The most incredible, memorable day of my life took place on September 19th 2014 – the day I married the love of my life. But before that amazing day, April 21st 1998 was the highlight of my life: That was the day I bought my first Rolex.
During my junior year of high school I was fortunate to join some of my classmates on the annual school trip abroad – that year the destination was Paris. I remember being super-excited to travel overseas for the first time. Journeying across an ocean to another country had a feeling of unknown that made the anticipation palpable: I’d be in a whole different timezone, people would be speaking a different language and I’d actually be seeing the Mona Lisa at The Louvre and gazing at the Eiffel Tower.
But there was another reason my excitement level was through the roof: I was on the verge of seizing something I’d had my sights on for some time…
My earliest memories of Rolex watches were shaped by dear family friends. I always looked forward to going over their house for holidays and special occasions. From the hug I received the moment I walked through their front door to the delicious food always being served – I never wanted to leave. Their home was welcoming and filled with beautiful objects. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my eyes gravitated to their Rolex watches. I do know that their lifestyle definitely had an influence on my ambition and taste.
After this initial exposure I found myself paying more attention to Rolex: When I leafed through magazines – Rolex advertising seemed to leap off the pages. Whether worn as a dependable tool watch or merely as a symbol of achievement, I associated Rolex watches with success. And I liked the notion of a watch being a companion through life’s ups and downs. Sometime in the mid-1990s I decided I wanted one. Most teenage boys have posters of girls hanging in their bedroom and can’t wait to get their driver’s license – I had Rolex ads taped on my walls and bummed rides from friends.
To fund my future Rolex I worked at a local grocery store throughout high school. When the Paris trip rolled around, I saw my opportunity to buy one. But first I needed to put my Mom at ease with the idea. I sat her down and explained my rationale for wanting to make the purchase there. I told her that the exchange rate was very favorable – whatever Rolex model I decided on would cost a lot less in Paris than in the States. She took my announcement well: My Mom was proud that I set a goal and worked my butt off to realize it. Between the discipline I showed saving up and my promising signs of financial savvy, she felt a Rolex was already having a positive effect on me and threw her full support behind its purchase.
Although my Mom was in favor of me buying myself a Rolex, she was leery about me carrying around thousands of dollars in a foreign country. Luckily I was the “teacher’s pet” of sorts of my high school art teacher – who happened to be chaperoning the trip. She knew her way around luxury boutiques and offered to accompany me to a jeweler and purchase my Rolex on her credit card – allowing me to pay her back once we returned home.
Here’s what I remember about the momentous transaction: My ref. 16200 Datejust was bought at O.J. Perrin Jewelers on 8 rue Royale in Paris, France. I had just turned seventeen. As we said “Bonjour!” and walked toward the Rolex display, I had no specific model in mind to purchase. I was working with a budget and a strong U.S. dollar. I actually only recall looking at one watch that afternoon. The saleswoman was selling us on the versatility of a Datejust. She said something to the effect of it being a perfect combination for me: A balance of “sportiness” – with the oyster bracelet – and “dressiness” – with the silver dial and Datejust heritage. Whether she knew it or not, I was putty in her hands – she was making a sale that day. But I appreciated her service and talking to us about the watch’s benefits. My Rolex ended up costing 11,269 ₣ when my art teacher’s MasterCard was swiped – only $1895. At the time my watch retailed for $2,825 in the States, so I’d say I made out pretty good.
After my “watch adventure” we met up with the rest of the group. Everyone was filling in one another on how they spent their free time and what souvenirs they bought. When my friends asked me what I’d been up to I nonchalantly lifted up the sleeve of my sweater and displayed my Rolex proudly. I can’t remember if I let on to any of my classmates that I was in the market for one. Most knew the brand by name and reputation, but had never seen one up close. All day and all night I had to pinch myself – the feeling of wearing a Rolex and seeing the second hand sweep was too good to be true.
Since that afternoon, my Datejust has been with me for eighteen years – over half my life. I vividly – painfully at the time – remember the first time I banged it on the corner of a desk in biology class. I cringed when I saw the mark on the side of the case. Obviously it’s endured a few more scratches since then – or “badges of honor” as I like to think of them.
My Datejust is way overdue to be serviced – I’ve only had it serviced once back in 2003. But I hesitate to let it out of my grasp for fear of the service center overlooking my explicit “DO NOT POLISH” instructions. My Datejust wouldn’t feel the same if it looked like-new. I love the signs of age; the battle scars that show where it’s been and how it’s held up. Most of the scratches and dings came during my days stocking shelves at the grocery store and working summers at a driving range.
A couple years ago I noticed a tea-colored stain developing on the lower half of the dial between the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock baton hour markers. I’m not sure if this spotting qualifies as “tropical,” but I wonder what the dial will look like eighteen years from now…
In this day and age, when dealers hype “unpolished” condition and collectors crave watches with “box and papers,” I know – without a shadow of a doubt – that my Datejust has both qualities going for it. I cherish the fact that I am the sole owner of this Rolex and its story is my story.