Explore my reasoning behind strapping the Rolex Datejust to my wrist everyday for three decades...
Everyone remembers their first expensive purchase. Something a little extravagant, non-essential. That thing you promised yourself you would have when you felt sufficiently well funded to be able to do it without walking out of the store and saying “What the hell have I just done?’ For some, it’s an expensive pair of shoes, even a new car. For me, it was the day I stepped into the official Rolex agent and bought a stainless steel Rolex Datejust.
In 1987, Margaret Thatcher’s Britain was telling us all to buy the Guards Red Porsche 911’s, that red braces were really cool, along with shoulder pads. And mobile phones were around the corner. That level of obvious wealth display never really sits well with me. However, as a young lad doing well in a busy car sales showroom, it seemed a shame not to celebrate. And I had always wanted one…
I’d stand for some time looking through the window. Day Date? Bi-metal or stainless steel? Or even a Submariner? With wrists the thickness of a sparrow’s ankle, the Submariner was kicked into the long grass early on. The Bi-metal Day Date was looking appealing, though there was something about the gold that nagged at me.
I did have one other problem. Right around the time that I decided I could possibly afford it, a deluge of cheap knock-off Rolexes hit the shores of the UK from Benidorm and Torremolinos. Just ten quid off the man on the beach, to the untrained eye, that bimetal day date or Submariner looks ever so cool in the dim light of a busy bar. Every time I mentioned to anyone I was thinking of a Rolex, I was laughed at by people who just didn’t get it.
So the decision was made. An all steel Datejust it was to be, with a Jubilee bracelet. Subtle, understated and never seen on a Spanish beach for sale for ten quid.
A few days later, I’m walking out of the Rolex showroom, the Datejust feeling slightly heavy on my wrist, tucked under my shirt cuff, carrying the small carrier bag with the dark green box inside betraying the fact that I had just bought a new a Rolex. There was, of course, the slight pang of buyer’s remorse, coupled with a few nervous glances over my shoulder to see if I was about to be mugged. Well, I was quite young.
In the cockpit of a Robinson R44 Helicopter over Yorkshire, England (Not visible but no prizes for guessing what's on my wrist...)
In the three decades that have followed, my Rolex has never been far from my wrist. Worn virtually every day of my life, apart from a short period when the winder crown shaft needed replacing, it has sat there ticking gently away. We’ve had a few adventures together, perhaps in the tradition of an explorer watch.
The Porsche 911SC owned by Andy McKenna at home in Geilo, Norway.
Not quite winning Wimbledon against Federer, or climbing Everest. It has though, been pretty much everywhere I’ve been over the years. Water skiing and jet skiing in salt water, it lived under the cuff of my wetsuit. When asked why on earth I would do that, the answer is simple. It’s waterproof to 600 feet, still ticking long after I would have stopped breathing. It's stainless steel. Why leave it in the car glovebox and risk it being stolen?
Snow skiing, ice driving in Scandinavia and the odd spell of motorsport have all been included in there. In fact, it’s been many years since I took that dark green box from the cupboard and looked at the suede interior and paperwork.
So what made me buy a Rolex and why haven’t I had more watches on my wrist since then?
I bought one because of Jackie Stewart. Simple as that. As a kid growing up he was winning his third world Formula One title and personal sponsorship in motorsport was just taking off. Over the years, his role as a Rolex ambassador and his level of professionalism is something I’ve always admired. It was always going to be a Rolex.
Sir Jackie Stewart - The main inspiration for owning a Rolex (Naturally wearing a modern-day Rolex Daytona 116500LN)
As for why I haven’t had more watches, Rolex or otherwise. Well as the years have passed, I have grown ever fonder of my stainless steel friend. As the memories of things we’ve shared together, good and bad, have accumulated, I’ve had the chance to flip Daytonas for a profit and never glanced back. I have an affection for Bremont, though little desire to own one. I feel I would be betraying a trust if he was suddenly salted away in his green box.
Those scratches, marks and dinks are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Today as I write this, he's still going strong. I have, though, moved to the point where I’m OK with wearing another watch. My Datejust knows after three decades that he will always be my best friend, the one I compare all the other watches in the future against. So I know that there are other great watches out there I should really set out to own. I will never, ever have him polished to remove the scratch on the face, or the fine lines around the case and the clip on the underside of the wrist. They are the crows feet of wristwatch ownership, as defined as the lines around Jackie Stewart’s eyes as he recalls his friends who are no longer with us. It stays as it is.
Actually, there was one other period when my Rolex was off my wrist. My eldest son, now 23 years old, used to go to sleep as a two-year-old toddler with the Datejust held against his ear on his pillow, softly ticking as the sweep handmade is eyes go heavy. We were talking only recently about how he remembers that. And how today, he’s now shaping up to walk into a Rolex showroom himself sometime soon...
Find out more about Neill and Historic Racer here: http://www.historicracer.com/
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