Another weekend, another scandal involving rich, powerful men and very expensive luxury watches.
This time it was the turn of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who was seen wearing a £400,000 Richard Mille RM 52-01 in his wedding photo at the weekend.
This sounds all fair and well (albeit a little ostentatious, given his position in public office), before we consider that this is over four times Peskov’s annual salary. This has provoked the usual questions, like how on earth he can afford such a watch, and what message this show of decadence sends to the Russian people.
To find other examples of public outrage over high-end watches, we only have to cast our minds back to the Fifa gifting scandal at last year’s world cup, where Parmigiani timepieces worth more than £16,000 each were gifted to representatives from all 32 competing countries, which all had to be returned with tails firmly between legs.
Or how about last month when the wife of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, received a barrage of flak when a photo emerged of her wearing a Cartier Baignoire Folle 18-carat white gold diamond timepiece that was estimated to cost more than £30,000.
The criticism of the First Lady centred around the fact that her husband had made much of his humble upbringing and "man of the people" image in order to help him get to power.
So what can we learn from the latest in a long line of scandals involving luxury watch brands? Not a whole lot, in truth. Luxury brands can’t help who buys their watches, as long as it’s all above board and legal.
The negative PR surrounding such scandals for brands is far outweighed by the value of getting its name on the front pages of the national press. Who at Parmigiani wasn’t wearing a broad smile when the FIFA gifting episode was unfolding? Which bigwigs at Richard Mille weren’t grinning like a Cheshire cat when news corporations were revealing the value of its RM 52-01, as worn by Putin’s right-hand man?
Indeed, a more cynical person might even speculate that it’s all part of a giant PR-hoax, akin to the conspiracy theories surrounding the introduction of ‘New Coke’ in 1985. No-one liked it, everyone hated it, the old recipe was swiftly re-introduced, but, crucially, it got the whole world talking about Coca Cola.
I will leave such scepticism to others. But if those FIFA gifts are lying in a corner of Parmigiani HQ somewhere, I’m sure that WatchPro’s gifting rules could be bent to accommodate them.