Do You Really Need a Rolex?

By in Saving, Wealth | 20 comments

“Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.” Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman would fit in well with the “simplicity-frugal movement” of today. And the famous Walden Pond, by Thoreau inspired me to appreciate the simplest pleasures in life. Both Whitman and Thoreau’s writing exude self possession, contentment, and the joy of living. This may sound a bit idealistic, but in the last reality, isn’t it really what most of us look for; wealth in life, not just money.

Do you need a Rolex?

Do You Really Need a Rolex, Sharlene?

A friend of mine, Sharlene really wants a Rolex watch. The prices start in the range of $10,000. The one in the image above can be found on sale for less than $50,000, yet retails for over $70,000.

Owning a Rolex is one of her important life goals. I am not sure why she wants one but if I had to guess, I assume she equates owning a Rolex with wealth, status, and prestige. Now, as far as I know, most watches today keep accurate time. Not only that, but there are some beauties for less than $10,000. In fact, give me $50.00 and I’m certain I can uncover a stylish and serviceable watch.

On the matter of wealth, status, and prestige, there is certainly nothing fundamentally wrong with those values.

Actually, with the prevalence of cell phones’ digital time functions, in some circles, watches are fading away. I’ve noticed that many of my daughter’s friends eschew the watch for the phone. Or, if they go for a watch, they’ll shell out the $300 for an apple watch. Yet, $300 is a far cry from $10,000.

So, on one end of the spectrum is Sharlene, a woman of middle income means dreaming of owning a Rolex, and on the other, my daughter (and many of her post 1980-born cohorts) relinquishing the watch to the “antique” bin. Well, who really cares? If Sharlene wants a Rolex, it certainly isn’t any of my business. And each of us has the right to choose our own goals and values.

Do You Really Need a Rolex-The Down Side of Wanting Too Much

“And when it comes to Quality of Life, you need to consider how the watch adds to the quality of your life. I used to earn about $200,000 a year at the peak of my corporate days, but I was miserable. My Quality of Life was poor.” ~Joshua Fields Millburn of The

The more things you want, the more difficult it is to fulfill those wants. If you are unsatisfied with what you have, and always want more, you won’t be content. So what is the solution, as there is usually something that most of us want? In life and money, if you are constantly striving and desiring more and more, you feel dissatisfied with what you already have. You divert attention from appreciating what you already have to focusing on what you lack. Jean Chatzky, in her book The Difference, offers a wonderful strategy for upping your happiness:

Compare yourself with those who have less than you, not those who have more.

If Sharlene compares herself with celebrities, she feels poor and inadequate. She spends a lot of her mental resources striving for a Rolex watch which costs 30% of her annual income.

This anecdote doesn’t suggest that there are good goals and bad goals, or that one should not have any goals. Yet, goals in life are important and need to be self determined. The best way to make goals and values work in your life and propel you forward is this:

  • Create goals that are reasonable and fit in with your values.
  • As you work towards your goals, enjoy the process. 
  • Stop to enjoy small successes.
  • Pay attention to the path along the way; the process of living and working. Journey is just as important as the destination.

You may find that the journey is just as much fun as actually reaching the goal. Spend some time with yourself, like Walt Whitman did. Think about what’s really important to you. Set some steps to get what you want. If you value having a Rolex and think it will give you pleasure, pick one up and find out for yourself. But along the way to saving and earning the cash to buy that Rolex, be sure and commit yourself to appreciating the steps along the way.

If you’re still pining for that Rolex watch, click here for a viable path towards wealth.

Check out the comments below. Some of the readers make a case for for answering “yes” when asked the question; “Do you need a Rolex?”

A version of this article was previously published and comments remain.


  1. I admit it, I am a Rolex owner! Is this the first step to recovery? Just before I achieved my financial freedom (38 Yrs. old), I bought a Rolex. To put this in context, I was doing extremely well financially. We had no debt except for a small ($50K) mortgage. We lived in our dream house on the country club with a view of the valley. Our children were in private school and we vacationed at the beach each summer. The cost 25+ years ago was a lot less than today. I was able to buy it at a reduced price, so it fit with my values. Your article makes me ask the question, would I do it again? No, because it is not important to me now.


    June 24, 2011

    • I was young once and wanted everything, the house the yacht the fancy car. I made tons of money and bought the house, the car but not the yacht since i live in the mountains. Right after I got it all I realized I had chased an empty dream. Then 2008 came and took it all away. I got my dose of humility and found peace and happiness. Stuff is just stuff. How is your inner peace?


      March 13, 2016

      • @Dutch-Another lovely example of the ups and downs of life. It’s unlikely you’ll find peace and contentment in material goods. But the basics are certainly important.

        Barbara Friedberg

        March 14, 2016

  2. My grandfather always had the same advice. Don’t spent on excess. It was funny because then he would show off his “Rolexx” that he got in Mexico!

