Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cash on Your Wrist: Rolex as Currency

Rolex in the Movies

Cash on Your Wrist
Rolex as Currency 

The virtual currency Bitcoin reached a record high today, shooting past $17,000, from $800 a year ago. Turns out, this so-called "invisible money" is a great way to store value and a great way to transfer that value across the globe thanks to the Internet.

Unlike Bitcoin, my Rolex is far from being invisible. But once on my wrist, it is a liquid asset that can easily cross borders. As a transoceanic pilot for a major airline, I have a wallet full of currencies  from yens to euros, pesos to pounds. I pay with credit cards first, cash second. My last resort is the Rolex on my wrist. When it comes to watches, Rolex is the most famous brand in the world, and it maintains exceptional value.

Philippe Cousteau, Jr., pictured above and below, wears a Rolex Sea-Dweller. Cousteau, who is the grandson of the legendary oceanic explorer Jacques Cousteau, told Bloomberg last month: "I was working on a project in Singapore, and an ex-[Special Air Service] soldier told me to always wear a nice watch: Don’t flaunt it, but have it with you. 

"He had a stainless-steel Rolex and wore it everywhere. He told me that no matter where you travel, a good watch  like a Rolex  is like currency and is something you can always use to barter to get yourself out of trouble. 

"You always hear 'never have anything nice on expedition,' but that soldier’s advice was smart and practical so I always wear a 'tradable' watch that can help get me out of a bind."

While I did walk in the streets of Singapore wearing a Rolex like Philippe Cousteau, I never had to use it for emergency. But the idea was depicted in several movies through the years. 

Here are some of the films that show the power of Rolex as currency. (The list doesn't pretend to be exhaustive.) Unfortunately, some scenes don't lend well for still pictures, so not all Rolex shots could be included. 

"Bourne Legacy" (2012)

Jeremy Renner who plays Aaron Cross gains passage onto a boat by using a gold Daytona. Below we see the boat captain with his new watch.

"Marathon Man" (1976)

The character played by Dustin Hoffman, Thomas Levy, uses a Rolex GMT-Master to pay for a taxi fare. Hoffman only wants a dime back to make a phone call. The scene is pictured above this article and also briefly in the Rolex commercial that aired during the Oscars this year. 

"Rain Man" (1988)

After finding out his autistic brother can count a deck of cards, Charlie Babbitt, played by Tom Cruise, pawns his yellow-gold Day-Date to buy suits for him and his brother (Dustin Hoffman) and a seat at a blackjack table at the Caesars Palace Casino.

"National Treasure" (2004)

Benjamin Gates, played by Nicolas Cage, gives a waitress his Rolex so he can get $100 from her cash register. "It's called a Submariner. I dive with it," he tells her. "It's actually quite valuable." 

"Leaving Las Vegas" (1995)

Alcoholic Ben Sanderson, played by Nicolas Cage, pawns his Daytona to sustain his addiction. 

"Home Alone" (1990)

Kevin's mom Kate McCallister played by Catherine O'Hara said she would sell her soul to the devil to get a seat on an airplane to get home. She ended up trading some jewelry and her two-tone Datejust to an elderly couple for their seats at Paris airport.

"Unknown" (2011)

Dr. Martin Harris played by Liam Neeson suffers memory loss after a taxi crash in Berlin. He gives his cab driver Gina (played by Diane Kruger) a Sea-Dweller Deepsea for information and a bed for the night. "It's worth at least 5000 euros. Come on. Feel the weight of it. It's the real thing," he tells her.  

Whether traded for some emergency cash, a place to stay for the night, or something completely intangible  like the two examples below  a Rolex on your wrist always commands a powerful bargain. 

The Fugitive Kind (1960)

The clip below shows Marlon Brando's character Valentine Xavier use his Rolex as a token of his independence. "So you take this Rolex.... That's my message to you and the pack you run with," Brando says. "I run with nobody." He removes his Rolex and hands it to Carol Cutrere (Joanne Woodward).

James Cameron

Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron, who after "Avatar" became an activist for Indigenous rights, tells the story of when he visited the Kayapo people, a tribe that lives deep in the Amazon. And he made friends with the chief of that tribe.

The chief gave the film director some gifts, "great gifts that were meaningful to him," explained Cameron. "And I thought, 'What do I have that has that kind of value that I could give him?' I couldn't think of anything...

"...except my watch that had been with me for 20 years." 

Jake’s Take:

Another excellent interesting story by Danny with a fascinating premise… I want to add a few thoughts on this subject.

Rolex is not only a form of currency as Danny pointed out, but Rolex is like a country in-and-of-itself, and its currency is in the form of their watches, much like the U.S. greenback is an international currency. 

In my own experience over the years, it has never ceased to amaze me as to how well known Rolex watches are internationally. Since Rolex watches historically hold their value much better than just about any other asset you can purchase, they offer an interesting long-term value proposition. 

For instance, If you bought a Rolex Submariner in 1964 it would have cost you $195. If you simply put it in a drawer and pulled it out today, you could easily sell it for $10,000. If you bought a Submariner ten years earlier in 1954 and put it away in a drawer it could easily be worth $100,000 today. That is impressive performance.

I remember when I was in college, I was in an economics class, and we read a book that mentioned how the value of any given currency was fundamentally based upon “the faith society has in the maintenance of social order.” In other words, in a country that had an unstable social structure, their currency would be weak in the international market. But if a country maintained a strong social order, its currency would benefit accordingly.

Since Rolex is based in Switzerland, its stability has indirectly been tied to the Swiss Franc, which has historically been a very strong contender. And if you ever visit Switzerland, you realize they maintain a very strong social order.