My One and Only Rolex

Fifteen years ago I developed an obsession for Rolex watches which eclipsed practically every other interest or desire.  Its greatest impact was felt by my spouse: He was hostage to my unyielding resistance to any gift that wasn’t a Rolex.

Eventually Nick’s patience and resolve buckled beneath the burden of my expectation.  One Christmas he handed me an easily overlooked brown paper bag.  As I took it from him I felt a significant heft; I heard a steel bracelet shift at the bottom; I spied a bezel and Oyster case peeking out from an afterthought of concealment.  I slowly lifted the folds of vaguely familiar tissue paper which revealed the indubitable shape and renowned style of the classic stainless steel Rolex.  He said he’d been looking for one (for almost a year) when the week before a dealer called to say that a customer recently presented a used (and much older) Rolex as a trade-in and it’s “as-is” retail price is with-in Nick’s price range.  He purchased a Rolex manufactured in 1958 (the year of my birth) and it wasn’t until this year did I learn the historical significance of this watch.

A month later I found myself overheating in a Puerto Vallarta hot tub.  I dragged my lobster-red body to the swimming pool and jumped in.  Upon surfacing I heard Nick ask for time. While wiping away the stinging chlorinated water I noticed that there was moisture condensing on the inside surface of the watch crystal.

The Rolex watch is often perceived as an extravagant luxury and status symbol outshining its fundamental purpose: telling time.  But Rolex, SA (manufacturer) has played a significant role in the history of the wristwatch.  Rolex, SA can lay claim to being first at: automatically changing date on face; show two time zones at the same time (GMT Master (designed by request of Pan Am pilots); automatically changing day-and-date on face; earning “chronometer” designation (meaning that it’s mechanical movement is extremely accurate and consistent that it can be used to navigate ships.  But the fundamental and most notable characteristic (which it achieved first in 1926 and again in 1953) is being waterproof (1926); not water resistant; waterproof to a depth of 330 feet BSL (1953).

Obviously Nick’s gift had forfeited that foremost characteristic.

I was greatly disappointed that the Rolex Nick had worked so diligently to uncover had been compromised by irony: its fundamental purpose (time keeping) was also its assassin (time passing, i.e. years of use).   I took the infirm watch to the only certified Rolex repair center in North America (at the time) and was saddened by their conclusion: it would cost more to rebuild than the price Nick paid.  A friend gave me the phone number of a reseller in Georgia that represented Rolex watches on consignment.  Overnight I received three brand new stainless steel Rolexes from which to choose.

When I slid on the first, then the second, and finally the third I had exactly the same reaction: These Rolexes had lost their mystique, their meaning, their value; these were simply very expensive watches.  (And frankly, my time isn’t that valuable!) 

The watch given to me by Nick was, in my opinion, the only true Rolex because it was the one he generously gave me.  I wanted that Rolex; and I wanted that Rolex to function like any other Rolex.  So I returned to the Rolex repair center and placed it in their expert hands.  Six months later it was returned to me in pristine condition.  It is now thoroughly serviced every three years to keep it in working order.

So why did I share this with you?

You may get what you ask for in life, and while it may not be exactly what you wanted, you were very fortunate to have received it.  It may be imperfect, or damaged, or used.  But it is less about what you’ve been given, and much more about how you hold it, what it means to you, and how you care for it.