  3. @Krantcents-Your last statement was key- It was important to you then, you could afford it, so why not? There is nothing inherently wrong with owning luxury goods. Just don’t go into debt living above your means (which you certainly didn’t).
    @Robert-I also have quite a few family memebers with “knock off” luxury goods. The streets of NYC are also filled with “rolexxs”. 🙂


    June 25, 2011

  4. I just don’t get it personally and do kind of see it as a bit morally wrong. I always think what $10k could do. Wouldn’t a plague on a children’s ward for a $10k donation give more of a show of prestige and wealth than a rolex ever would? I think so but in our consumerist world it does not…… Far too much money being wasted in this day and age.


    June 26, 2011

  5. Depends on what’s important to you right? If you want a Rolex so badly, get one, but make sure you have the means to get it without going into debt. If your friend got a Rolex by saving diligently, kudos to her!

    If she took out a loan, that’s not so smart.


    June 26, 2011

  6. @Kurt, Well thought out and self posessed response. If one avoids living for others he/she is wealthy. Hey, and thanks for keeping my literary references honest!
    @Forest, You sound like you are in my head. I abhor waste and excess. But on the other hand, freedom is spending one’s resources as they please. Maybe those with 10k to burn also give a lot to charity as well.
    @Moneycone, She hasn’t gotten the rolex yet, so I guess she hasn’t taken out a loan to get one! I guess everyone has their own priorities.


    June 26, 2011

  7. One of my first expensive watches was a Rolex with a stainless steel band, bought used from a co-worker when I was nineteen years old, working overseas and rolling in disposable income. It was later sold off during my poor college years to pay rent — curiously, I made money on the deal. Nowadays, I also have a Rolex, bought in a Shanghai market for a bargain price of $17, and it keeps better time than my first one.

    101 Centavos

    June 27, 2011

  8. Money is only a means to an end, it is not the end itself. If a Rolex is your end, so be it. I for one don’t get this quest for a nice watch at all, but I know enough people who cherish the status of a nice watch or who view a watch as a piece if jewelry. This reminds us that personal finance is as much about “personal” as it is about “finance”.

    I recently met a guy who worked for Audemars Piquet a while ago where he had to sell four million dollars worth of watches in a year. The corollary of this sales quota is that there are people out there who spend that much money on watches. Also, people who spend $750,000 on a watch still want to feel like they are getting a “deal.” It is a big world out there and it is hard to make sense of it sometimes, isn’t it?


    June 27, 2011

  9. @101, I loved that story. It is fascinating to hear the history of your experience with Rolex watches. You have more than most :
    @Ctreit, Beautifully written response. You clearly addressed the topic of perspective as well as “personal.” In reviewing the comments, I am reminded that one of the most beautiful parts of life is that we are all individuals with varying perspectives.


    June 27, 2011

  10. It’s a complex subject, Barb, since it depends deeply on personal preferences and desires. I too bought myself an expensive watch (not a Rolex and not as expensive as the one you mention, though), but it was something I had desired for years and I decided to save for it and make it come true on my 30th birthday. It was my present to myself and I loved it. I think if your life doesn’t revolve around having this kind of luxuries, it could be one of many other valid goals… and you should try to work on it while you still contribute to the other many and important financial goals you might have.
    In the end it all comes down to knowing what you want, why you want it and making things work out in order to get it. For me, having that watch meant many sacrifices along the way, so it has an additional value for me: it is living proof that when you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you can achieve it.

    Finanzas Personales

    July 26, 2011

  11. I totally agree with you 100% “Spend some time with yourself, like Walt Whitman did. Think about what’s really important to you. Set some steps to get what you want. And for whatever reason, if you value having a Rolex and think it will give you pleasure, pick one up and find out for yourself. But along the way to saving and earning the cash to buy that Rolex, be sure and commit yourself to appreciating every step along the way.” In addition your article DO YOU REALLY NEED A ROLEX? was very educational and informative. Thanks.


    January 20, 2015

  12. @Jermaine, thank you so much for writing in. We’re so inundated with consumer messages which imply that the more stuff we have, the happier we will be-and it’s just not true. I’m pleased you liked the article.

    Barbara Friedberg

    January 23, 2015

  13. I came across your article looking for a rare Rolex.

    I am an attorney that works in Oil & Gas. To me the only people that dont need a Rolex are those that have already made it financially.

    Like most successful attorneys/ business professionals/ bankers, I have multiple watches. These watches are important as social signals. I have a Rolex Datejust for court ($8k.) A Rolex Submariner for wearing with khakis ($12k.) A Tag Huer Aquaracer for sporting activities ($2k.) A Patek Phillipe Calatrava (the formal version with no second hand ($22k) for black tie events.) An Audimars Royal Oak for when I am around watch guys ($18k.) I also rent a Richard Mille 002 or 003 for when I am around Eurotrash/ serious monied clients–this watch retails for $400,000–I can rent it by the day for only $1200.

