Watch Of The Week: The Rolex That Lived Up To Seven Years of Anticipation
I wanted it. I saved for it. And I was a nervous wreck that it’d be a disappointment.
Originally published by Trevor Gilliand on HODINKEE, January 31st 2022
In Watch of the Week, we invite HODINKEE staffers and friends to explain why they love a certain watch. This week’s columnist is our very own social media manager.
Seven years ago, I fell headfirst down the horological rabbit hole. Now, seven years doesn’t exactly make me a seasoned veteran in this hobby. But it does represent a quarter of my lifetime, and I believe it entitles me to rose-colored memories of the Good Ol’ Days even when they weren’t that long ago.
You know the days, don’t you? The days when you could walk into a watch boutique and, you know, actually find the watch you were looking for?
There I was, an early twenty-something in Atlanta with no prior AD relationship or purchase history (and no financial means whatsoever with which to start one), walking in off the street to see the pieces I had been reading about on HODINKEE ‘in the metal’ for the first time. From the moment I stepped inside this fancy Buckhead boutique, I was transported to a world of glossy sales counters and free champagne.
And then I saw the Rolex display case.
As with many budding enthusiasts, the brand represented my north star on the journey to owning a “nice” watch. Long before I knew the difference between a quartz and a mechanical timepiece (or even cared to), I knew the Rolex name. I still remember the satisfying click of the clasp as the salesman slid that first Oyster Perpetual on my wrist. I couldn’t believe the scene: Me, a broke college student, wearing a Rolex for the first time in my life. Goodbye bargain bin, hello luxury.
I must have tried on two dozen watches, each one glowing more remarkably than the last under the strategically placed lighting above me. I was swimming in a sea of Submariners, GMTs, and even a Daytona (which they offered me – at a discount!), but my eyes kept wandering back to the Oyster Perpetual, which I thought had an understated elegance.
What others may have been tempted to write off as boring, I found confident. This watch knew exactly what it was. There was no hiding behind sub-dials, precious metals, or intricate complications. It was a simple timekeeping device, no more and no less.
I left that afternoon having purchased nothing. But in that short visit, everything about my perception of the buying experience and what I wanted in a watch had changed.
Fast forward to 2021.
The dream of owning a Rolex was becoming a reality. I had long since settled on what I wanted, and for the first time, I finally had the money in my pocket to get it. The only obstacle: Inventory.
The Good Ol’ Days, it seemed, were as good as gone. I won’t bother dwelling on the subject of Rolex’s supply chain. As manager of HODINKEE’s social channels and a contributor to site moderation, I’m well-aware of your thoughts on the matter (I’ve read over a thousand of them). Ultimately, if I wanted to source the right watch, I was going to have to set my sights on the secondary market.
The pre-owned market has never scared me. Given the current horological climate, buying Rolex in the secondary space has become all but a necessity. For me, the bigger deal was the gravity of what the purchase represented. After all, this wasn’t just any watch, this was the watch. The one I’d been chasing nearly my entire time in this hobby. Would buying my first luxury watch feel, well, less-than-luxurious without all the pomp and circumstance of a boutique visit?
The day my Rolex arrived, the anticipation was overwhelming. Such an inconsiderate guest, anxiety. I was a few final moments from checking a big-ticket item off my bucket list, and all I could think about was being disappointed.
And then at once I saw it: The vehicle carrying my beloved luxury piece was making its way down the sleepy, suburban street. Listen, I wasn’t expecting a limo driven by Jean-Frédéric Dufour to pull into the driveway with my very pedestrian watch in tow. I knew there wouldn’t be a celebratory marching band or confetti shower to commemorate the occasion. But I was not expecting the FedEx equivalent of a Model-T Ford. This truck was, by conservative estimates, a million years old. It lurched down the road, rusted metal clanging and popping, exhaust pipes coughing, until it came to a screeching halt outside the house. An exasperated driver disembarked and sprinted up the front lawn to place the box in my hand.
I had waited seven years for this moment. In an instant, it was here and gone.
I set the package on the counter and stared at it for what felt like hours. And then, at last, I reached inside.
I grabbed the watch, slid it on. Then I heard the click. That familiar, satisfying click of the clasp.
The fluorescent bulbs in the kitchen weren’t nearly as bright as those in the boutique, but the watch still shimmered all the same. The contrast of color between the black dial and surrounding stainless steel case was mesmerizing. Relief washed over me. There it was, a 36mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Discreet, unassuming, simple. Everything I wanted it to be.
Since then, I haven’t worn much else. Why would I? I’ve yet to find a scenario in which this watch feels out of place.
While the large-wristed among us will likely find 36mm a bit too diminutive, for me it represents the sweet spot for a piece of this style and purpose. When I need to tell the time, it’s there. When I don’t, it easily disappears under a jacket sleeve. I am constantly delighted by its ability to hide in plain sight in any situation. Admittedly, my tattoos probably help to divert attention, but the notion of having a secret luxury that only I’m allowed to enjoy endears me to the watch even more.
I still think about those Submariners and Daytonas (I am only human). There is no “one watch to rule them all” in my fickle enthusiast’s mind. But as prices climb and my priorities shift, I feel satisfied with my decision should I never have the opportunity to own another Rolex. This piece will surely look as timeless on my wrist 50 years from now as it does today.
In the end, I didn’t need the glossy display cases or the charming salespeople. All I needed was the world’s clunkiest FedEx truck and a reminder that sometimes, less can truly be more.
Photos by Andrew Turner