Who wants ANY kind of watch in 2013, much less a Rolex?

This news item is a real head-scratcher for me:

A prominent political donor purchased a Rolex watch for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, according to two people with knowledge of the gift, and the governor did not disclose it in his annual financial filings.

The $6,500 luxury watch was provided by wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the people said. He is the chief executive of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific and the person who paid for catering at the wedding of the governor’s daughter. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an ongoing federal investigation into the relationship between Williams and the McDonnell family…

It raises all sorts of questions:

Who needs a watch in 2013? Cell phones (and computers, and tablets, and other devices that surround us) do everything a watch does and so much more, and are perfectly set to Naval Observatory accuracy.

If you were so atavistic as to feel the need for a watch in this century, why would you ever shell out more than $10 for one? As I recall, back when I was still aware of the price of watches (back in the day when, as Douglas Adams would say, we were so amazingly primitive that we still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea), that’s more than what a little LCD digital from the grocery checkout line would cost, and it would get the job done.

Assuming you received a watch as a gift, and it was an ostentatiously expensive watch, why on Earth would you keep it, if you were in politics? Your natural reaction, if you had half a brain, would have been to quote Bo Diddley in “Trading Places,” saying, “Man, that watch is so hot, it’s smokin’.”

It’s just astounding.

Part of my problem is that I really don’t get the appeal of jewelry. Jewelry for men, that is. I mean, honestly, I don’t understand jewelry for women, either, but I’m willing to accept that women like the stuff based on the fact that men and women are just different, and vive la différence.

I don’t get it at all. I see these professional ballplayers with gold chains around their necks, and I think, “Did they just run out of stuff to spend all that money on?”

And it seems to me that the only way to explain wearing a watch in 2013 is to say that it just appeals to some people as jewelry.

I just know that, if someone gave me a Rolex, and it was ethical and legal for me to accept the gift, I would immediately run out and sell it and spend the money on something practical, something either I or someone else could actually use.

But not everybody is like me, I’ve noticed. More’s the pity…

22 thoughts on “Who wants ANY kind of watch in 2013, much less a Rolex?

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Watches are hardly atavistic! Technological marvels that work even when you are required to turn off electronic devices, capable of stealthily giving the time in rehearsals, while trying to sleep, etc.

    Then there’s the whole status marker deal. Personally, I sold my ultra thin gold Baume et Mercier because it was hard to read and expensive to maintain, and mostly wear a Timex with Indiglo and interchangeable grosgrain bands.

    1. Mark Stewart

      I’m with Kathryn on the anachronistic part.

      My good watch has been in the drawer since 2005; what is the sense of paying to have a watch cleaned and oiled anymore?

      Plus, I got tired of having to shorten one shirtsleeve and then having it fray early anyway. And I don’t smash it into wall corners and stair railings anymore either.

      People used to look at my unmatched wrist in meetings; now most people don’t have a watch on as well. At least most watches don’t make sounds at inappropriate times like all cell phones do.

  2. Doug Ross

    The Google ad I see on this post is a link to Men’s Watches For Less. How ironic…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Nowadays, there is no longer such a thing as irony.

      In a previous post, I mentioned The Wall Street Journal, and a WSJ ad appeared. I write about immigration, and an ad shows up for an immigration law firm. These are not chance occurrences. The Google software is written to bring about such “ironies.”

      More than that, though, you and I don’t see the same ads. If I’ve searched recently for an iPad cover, I get ads for that.

      Such are the wonders of Google Adsense…

        1. Doug Ross

          I got the Rolex ad and an ad for cruises… I must be living the high life.

          It is kind of silly that Google spends SOOO much money supposedly on analytics and then basically just slaps an ad up based a word or two from a post or your last search. I am VERY skeptical that the advertisers are getting many click thrus for their money.

          I’m sure Rolex would love to know ads for their watches are popping up on posts stating how useless and ostentatious their product is.

          1. Scout

            Where do you people see Google Ads? I see no ads. Oh, yea, I have Adblock plus on – I guess it is working.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I simply don’t understand status symbols.

    If I want something, I want it because I want it, because I can use it. But the only reason I can imagine for wearing an expensive watch (when no one NEEDS a watch, and if you feel compelled to wear one, the cheap ones work just fine) would be to impress someone who is just as mind-numbingly shallow as you are.

    The first watch I ever owned, when I was about 5 years old, was a Zorro watch. Now, I didn’t have to have a Zorro watch, per se. A plain watch would have gotten the job done. But I didn’t wear a Zorro watch to impress other people. I wore it because I really liked Zorro…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I sounded a little bit self-righteous just then. Truth be told, that was a long time ago, and my memory can’t be certain. While it’s true that I dug my Zorro watch because I was into Zorro, maybe, just a little, I wanted to impress other little kids with my Zorro watch.

      But that’s because I was a little kid. I don’t understand the same phenomenon in grownups.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, with your flipped-up clip ons on your thirty year old specs, we had all thought you were a slave to fashion!

  5. T.J.

    Speaking from a cynical perspective, watches and other tangible gifts are stores of value that can be used to escape some level of scrutiny in the reporting of gifts, unlike say cash, or a vacation. I know a prominent businessman in my home town who hid his imbezzlement via baseball cards, coins, stamps and other collectibles. Not to say that there is mal-intent here, but tangible gifts like watches are red flags.

  6. Barry

    I wear a Fossil watch I bought about 10 years ago for $60.

    I use a watch because I’ve always felt it was disrepectful to pull out my cell phone in the middle of a meeting with a customer – or a conversation with someone. It’s much easier for me to simply give a side glance at my watch to know I need to move on to another appointment or to politely end a conversation and move on.

    Unlike most people these days, I leave my cell phone in my car when I am having a business meeting or having a conversation with a customer. it’s a distraction for me- but it’s more a distraction for my customer.

  7. Barry

    In addition, I can think of a lot of activities and places that I visit where a watch is very helpful to me- and pulling out a cell phone to check the time would be possible- but also be quite aggravating or distracting to others.

    I realize these days most people don’t care what other people think if they pull out something like a cell phone.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      With me, pulling out the cell phone (which is no trouble; it’s in a clip on my belt) is just something people expect me to do.

      I Tweet from every kind of event I go to, and people know I do that. Most events expect it enough to provide a hashtag. (Today, I attended an event that I was asked specifically, in advance, to Tweet from.) If I’m not doing that, I’m using the phone to take pictures.

      Also, I take my iPad into every kind of meeting I attend, and frequently use it to take notes, or to look up something that comes up in the meeting.

      Basically, I never have to wonder what time it is.

      1. Barry

        Well, I’m not in the media business (or tweeting business) so having a phone in my hand or an ipad in my hand while I am having a converation with a customer is a “no go” and would (and has) got me a “can you please put that away?” response.

        When I am dealing with a customer, they have my attention. It’s easier for me to glance at my watch (or over their shoulder at the clock on their wall if they have one) that it is for me to slide my phone out of my belt clip, and hold it up to check the time as I am talking to my customer.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    Be careful leaving your cell in the car. Break-ins are common everywhere, and then you can’t call the cops! Take it with you, but silence it!

    1. Barry

      I simply put it in my center console out of sight. My windows are tinted strongly too so no one walking by my car can really see anything in my car at a walking pace.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        The police advise that druggies and others break in on spec….take it with you!

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