all those people he assassinated and the millions that are still suffering, not to mention all those who have died trying to flee Cuba. How dare you Rolex! Shame on you!