Are you corrupt if you wear a Rolex?
Over the last few weeks there have been articles published centering on that a tell tale sign of a corrupt politician is that they wear a Rolex. The antics of former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill), Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, and former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford have not helped the perception because all three found themselves in hot water because of taking bribes, and yes, some of their bribes were Rolex watches.
MSNBC contributor Timothy Noah pours fuel to the fire by writing that, “For any politician who didn’t enter office a wealthy man, nothing says ‘I take bribes’ like a Rolex watch.” Noah continues that not every politician who wears a Rolex is bound for indictment, but the purpose of a Rolex is more than utilitarian but rather what economist Thorstein Veblen called “conspicuous waste,” an outward sign one does not need to work.
Columnist Mark Shields writes about the “Rolex gene,” opining that people who wear Rolex watches have “a male disorder that clouds men’s minds into believing that if they pay several thousand dollars for a wrist watch, other people will recognize them as successful and important…” Bernie Madoff, architect of a $65 million Ponzi scheme, was reported to have 17 Rolexes, including a chronograph that sold for $63,500.
Perhaps it is because everyone recognizes, or thinks they recognize a Rolex watch. With Rolex’s prevalence in shopping malls and high end shopping districts, everyone has seen either a real or fake Rolex watch. Rolex stratospheric pricing as compared to other mall watches sets early in many psyches that Rolex is an expensive, unattainable watch. When people come into money either by unplanned fame and unplanned influx of income, that one of the first things people see, other than maybe a new car, is a Rolex watch.
What these columnists and pundits miss is that quality costs and that for many, purchasing a Rolex watch is an ephemeral affair because of the beauty of having something mechanical and trustworthy on ones wrist. For some, wearing a Rolex is part of their show, but for most, people wear a Rolex because they want something mechanical and because a Rolex speaks to them. Just ask the Dali Lama, Chuck Yeager, James Cameron, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Paul Newman, Elvis Presley, Sir Edmund Hillary, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andy Warhol, Eric Clapton, Jean-Claude Killy, Sophia Loren, Martin Scorsese, Pablo Picasso, Sir Jackie Stewart, all people who wore Rolex watches (and who were not sponsored by Rolex to wear them.) In short, the “Rolex gene,” or a telltale sign of a corrupt politician is a Rolex is just pure hogwash…
— Featured Photo Credit: Mark Taylor from Rockville, USA / CC BY & Cees de Boer / CC0.