So, You Want to Buy a Rolex? Well, Daddy-O, I’m here to Talk you Out of It!

Every now and then, a friend, colleague, or distant family member reaches out to me and declares that they have decided to buy a fancy watch. I happen to collect such things and that, apparently, makes me an authority on the subject.

This is equally as flattering as it is a drag. As any seasoned phone sex operator will tell you, if you’re required to have the same conversation time after time, the dreadful task of feigning enthusiasm eventually takes its toll.

I no longer ask from whence their sudden interest in watches stems because I already know. They have come into a considerable amount of money and they’re aching to spend it, preferably on something that says, “I’ve spent a considerable amount of money here.”

Rolex Yachtmaster 42 in RLX titanium

In other words, a Rolex. No specific model, any of the hot ones will do; as long as it’s brand new and available at list price. And of course, those parameters are nigh on impossible to satisfy.

“The shortage is real,” I explain, “and demand is rampant.” Never the response they’re hoping for. “Either accept the markup,” I suggest, “or explore Omega.” Contrary to popular belief, Omega is on par with Rolex, only it offers more for less.

The guy on the other end of the line usually finds this borderline offensive. “No,” they insist, “I’ll pay the premium.” Then, all too predictably, comes the caveat, “But if I’m spending that much, I don’t want anyone to think it’s fake!” Unreasonable expectations are unreasonable. Some people will, no matter what.   

Rolex Submariner

Moreover, Rolexes are a liability to travel with, a bummer to live with, and – in most cases – uninspiring to behold, bereft of pizzazz and flair, basic in every sense of the word.

Strap in, everybody, we’re about to cover it all, starting with all this “I don’t want anyone thinking it’s fake” business and ending with the only circumstance under which it’s acceptable to buy a Rolex.



Avoiding frequently faked models is a popular strategy among those plagued by the “I don’t want anyone thinking it’s fake” syndrome. They reason that people are less inclined to doubt the authenticity of an unpopular watch. Be that as it may, frequently faked models are the nice ones.

Rolex GMT Master II two tone

That’s why Rolexes are frequently faked. The rest of the range, although more accessible – at least in terms of availability if not affordability – is not immune to scrutiny.

While two-tone, dress, and/or sub-36mm options are seldom faked, just about any watch whose dial bears the five-pointed crown is suspect. In any case, droves of skeptical rubes will assume that your watch is, as Donnie Brasco would say, a fugazi.

So, forget about it. Instead, beware of those who believe (or know) that it’s real. Aside from judgmental types, who overtly disapprove of your choices, or bitter Betties, secretly turning green with envy, you have an entirely different animal to contend with: thieves. 

Big, glitzy cities where you’d want to be seen wearing something nice (London, Paris, New York) are rife with sneaky pick-pockets and ruthless robbers, lurking in the shadows like creepy alley cats, leaning against you on crowded subway trains, or loitering outside your hotel’s revolving doors, ready to strike.

Rolex is the world’s single most recognizable watch brand. Naturally, most of its offerings are both especially easy to spot and especially prone to theft, being the easy-to-fence, hot commodities they are.

Rolex Submariner (right) vs. GMT Master II

So, think about that before parading up and down the Champs-Élysées, shiny oyster peeking from your cuff. It rather spoils the point, doesn’t it? You bought it, primarily, to flaunt it. And now you’re being told to leave it at home.

At home, things are different but no better. Those who covet their neighbor’s Rollie imagine that wearing one will elevate their image. i.e., make them look like winners, thus causing others to take them more seriously.

The sad truth is that (for the most part) nobody cares. I ought to know; I own one and wear it often. Despite that, the sleazy salesman from my local BMW dealership still won’t give me the time of day, let alone take me out on a test drive.



The corporate stooge from my bank still won’t raise my credit card limit, let alone lend me some money. And last week I learned that the Embassy of Japan won’t issue me a tourist visa before seeing a long and healthy bank statement.

“You don’t understand, Mr. Ambassador, I’m wearing a twelve-thousand-dollar watch.” Suffice it to say, they told me – in so many words – to shove it, relegating yours truly to the ranks of Captain Koons and Major Coolidge.

Rolex GMT Master II

Anecdotal evidence notwithstanding, if you’re expecting your Swiss-made swag to change your life in any meaningful way, you’re in for a world of hurt. People see the big picture: The car you rode in on, the mansion it rolled out of, and the corner office it’s taking you to.

If we catch sight of you bathing in a pile of gold coins or eating a hotel room Snickers bar, we’ll put two and two together and assume that you are, as the kids say, a baller.

