Longest-standing Rolex repairman resides in of all places, the Marxist paradise of Cuba


Considering the affinity Marxists like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara have for very expensive luxury items such as Rolex watches, it should perhaps be no surprise that the longest-standing Rolex repairman can be found in Cuba.

If nothing else, an interesting story in the Financial Times:

Cuba, unlikely home to Rolex’s longest-standing repairman

We go in search of him, and ask what time means to a country that can seem stranded in 1959

It is a sultry Wednesday afternoon in Havana and in a town square on the corner of 21st and H Streets, a man smokes a cigar under a tree, a father throws a baseball to his son and two women chat on a park bench. It would be a bustling workday anywhere else but this is socialist Cuba where, as it is often said, time seems to stand still.

I am searching for the best watch repairman in Cuba. After a long hunt, I think I have found him. Waldo Fernández Longueira, or “Valdi” as he is known, has worked out of his Rolex-licensed premises in this neighbourhood for almost 60 years. Valdi, 77, a maestro relojero or master watch repairman, is Rolex’s longest-serving repairman, on duty since 1957. Whether out of Swiss discretion or Cuban circumspection, Rolex’s website makes no mention of him.

I have tracked down Valdi via an acquaintance of a friend of a relative. (This is how most information still circulates in a country where the digital superhighway remains more of a dusty byroad.) Through this grapevine, I hear of a Havana resident who helped out an English visitor with a fetish for Rolexes — and transvestites. The visitor had been robbed of his watches after he took a trans sex worker home and, figuring that the stolen Rolexes would eventually end up at Valdi’s, the Cuban and the Englishman sought him out to recover them. Via them I got Valdi’s address.

I walk up the front steps of an Art Deco apartment building. A discreet sign, no bigger than a postcard, is pinned to the door. It says, simply, “Rolex. 8.30am to 1pm. Monday to Friday. Ring APT 33.” I press the button, a buzzer sounds, the door clicks open and I walk in.

When I enter his apartment, a stout man with a loupe — the small magnifying glass used by watchmakers — on his forehead emerges from the back and stands behind an iron grille (I think of the watch thief) that divides the spotlessly tidy room. I explain to Valdi the pains I have taken to find him and the interview I hope to have. He shakes his head. “I am an employee of Rolex and an interview will not be possible,” he replies courteously. “Sorry.” I plead my case, but Valdi remains as impassive as a grandfather clock.

The existence of fine watches and excellent repairmen in Cuba may seem improbable. Why are there high-quality timepieces in this country anyway? The notion is the antithesis of socialist austerity. Then there is the irony of earning a living by repairing watches in a country frozen in time. Yet Cuba has a reputation for vintage timepieces in the same way that it has a reputation for antique cars, which are still motoring, somehow, after 60 years.

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1 thought on “Longest-standing Rolex repairman resides in of all places, the Marxist paradise of Cuba”

  1. Who the hell but the crassest vulgarian would wear two Rolex watches, and not even on different hands, but one on top of the other? And by the way, this bastard’s family had money, but class was quite a different matter. You know, when a country falls for such a cheap, costume-happy, white-trash BS artist, it obviously has serious issues, and Cuba clearly did. Lord, the embarrassment.

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