Jean Claude Killy on collecting Rolex watches

Jean Claude Killy on collecting Rolex watches

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My first Rolex was actually a gift. In 1965 the Genevese watchmaker awarded me a “Trophy of Precision”, a magnificent steel chronograph. This was literally spot on time as I won two gold medals for downhill and combination at the following year’s world championships at Portillo, a ski-resort on the borders of Chile and Argentina. Those medals will remain forever etched in my mind. Two years later, with my trusty Rolex still on my wrist, I brought three gold medals home with me from the Olympic Games at Grenoble. It was at this time in my career that I met André Heiniger, then President of Rolex, and his son Patrick, today’s President. A lasting friendship was born. Just like my loyalty to Rolex.

Not only do I wear a Rolex, but I also collect them and offer them as presents. I gave my brother a “Bubbleback” from my collection amongst other reasons because he prefers dress watches while I personally prefer sports models. I find there is a strange alchemy, an unusual symbiosis between my Rolex and me. It is something I attribute to the similarities between the sport I practiced and the watchmaker’s art. I believe I carried my art to a new summit just as Rolex has done in its area of excellence. My encounter with this watch Manufacturer with a capital “M” was inevitable, just a question of time.

I have always lived with time, often down to the nearest hundredth of a second. Just as for some, money is coined freedom, for me mastery of my own time allows me to have more of it to enjoy. Moreover I am well placed to know that the difference between winning and losing a race is often a question of a hundredth, indeed even a thousandth of a second. I remember the coach at Val d’Isère used to clock us to the nearest second when I was still a youth. About ten years later our runs were being electronically measured down to the thousandth of a second. This pursuit of precision is very much like the athlete’s pursuit of the perfect movement: the one that gives the perfect result. All hours are of the same length, there is only one true hour and it takes an exceptional watch to measure it. I pride myself on my punctuality. I feel I have an acute sense of the passing of time, and am consequently more wary of it and thus have time on my side.

But precision is not the only thing that a Rolex has in common with skiing. A racer must not only be fit but also exceptionally tough in order to stay on the best, the smoothest line leading down a course. A high speed yet delicate task which when done successfully gives one a few hundredths of a second’s edge: the margin for victory. This is similar to a Rolex, an expertly engineered mechanical object which must work perfectly even in the most extreme conditions. This is what I have always expected from my Rolexes and I have yet to be disappointed. Among the twenty-five Rolexes in my collection, whether they be new or second-hand, there is one I particularly care for: a gold manual wind chronograph 6036 from the 1950’s.

Rolex’s values are like my own and I could not imagine wearing another make. I feel my watch is a bit like me. It suits me perfectly.

Jean Claude Killy


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