Rolex Versus Timex

By Staff

When you read the title to this article, you probably thought, “Well, it’s about time!” For the first 260 posts here at Frugal Dad I’ve avoided mention of the world’s most ostentatious brand–the Rolex.  And while I will poke a little fun at the Swiss masterpiece, this post is really more about the value of time (pun intended).  Both the Rolex and Timex brand of watches are essentially nothing more than a time-keeping accessory.  The two models shown below (the one on the right is my personal Timex) will set you back $27,300 and $29.99, respectively.

Rolex ($27,300), Timex ($29.99)
Photo by Frugal Dad

“I Have Finally Arrived”

The idea for this post was sparked by two events, one very recent, and one from a long time ago.  Last week I received an insert with our Sunday paper for a jewelry store.  The cover of their advertisement featured the $27,300 Rolex watch, and the amount was just staggering to me. It reminded me of a time a few years ago when we still had expanded cable television. I was watching some silly show about housewives in Orange County.  One of them was having a 40th birthday celebration on a private yacht.  Her husband gave her a $40,000 Rolex as her birthday present, and she turns to the camera and says, “I’m forty years old, and I have finally arrived!“  How sad.  Here was a successful businesswoman, mother of two kids, and someone blessed with more money and resources than most will see in a lifetime, but she had not “arrived” until receiving a Rolex watch.

How Valuable is Your Time?

I suppose there isn’t anything stopping me from buying the Rolex on the cover of that ad.  Well, assuming a bank would loan me $27,300!  But let’s assume for a minute that I did in fact have that much money sitting around, money that I had earned from working a full time job.  How many hours would I have to work to pay for something like that? Well, let’s assume I earn $15 an hour.  Without considering taxes, I would have to work 1,820 hours to buy that watch.  That is nearly a year of full-time work! Of course, most people even in the market for something that expensive make much more per hour, so let’s more than triple that hourly wage just for sake of argument.  At $50 per hour I would have to work 546 hours, or roughly 68 eight-hour days.  Assuming a five-day workweek, that represents about 13 weeks of work.  Again, this does not account for taxes, so you would have to actually earn much more, or work much longer, to accumulate this sum of money after taxes.

Is It Really Worth It?

Of course you expect me to say no, but let’s look objectively at the benefits of owning such an exquisite piece of jewelry:

  • People will think you could afford it, and therefore assume you are rich.
  • You are virtually guaranteed to be on time to dinner dates, when you are not working, of course.
  • You may be the only one in your family with an insurance policy on something you wear.
  • After annual round trips to Switzerland for calibration and servicing you will be the proud owner of one of the most well-traveled watches of all time.

Still not much there worth forking over $27,300 for, is there? I think I’ll hold onto my Timex, and save the remaining $27,270.01 for my kids’ college funds, my own retirement fund, and to build an emergency fund.  Even if I had an extra $27k I could think of a hundred charities I would rather support, or dozens of strangers I could help, rather than spending that kind of money on a watch.

Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with having nice things.  However, there are some things that just seem a little too nice, and are often purchased only for status or show.  For those things, I think there are more worthy uses of our exchange of time and resources, but ultimately it is a personal decision.