Can A Watch Tell More Than Time?

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I saw a comment the other day from a friend on Facebook who’s travelling in Africa about having a large amount of cash on him for unexpected contingencies and the problem was: he didn’t have any.   Apparently access to banks and his accounts weren’t possible while he was traveling.

So what options did he have? I am very selective in the types of gear and equipment I use. Color, brand, material, each of the defining characteristics of the piece are very important when you take a serious look at what you own. Everything I own has more than one use or I don’t own it. Take, for example, my belt. My belt is firstly a belt, but also serves as a lash for gear, a restraint to tie someone, and a tourniquet. For my lifestyle – not style, but lifestyle – it serves at least four independently important functions. A watch represents a commodity to me as well. I wear the Deep Sea Sea-Dweller from Rolex. In addition to giving me the current time, my watch serves as a navigation aid, a compass, and immediate equity. Unlike my penniless friend in Africa, I can be anywhere in the world and convert my Rolex to cash or comparable commodity – immediately – if needed or necessary. My ability to do that was a very important characteristic when choosing the watch. You can’t do that with other brands. While there are brands more prestigious and there are brands more valuable, there are no brands more recognizable globally – at all levels of commerce – than Rolex. Whether with a criminal or a king, and through my travels I have spent time with both, you can buy things with a Rolex that you cannot buy with another brand of watch. Whether it is something tangible like a car to drive away from a deteriorating political climate – like the unrest in Egypt during the Arab Spring – or something more intangible like access – buying your freedom at a border crossing – Rolex manifests commerce.

All relationships are based in commerce: whether you are trying to get lucky, looking for a sandwich, or buying your freedom, it is all just different levels of commerce. A criminal element isn’t going to understand bartering with a one-off boutique watch or an Audemars Piguet or Jaeger-LeCoultre: it is not instantly recognizable, so it becomes no different than a counter-top G-Shock at that point. Everyone understands Rolex. World. Wide. Regardless of station or education or status it is an understood commodity for commerce.

One school of thought is that expensive watches bring added scrutiny. The idea that “they will just kill you and take your Rolex” is a myth. I’ve bartered for my freedom before and they’re not killing you for your Rolex: they’re killing you to kill you. And when a person kills you for the sake of killing you: you’re screwed. Your watch won’t change that. Your watch becomes the spoil of that lost war.

But that kind of killing is rare, even in places where killing takes place all the time. When and if I’m using my DSSD to buy access and passage across a border or a vehicle in Africa I’m well past the environment of wanton killing for the purposes of taking my watch – that’s a random act. That is why I don’t always “wrist” my watch: based upon the surrounding environment – even here in the United States – I will “pocket” my watch. I am more interested in having it for the straight up good-environment-gone-bad-and-need-a-usable-vehicle-and-shady-border-crossing-to-get-out-of-Dodge use.

Your watch is just another tool in the toolbox so use your choice to set yourself up for success. For those of us that travel – like my friend in Africa – that choice can be a very important one.

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