Rolex Why are young people buying Rolexes?
Their fathers would have waited until they were forty – or older! – to buy their first Rolex. But these days, much younger people are ready to spend thousands on the right accessory for their wrist
You don’t have to be an opera lover to wear a Rolex, even though the brand identity – based around tennis, golf, horse riding, sailing, classic cinema and classical music – is associated with elite pursuits. Rolexes pair equally well with the tattoos, gold teeth and robust language of rap. Trendy young people are increasingly prepared to spend eye-watering sums to acquire these symbols of excellence and status.
According to a survey carried out in spring 2022 at the request of the EPHJ by MIS Trends, “Six out of ten young adults [aged 16 to 25] consider a watch to be an object that represents a certain style”. Another statistic that watchmakers will appreciate is that 14% of young people expect, within the next two years, to invest over CHF 5,000 in a high-end watch. But the competition is fierce. Rolex is already their preferred watch brand, and holds a convincing majority of 55% (compared with 35% in the previous survey from 2016). What is more, 16% of young people who own a watch have a Rolex.
On TikTok, the social media platform favoured by the younger generations, Rolex Love is a phenomenon. The #rolex hashtag garnered 3.1 billion views in 2022 (compared with 375.2 million in 2020). For example, two years ago rappers Ayo and Teo rapped about their love of bling and Rolexes (preferably liberally encrusted with diamonds), and what the brand represented for them: luxury and success. With the hashtag #rollexchallenge, TikTokers are invited to set their own dance to the words: “I just want a Rollie, Rollie, Rollie with a dab of ranch (…) I just want some ice on my wrist so I look better when I dance.”
To understand why young people love Rolex so much, you have to look at rap culture. The look cultivated by rappers focuses on displaying their material success, often in the face of underprivileged beginnings. Yes, they can have nice things too – f*** the bourgeoisie! Gold teeth and gold chains, fancy cars and, of course, luxury watches. These days, you don’t have to wear your Rolex with spit-polished brogues – the latest sneakers are perfectly acceptable.
Rolex: a genuine investment
German Youtuber Montanablack didn’t think twice about having the Rolex logo tattooed on his cheek. In a video filmed with retailer Marc Gebauer, they compare their personal watch collections, and Montanablack’s Game Boy Pokemon collection. They try to guess the value of their items, depending on their rarity, and how much profit they have made (which is the entire point of collecting them).
It’s important to realise that young people have identified Rolex watches as a good investment. 28-year-old Laurenz confirms it: “I decided to buy a Rolex because you can never lose money, even if it’s second-hand. It’s not like a car, which loses value.” Elias (20) adds: “I have no intention of selling my Datejust. But it’s reassuring to see that its resale price is higher than the retail price.”
Testimonials: a Rolex Datejust at the age of 19
Elias tells us the story of his purchase. “I started to get interested in Rolex when I saw footballers and famous Youtubers wearing them – I watched a lot of videos by Marc Gebauer. I’m also fortunate to have a bit more money than other people my age, thanks to what I do on Spotify. I had a couple of strokes of luck that meant I had the opportunity to buy a Datejust a few days before my 20th birthday. At the time I was working as an au pair for a Swiss family, and the mother and father both worked in the watch industry. They encouraged me to visit a watch boutique, which I would never have dared to do otherwise. L’Emeraude in Lausanne had exactly the Datejust I wanted, and it was available immediately! It was a wonderful surprise and an amazing 20th birthday gift, when I was expecting to be on a waiting list for several years. Now I’m hoping to buy myself a Pepsi!”
Elias at Emerald © Yannick Nardin/WorldTempus
And a vintage Datejust at the age of 27!
“I’ve dreamed of owning a nice watch since I was 17 – thanks to the influence of my mum and my uncle, who each have several. I saved up and held off for a long time. Should I invest such a large sum in a watch, or should I save it? Last year I turned 27, and I finally bought a Datejust on Chronext for 7,000 euros. It was made the same year I was born, which makes it even more valuable to me,” Laurenz explains.
But do these young collectors wear their luxury watches? “I work in a sports shop so I don’t wear it there. Seeing a sales assistant wearing a luxury item like that probably wouldn’t go down well,” Laurenz says. Elias, however, doesn’t have a problem wearing his. He’s kept it low-key and has refrained from sharing pictures on social media, but he admits that the word has spread. Most of his friends know he spent several thousand euros on a watch, and they’re intrigued. His two brothers – aged 20 and 34 – were fascinated by Elias’s purchase and are both planning to buy a Rolex for themselves.
Laurenz and his Datejust © Laurenz