The Real Reason The Dalai Lama Wears A Rolex

The 14th Dalai Lama is a complicated, multifaceted guy, and there's a lot of religious and political history to unpack if you're going to engage in a conversation about him. For all of his remarkable achievements, he's a controversial figure whose life, like everyone else's, is freckled with apparent contradictions. He preaches, according to the Guardian, a self-described Marxist philosophy of economics, while at the same time his full name is Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, implying that somewhere along the way, somebody was getting paid by the word. More to the point, His Holiness has a well-known penchant for high-end timepieces. 

His watch collection is well into the double digits, and includes Rolex and Patek Philippe watches, with histories going back to the second World War. Esquire Magazine has stated that they could "only speculate" as to the value of the accessories should they ever hit the auction block. All of which raises the question: How is it possible for one of the world's most prominent arguers against material obsession to own more than a dozen watches worth more than most people's cars?

The truth about his watches is pretty simple

The Dalai Lama likes watches, that's how. According to His Holiness, it all goes back to when he was a boy. Growing up in Tibet, the kid who would become the 14th Dalai Lama had a fascination with all things mechanical, regularly disassembling and reassembling telescopes, automobiles ... and, yes, watches.

It's not known whether or not Franklin Roosevelt had caught wind of this personality quirk, but it appears that he was the inciting character in the lad's path to horology. Esquire quoted the Dalai Lama as explaining that "The Second War was still going on, and the Allies wanted to make a road over Tibet from Assam, in India, to China. So two American military representatives came with a letter from President Roosevelt and a box containing a gold watch. A Patek Philippe. I was very excited. It was a very beautiful, very smart model. I still have it and it still works." He still carries the watch occasionally to this day.