Profiles in Time: Al Capone’s Watch

Al Capone will undoubtedly go down as one of the most notorious crime bosses in American history.

At just twenty-six years old, he became the boss of Chicago’s largest crime organization. Throughout the 1920s, Capone ran one of the most profitable bootlegging and gambling operations in the country.

He was also responsible for many violent offenses, primarily against other members of organized crime. One of the most famous incidents is the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In an attempt to wipe out the “North Side” gang and take complete control in the city of Chicago, Capone ordered the assassination of seven members, including their leader “Bugs” Moran.

Despite his reputation as a man of power and influence, it seems that Capone spent much of his time at the top proving his worth. To start, appearances were of the utmost importance. In his first years as boss, Capone worked tirelessly to become revered as a savior of Chicago.

Capone also became known as a man of style. He indulged in custom suits made of imported fabrics from Italy, lavish getaways, and, of course, his iconic cigars. And like any man of status, he sported a luxury watch on his wrist.

His watch? A yellow gold Rolex Prince. Unlike the more utilitarian watches people often associate with Rolex, the Prince is most notable for its Art Deco-inspired design: a rectangular case, a large seconds sub-dial, and a distinctly aristocratic air.

Vintage Rolex Chronometer

A similar Rolex to Al Capone’s Prince watch.

The Prince is largely sidelined today for Rolex’s big-hitter models, but it played a key part in the brand’s history. It was one of the models that helped Rolex make a name for itself as a manufacturer of precise and powerful timepieces in the late 1920s, not far off from the company’s founding in 1905. It was also one of the first mass-produced watches to be chronometer-certified, which established Rolex’s superior quality and reliability standards.

It’s amazing how much you can learn about a man from his watch. Like Capone’s early rise to power, the Prince played a powerful role in the rise of the Rolex brand. And just as Capone placed importance on his style and appearance, the Prince was largely made for style and luxury. In the same way Capone rose up from his humble beginnings to become a man of status, the Rolex Prince itself became a status symbol.

It makes you wonder—does the man choose the watch, or does the watch choose him?


Images ©: Header; Wikimedia Commons. 1; Chrono24.

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  • Al capone wore a vest pocket watch to all 24th gold I believe it was a patek. It had an Elephant carved on the front or back. His pinky ring came up for auction. He paid $50.000 in 1920s ASAP OF 2015 It Is Appraised At Over $300.000 Dollars It’s A 100th square shaped diamond with smaller sword shaped diamonds on the sides of the 24th platinum ring art decor style. ..stunning

    • A gold pocket watch was found in Capone’s office, but there’s not enough information to say who made it. We’ll keep looking, and thanks for the info!

  • Al Capone said theres no worse than a wrong guy whos right . I li that.

  • interesting that he wore a Rolex, not an Italian brand., as he pushed to bring more Italian products in Chicago.

  • Fairly well done article. Missing however was facts about Capone’s actual watch: The year it was made? Its number of jewels?
    What about its watch band?Was it gold or fabric? And finally, how many did the watch maker produce of this exact item? And
    finally, was the watch as good as one made today? Most PROBABLY not? So why would one was a watch that is probably
    inferior to one produced today? I would prefer a 2017 Rolls to one made in the mid twenties. Which one would you prefer
    to drive?

    Jay blender

    • Research didn’t yield a lot of specifics regarding the watch’s make. We do know that Capone’s son sold the watch through Sotheby’s and it’s possibly been sold since, but not a lot of paper trail, unfortunately.

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