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Should you flash your watch in finance?

When to wear a Rolex to an interview or client meeting, or not

Owning an ostentatious watch when you work in an investment bank is not as straightforward as it seems. As we’ve written about here before, being the conspicuous owner of a watch that costs $20k when you’re an intern earning $15k for the summer, implies the sort of family money that might discourage some people from befriending you. And yet flashing your flash watch in other circumstances might be a net positive.

If you’re wondering whether to put your watch on or to take it off, some academics at Swiss University, USI (Università della Svizzera Italiana) have fortunately addressed this precise question in their latest piece of research. Noting that UBS suggested its staff wear watches in 2010 because they convey "reliability and great care for punctuality," the academics say it’s not actually that straightforward. When you’re wearing a collectable watch in a work context, people may judge you negatively as a result.

Having spoken to numerous watch-wearers and scoured a forum frequented by watch-fans, the academics suggest several circumstances in which wearing a Rolex is best avoided and others when it’s probably advisable.

If you’re attending an interview and you already own a Rolex, for example, one individual on the forum suggested that you’re probably best-off putting it on. “Wear your Rolex on your interviews. It would be way more uncomfortable if they didn't see it until after you started a new position,” he said. “At that point they'll probably just assume it's a new purchase and bad feelings could result around the office if they think you bought it after the job offer. Certainly would make some bosses feel like maybe they paid you too much.”

Equally, if you work for a job where you’re paid for performance and wealth therefore signifies success, a prominent Rolex should do you good. "When someone sees $7k on your wrist it also tells them you are a well-established executive in your industry, not some newb or retread trying to keep up in a $200 Seiko,” said another commentator. Portfolio managers in Rolexes would therefore seem to be a power-move.

However, if you work in a role where you’re charging clients’ fees or are trying to save them money, you probably want to leave your big watch at home. "Some of my customers that are working in the insurance industry take-off their Rolex prior to a client meeting. They are afraid that the watch could send a misleading message, for example, that they make a lot of money and that they might want to rip off their clients," a watch seller informed the academics.

Best comment picked by the author
Wearing something like a Rolex just oozes arrogance....

The final school of thought says you can wear your Rolex irrespective of the situation if you have the correct attitude. The academics encountered people who said that Rolex-wearing is their "hobby and passion" rather than a "show of affluence." If this is the case, they said you can wear your Rolex in all circumstances. Others noted that most people don't know enough about watches to judge or care anyway.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • pl
    3 April 2022

    In banking / asset management, a standard Rolex (modern stainless sports) is so common and unremarkable that if it makes a difference in how people perceive you, then it is an enormous red flag that you do not want to work with that team. They are either abusive towards juniors or have a chip on their shoulders about wealth, both of which are things you want to stay miles away from.

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