A nice watch, however, is only the cherry on the millionaire’s cake, worn by many and noticed by few. For it to make a statement, it needs to pack a punch. I think you know where this is going.

Rolex Submariner

Your run-of-the-mill, stainless-steel Rolex is nothing special. It is neither rare nor extensively hand-finished, neither high-end nor complicated.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even that expensive; not compared to what the Holy Trinity of the watch world (Vacheron, Patek, and AP) have on tap and a far cry from what the highest echelons of independent watchmakers are quietly working on.

And therein lies the rub: discounting obvious outliers (Richard Mille, I’m looking at you), once you hit a certain level of haut horology, the more exclusive and more expensive a watch is, the less likely it is to be recognized by the general public.



Philippe Dufour, Kari Voutilainen, Romain Gauthier, Laurent Ferrier, Grönefeld, and Greubel Forsey are not household names, but they do represent the cream of the industry’s crop, all producing serious metal in low volume, reserved only for serious collectors and connoisseurs.

Estimated production numbers of Rolex Classic and Professional models

Rolex, on the other hand, is for everyone else: the wealthy and those who pretend to be. Yes, the brand has its collectors and loyalists, but they mostly focus on vintage and make up a tiny shred of the Rolex fanbase.

But I’m guessing you’re not part of that club. That’s okay, neither am I. So, why do I have one?

Electric blue dial. Orange lightning bolt seconds’ hand. Green sapphire crystal. Sheer lunacy from where you’d least expect; a combination way out of left field and so off-brand, it swept me off my feet.

I tried to talk myself out of it for a couple of years and failed. Just as well, the model has since been discontinued. At the time it was seen as the runt of the Rolex litter, widely available and priced like its Omega counterpart, which is just as whimsical, crazy seconds’ hand ablaze.

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean on the wrist

As much as I like Omega as a brand, far more than I ever did Rolex, the watch itself gained the edge here, not the name on the box it came in. That’s what it boils down to: literally thinking outside the box, beyond the brand, the hype, and what will (or won’t) turn heads on the street or yield likes on the gram.

If you’re in the market for a new watch, here’s my advice: if there’s a Rolex that you like (and I mean really like), go for it. But if you just want a Rolex, you’re probably better off with an Omega.

* Tamim Almousa is the founder of the Saudi Arabian copywriting firm

You may also enjoy:

19 Things you Didn’t Know about Ian Skellern: James Bond, Austin Powers, or Walter Mitty? Tall Tales or True? A Christmas Conundrum

Omega vs. Rolex: How Omega is Reaching for the Crown

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean: A Modern Design Icon

Omega Aqua Terra: Is it TOO Good?

A Very Rolexy Rolex Discussion: 3 Reasons The Rolex Day-Date 40 Convinced Me

Why I Bought It: Rolex Sky-Dweller In Stainless Steel Rolesor

21 replies
  1. RB
    RB says:

    “uninspiring to behold, bereft of pizzazz and flair, basic in every sense of the word”. Thank you for calling it out! A Rolex was my first nice watch, and nowadays I’m pretty much embarrassed to wear it in public. It’s not the watch’s fault, it’s the brand recognition that comes with it.

    • Yachmaster 2021
      Yachmaster 2021 says:

      I am sorry.
      Feeling embarrassed to wear your watch because so much of social media now tells you that should be is just as pathetic as feeling the need to buy a certain brand because social media told you do so.

    • J. Quincy Magoo
      J. Quincy Magoo says:

      A friend of mine first nice watch was a rolex. He never wears it anymore and hasn’t in years. But not because of social media or press reports to the contrary. He doesn’t because of how rolex treated him and his watch. Their authorized service broke his watch when he brought it in for a regular cleaning and servicing as prescribed by them. They broke the mainspring and when he brought the watch back to them they acted as if he was an idiot to complain, and told him, and I quote, “so what! It can be taken care of.” Their arrogance and lack of care for his watch disappointedly persuaded him to never wear it again. He vowed never to buy another or bring his existing watch to them ever again. And to this day he hasn’t!

      • James Malenfant
        James Malenfant says:

        I really like Bulova watches. Their history can’t be neat, and their price reflects their motto, a watch any working man can afford.

    • Ron Larson
      Ron Larson says:

      When I first starting noticing Rolex watches is when I travel in corrupt countries and see them on the wrists of policemen and other government officials as they shake us down for bribes. So now when I see one, I think “He is a corrupt goverment employee”.

