Dotty press release from Rolex


In 1973 I bought a genuine Rolex Oyster wristwatch in Singapore for £60, after three days negotiation between two dealers. That’s how long it took to beat them down from £85 and I walked away with the shiny new clock, minus the strap, the luxurious cloth bag and the hinged box.

I had back-packed through Europe the Middle East, India, and South-East Asia en route to Australia, often sleeping rough or in ‘hotels’ which cost 25p per night. My five month journey cost £300 ex watch, so buying the Oyster was a foolish move: a youthful yearning for a status symbol which I have now fortunately grown out of.

With the heavy timepiece on my wrist I would bury myself in my worn sleeping bag to watch its hands tick round in the dark. Looking back I would rather have had a good meal in my stomach each night for the next six months instead.

It wasn’t long before the Oyster ‘perpetual’ stopped being so and, three months later, I took it to a Rolex dealer in London’s Regent Street, because it kept losing time. They wanted to charge me £22 to service it which I thought a nonsense: that was a third of its cost and the damn thing was not even six months’ old. ‘It is a timepiece worn by professionals who have them serviced as a matter of course,’ a rather pompous salesman told me.

So would he discourage potential customers who were not about to use the watch ‘professionally’ I asked. ‘We have a large and expert world wide service staff to provide for,’ I was told.

Such expertise is not so obvious today: a press release about the Rolex Fastnet Race was sent to me this morning, headlined: ‘WIND BRINGS ROLEX FASTNET FLEET TOWARDS RACE FINISH.’