    The thing is that most of us get to the same level and all wear the same clothes. Every man in my firm wears dark suits from J Press with French blue shirts everyday. We also all wear Brooks Brothers repp stripe ties. We wear Alan Edmund Park Avenue shoes in black, if it is raining those of us from New England unapologetically wear duck boots with our suits. Everyone looks the same. Has the same haircut, uses the same Montblanc pen, types on the same Mac Air, uses the same LL Bean commuter bag, and the same cologne (Creed Aventus.)

    As a young attorney I thought that watches were where you could stand out and make a statement, in fact if you read watch enthusiast websites they say as much. The truth is that you really can’t stand out. When I go to an event, I am usually wearing the exact same watch as everyone else in the room.

    There are a very few exceptions to the above rule. Ocassionally a very preppy person–from a well known monied family–shows up wearing a Jäger Lecoultre Reverso (the flippable square watch preferred by polo players and JFK.) These watches run less than $25k and are the only watch they need. Also these people from old money might show up with their grandfathers Hamilton Khaki automatic–made in the US, before they sold out to Swatch. These watches were sold for a few hundred bucks at J Press, LL Bean, and the campus bookstores of most elite boarding schools/ Ivy & Little Ivy colleges from the 40’s to the mid 90’s.

    In today’s world watches unfortunately are more important than ever, at least to the old boys club in business. Few people today keep a driver with car service being so cheap, so there is no reason to spend outrageous money on a car, parking, and a driver. The elaborate alligator & baby seal fur brief case is considered inhumane and is no longer a way to flash your success. This leaves us to the only piece of jewelry acceptable for a man to wear besides his wedding ring– the luxury watch,

    Go ahead and spend the money on the watch, or you will not be viewed as being the right sort of person by people in the business world.

    Pierson v. Post

    March 13, 2016

  14. @ Pierson v. Post-Thanks for sharing your professional experience. There are many people who believe as you do and a very quick way to give the impression of wealth and prestige is through an expensive watch. Just don’t assume that everyone with a Rolex is a success. Anything can be bought on credit and there are many wealthy folks who eschew the outward trappings of wealth! Like anything else, there’s no right or wrong decision, whichever way to lean, just make your financial decisions with intention!

    Barbara Friedberg

    March 13, 2016

  15. I own a Cartier because it was a present from my parents. Here is my scoop: open your spreadsheet and put the value of the watch at the top. On the left put a column of years 2016, 2017 etc down wards, next to that put the rate of return you can get on your investments, then put the formula in the top cell two over from 2016 to the right of that and multiply your balance times the interest rate or yield you get. In the cell below that do the same but be sure to multiply the return times the new balance. So now you are compounding your interest. Pull those formulas down oh about 15 years (rows) That is what the watch is actually costing you over time. Then do some more soul searching. Hey do you already have 400k saved up for retirement? Well then go for it. If you have nothing yet, then by all means go to Walmart and get something for 20 bucks, better yet just check the cell phone you are already paying 100 a month for. I get 1.3% per month writing options that’s 15.3% per year. Luckily I already own everything I could want and I am grateful for every day I get to live. Can you be thankful for what you already have without a status symbol?


    March 13, 2016

    • @Dutch, Your response was right on target. I really appreciated your lesson on compounding investments for the readers. I’m sure you’re enjoying the watch that you received. There’s no wrong answer to what someone should spend their money on, just choices. Yet, as you mentioned, if you lack a good retirement nest egg, you should probably think twice before splurging on a Rolex!

      Barbara Friedberg

      March 14, 2016

  16. These sorts of purchases are crazy, but I can definitely see how Sharlene got there. I think you are spot on in that once she gets the Rolex, it will be onto the next thing that she’ll want that isn’t really necessary.

    Not sure on Sharlene’s age, but I agree with Dutch above. It could very well be the case that the cost of this watch could actually add up to over $1 million! Taking this $50K – $70K and investing it could return a hefty amount over the years. I think she needs to ask herself, is she willing to work and extra 3-5 years of her life just to pay for this piece of metal?

    Derek @ MoneyAhoy

    March 17, 2016

  17. @Derek, I don’t think that Sharlene has any clue how ‘compound interest’ works. She’s in her 50’s and doesn’t have too much longer to continue working. For her, it seems like she could better use the money in another way, such as for her future. That said, maybe she’s just ‘talking’ and won’t ever actually buy the watch. Derek, the story, along with the comments really shows the spectrum of how people view their spending choices. Thanks for you comment.

    Barbara Friedberg

    March 17, 2016

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