  2. J. Quincy Magoo
    J. Quincy Magoo says:

    rolex doesn’t care in the slightest who buys their watches, as long as their watches are bought. They don’t cater to collectors or enthusiasts, but if that market buys their watches too, all the better. They probably get a kick out of the fact that thieves target their watches, and take it as a validation of their marketing strategy. They have better finishing on their advertising than they do on their movements, but that’s because you can see their advertising! Ha!

  3. Michael Taglieri
    Michael Taglieri says:

    After trying another Swiss watch, I now wear a vintage Rolex Submariner. It’s compact, comfortable, non-glitzy, accurate to about 30 seconds a month, and very, very waterproof.

    Also, there have been very few stylistic changes over the years, so my 1983 watch is timeless a newbie can’t tell it from a brand-new one.

    By contrast, Omega is constantly changing styles, so their old watches soon look dated. (They just brought out a new version of the Seamaster honoring James Bond’s 75th anniversary. How tacky can you get?)

  4. Patrick Dunning
    Patrick Dunning says:

    My FIL is a Rolex diehard, I had to swallow some pride to find one that I liked and I landed on the Milgauss myself, saving and ferreting money away so that my wife would feel like I bought something worthwhile (she’s been indoctrinated into the Cult of Rolex) only for them to discontinue it when I go to make my purchase. I can always buy used, but what a pain.

  5. Captain Fury
    Captain Fury says:

    Thanks for an enjoyable and well thought out article.
    My GMT is great and it has served me well over many years, employed in the job for which it was created. But when I catch myself mesmerized by the beauty of the watch on my wrist, it’s always my Aqua Terra.

  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    Some like them, some don’t.
    For me, still like it, have had good service at Rolex.
    Over the 20 years I have had it, I can sell it for more than I bought for, even with prices adjusting down.

  7. James Malenfant
    James Malenfant says:

    I agree. Worked at a pawn shop in college, where they sent me to jewelry school. You couldn’t give me a Rolex, and if you did, I’d sell it and buy an Omega Presidential. I have plenty of money, but wear my Bulova two tone Presionist, daily. I have 3, in different colors, all bought new on Ebay, for way less than 1 Rolex. Full warranty. I learned at the pawn shop never to buy a used watch.

  8. Michael F
    Michael F says:

    This is strange. I grew up in Switzerland. In Switzerland, the sleazy salesman from the BMW dealership would have been the only person you would ever encounter wearing a Rolex. Even back in the 90’s, wearing a Rolex would have been totally déclassé. It would have been okay for a sophisticated rich person to wear a Swatch, but Rolex – non!

  9. Stu
    Stu says:

    This is quite an insulting piece, somewhat short sited. You are obviously in the the down turn part of the U bend in your watch journey where you are above Rolex and despise them for the most part. Yet to go back up to appreciating the qualities they have…..reliability, exceptional comfort, joy knowing you own a Rolex, but not because you want anyone to see it or notice it, in fact that puts a lot of watch geeks off, but because even with all their faults, it still feels good to wear them, just for you. I am a watch geek, well educated in this obsession, I don’t want an old Rolex because of the cost of maintenance and initial outlay. I want their latest evolved pieces. Of course I want Laurent Ferrier, De Bethune, Gronenfeld, Greubel Forsey etc, but simply not in my budget. I own and love Omega, Longines, GS etc, but Rolex are always tops for comfort.

    • Yachtmaster 2021
      Yachtmaster 2021 says:

      Are you trying to say that for many collectors it is not a binary choice between Rolex and everything else? DO you mean to say that I can own a Rolex AND an Omega, and a GS and others while still desiring smaller higher end houses? Shhh, you need to keep this to yourself because if that gets out 99% of Rolex clickbait will disappear and then what would founders of copywriting firms do to make ends meet?

  10. Greg
    Greg says:

    Well, I for one very much enjoyed reading that, Tamim!
    A good light hearted look at this crazy hobby of ours.
    We should need no reminder of how unimportant such things are in the great scheme of things…
    I look forward to future contributions, Tamim.

  11. Anthony Snook
    Anthony Snook says:

    The article and its replies just goes to prove that taste in watches is very subjective, affected by age, nationality and culture among other variants like money! After many years of owning the better watches, though never from the crazy design end or small independents, I’ve now reduced my number to two, and am happy with my 36mm steel Rolex Explorer and my 38mm rose gold Patek Philippe Calatrava. From which you should be able to deduce my age, culture, and the type of car I drive! Laugh emoji.


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