The Accidental Rolex

rolexI never wanted a diamond ring. I never wanted a Louis Vuitton handbag. I never wanted a Rolex.

Oh I love nice things, and I’m fortunate to have many wonderful possessions. But I prefer understated nice. No name brands yelling from my purse or my wrist.

Ariel’s question came from the blue yonder:

“Do you want Opa’s Rolex?”

“You’re kidding.”

“Daddy doesn’t want it. I don’t wear watches. Young people wear watches anymore. We have cell phones.”

“His gold Rolex?”


I needn’t have asked. My father-in-law, who died last year at 97, had one Rolex, his only good watch. Usually he wore a battered old timepiece, the stitching coming loose on the wristband, a little rubber band holding it together, like the safety pins that held up his pants as he lost weight. But whenever he thought an occasion was important, he put on his gold watch. The last time he wore it was to his wife’s funeral; six weeks before his own.

Ariel pulled the battered green box from her suitcase. A swoosh of family memories escaped when I opened the box. Decades’ worth of birthdays and anniversaries were there: Gene winding the stem, ceremoniously putting it on, usually with the gold cufflinks, often with a clipping in his hand related to the event at hand.

He bought it in 1972, in Switzerland. The seriously outdated warranty is still folded up in the box.

Slim at six millimeters, the watch originally came with a brown alligator band. In the late nineties, I helped him get it repaired—also in Switzerland where we lived then. A new alligator band was too expensive, he thought, and so now has a simpler brown leather band.

I wound it and put it to my ear.

Tick. Tick.

Even on the smallest hole the band is a little large for me, somehow surprising since he’d wasted to practically nothing at the end. But I have a small wrist and I can fix the band.

Unlike little bitty old-fashioned women’s watches, the face is an elegant 32 millimeters, and easy to read.

I’ll have to have it serviced. Who can I trust with it?

 I never wanted a Rolex, but now you couldn’t get this one away from me.

These things are, I suppose, all about context. If the circumstances were right, I would probably even be okay with a diamond ring. 

About Karen Ray

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